Pronunciation is often overlooked in ESL classes. Many teachers just repeat words that are mispronounced, ask students to say them again, and move on with their class. This kind of remedial action can be useful as a backup, but it is not sufficient when it comes to teaching the students how to speak the language clearly.
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About Teaching Pronunciation
One of the best tools teachers have when it comes to teaching English pronunciation is the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). When students learn the sound that each symbol represents, they have a resource they can use with the teacher’s aid or on their own in order to know how new words are pronounced individually. This, together with learning about stressing the correct syllable in a word, gives students invaluable independence and a reliable way to improve their pronunciation on their own.
It is important to teach these sounds in class in as much an entertaining way as possible because teaching pronunciation can sometimes be tedious and uninteresting, so teachers need to find strategies to make it appealing to the students. Furthermore, pronunciation teaching or practicing should not take more than 20 to 30 minutes per class to ensure the students’ interest is not lost.
The three activities described below can help make teaching pronunciation more amenable for teachers and students.
Sound Bingo – Pronunciation Activity
Since a big part of learning the phonetic alphabet is recognizing the new symbols and matching them with their actual sounds, playing sound bingo is an ideal activity that teachers can prepare. It is important to be aware of minimal pairs that are normally confusing for students because they are similar to each other, such as p and b. Also, there are other sounds that present a particular difficulty to ESL students because they do not exist in the students’ native language or because they differ too much from sounds used in their native language. When students are beginning to learn sounds, it’s best to avoid confusing them with minimal pairs.
Sound Crossword – Pronunciation Activity
A simple exercise that can be created is a crossword puzzle to be completed in pairs. The clues for the puzzle will actually be very simple since they will be the same as the words that are written in the puzzle itself. However, this should be done as a pair work exercise in which student A would have 50% of the clues and student B would have the remaining 50%. Pairs will be able to complete the crossword by listening to each other and their success will be tied in to their ability to pronounce the words correctly since they should be asked to either sit back-to-back or make sure not to look at each others’ papers. Note that if minimal pairs are used it is important to make sure that both students get a chance to practice both sounds.
Give me your info! – Pronunciation Activity
A fun exercise that teachers can prepare to help students practice minimal pairs is a detective decoding activity. The teacher creates a code in which each digit (0 to 9) corresponds to a word from a minimal pair. For example:
0= ship / 1= sheep / 2= cat / 3= cut / 4= bat / 5= pat / 6= shock / 7= chalk / 8 = fin / 9= thin
This code can be created with words from different kinds of minimal pairs as seen above or with words from the same group of minimal pairs. Once students have the code, they ask each other for information. For example, if one student asks for his classmate’s age, the student replying would say “My age is cat / shock”, which means 26. With this code students can tell each other all kinds of information that uses numbers while practicing their pronunciation of minimal pairs and having fun.
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