Category Archives: Pronunciation


Last Spring, as I was sitting listening despondently to students mangling stress, I decided to give up on words, and create a sound pattern that was so visually simple, they’d be compelled to listen.

If you can’t hear a sound, it is very difficult to reproduce it. Our students hear stressed syllables, which would be okay, except in English over 60% of our syllables are unstressed, and we often forget to teach them how to listen for those unstressed syllables.

English spelling compounds the problem.  Continue reading


Round-up of Classic Classroom Activities

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Do you have some go-to activities that you use for multiple teaching points?  I have a few.  I think it’s reassuring for students to see activities they recognize.  They feel confident when they know what to do, and they can focus on the point being taught instead of learning the rules of a new game (ahem, I mean “learning activity”).  It also doesn’t hurt that reusing ideas and materials reduces teacher prep time.  For these reasons, here are three of my favourite flexible activities.  Continue reading


Preparing Great Grammar and Pronunciation Lessons

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We all want our teaching to be interesting and effective.  I regularly reflect on my teaching practice, and try to consider each of the following aspects of lesson planning*, particularly for grammar and pronunciation lessons. Let me share some tips that help me improve my lessons, and perhaps you will find an idea you could use.

Presenting the point

First, remind yourself of the scope of the lesson; know the needs and abilities of your students, and the time frame and focus of your class session.  Aim not to overwhelm your class with too much information, but also not to under-interest your students with too little challenge. Continue reading


Learning English through Music

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No matter what language you speak, music has a universal tongue, wouldn’t you agree? Its power in bringing people together, no matter what language they speak, is priceless. So, if music has the ability to unite us, why not use it in the classroom to help your students learn English?

I have my kids to thank for inspiring this post, partly due to their love of watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood every day. You find inspiration everywhere.
On the show they sing the lesson of the day repeatedly throughout each episode. It sticks in your head and is really catchy, and the nice thing is that the lessons are useful for children in helping to problem solve or deal with certain emotions that may arise out of unpleasant situations.  Continue reading


Come Again: You Said What?

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Imagine if someone said something overtly sexual or crude to you. What would your reaction be? Disbelief? Shock? Anger? Now imagine that the speaker is your ESL student. Of course, your response has to be different.

Sometimes because of pronunciation or improper word usage, ESL students inadvertently say or write the most shocking things. A while back, one of my students wrote this in a peer review (a student response to a student assignment, in this case an essay): “Your hooker is not very appealing and is unlikely to attract the reader.” Of course, he meant hook. What a difference two letters can make. This situation was easier to deal with because the student had not uttered this sentence aloud to the class. I took him aside and explained the meaning of the word, resulting in him blushing quite a bit.

Sometimes students mispronounce words such as sit, beach, can’t etc. I deal with this issue Continue reading


Thank You for the Music!
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Have you ever noticed that when ABBA sings they don’t sound Swedish? Country singer Mel Tillis, a chronic stutterer, lost his speech impediment when performing. There has to be something that happens to your voice when you sing. That’s why I often use music in the classroom.


In June, we were working on noun/verb contractions. One student said he had difficulty with “that’ll.” I had everyone sing “That’ll Be the Day”, and as quick as you can say: “Buddy Holly ”, his problem was solved!


Mouth-selfies Make Pronunciation Real

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Most EFL teachers savour a ‘teachable moment’ where, by plan or serendipity, some magic happens. Let me tell you a story about one of mine.

During the 7 years I taught in the Middle East, all teachers lamented the prevalence of mobile phones in the classroom. Sometimes, even, multiple phones during exams had to be removed from students under the protests of “We’re just sharing teacher….honest…..just sharing.”

Phones were a problem.  And as so often happens, problems are the source of an inspiration.  One day I got all 24 of my 17-19 year old male students around in a circle of desks and got them to explain to me, in English of course, all the features of their many varieties of mobiles or cells. All the new terms and features were written Continue reading