Speaking Strategies and Lesson Plans

When it comes to speaking, teachers are confronted with many challenges, such as How do I get my students to speak in class? to How can I make them stop using their first language?  Unfortunately, there aren’t any fast answers to these questions. However, we do know that students need to practice English as much as they can during and outside of class. You can have higher-level students present news articles, stories from a novel, or videos. Lower-level students will require more guidance.

Visit the Current Lesson Plan page  (updated weekly) with new speaking topics.

You can also visit the page for Previous Lesson Plans for speaking ideas.

Visit: –Site MapBusiness Writing, ReadingWriting, Speaking, Listening, Vocabulary, GrammarCharts & OrganizersResources for Teachers.


As with any other skills, learning how to pronounce the words of a language proficiently requires time and continual practice. Students need at least a certain amount of clarity in their speech if they are to be understood by others. In addition, they have to pronounce well if they are to be considered as speaking the language well.

Correct pronunciation involves two elements of word, the segmentals and the suprasegmentals. Segmentals are the basic distinctive sounds of a language. In American English these are the 25 consonants and 15 vowels, which, when they are combined together, they serve to form words.

Suprasegmentals provide important context and support for segmentals because they determine the meanings of the words and of the expressions. Suprasegmentals include elements such as stress, pitch, and intonation.

The extent to which you integrate pronunciation practice within your daily class routine depends on the needs of your students, and how much class time you can devote to practice. The circumstances will vary according to teachers’ schedules.

Whether you practice pronunciation every class session or once a week, there are some elements to remember.

When practicing pronunciation, provide students with the tools they need to complete the tasks you assign.

For example, I like to have a chart of the consonants and vowels of English and a diagram illustrating the speech organs placed where students can view them in every class, whether we review pronunciation during the class or not. Other effective tools are charts with the rules of pronunciation, and demonstration of certain pronunciation techniques. I’ve used the following texts in my classes with great success, and I highly recommend all three of them.

Celce-Murcia, Marianne, Donna M. Brinton, Janet M. Goodwin. Teaching pronunciation: Reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages

Grant, Linda. Well Said: Pronunciation For Clear Communication

Molinsky, Steven, J., and Bill Bliss. Side by Side Workbooks/Audio Series.

Reed, Marnie, and Christina Michaud.  Sound Concepts An Integrated Pronunciation Course

Diagrams of Speech Organs

Pronunciation Practice

Diagrams such as the following  are very effective in pronunciation teaching, and should be displayed in every class. They help when explaining where a particular sound is made in the mouth.

Figure 1.2- diagram of the speech organs. UNIL.

Site for diagram of speech organs

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) Vowel Chart

Reviewing the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) with student is a good idea. In most of the English-English dictionaries the IPA is used. Reviewing some of these sounds in class will help students learn how the words should sound when they work independently.

Consonants  and Vowels

Here are some examples of the more common consonant and vowel sounds. Consonants are described as being either voiced or voiceless. For a more in depth study of IPA consonants and vowels there are several introduction sites.  A good site to begin with is  Omniglot because it provides you with additional links to other IPA sites. Another useful site is the IPA-Phonetic keyboard, which allows you to enter the IPA-based phonemic transcriptions.

English Consonants

p-voiceless (as in past)

b-voiced (as in bet)

t-voiceless (as in ten)

d-voiced (as in dig)

k-voiceless (as in kit)

g-voiced (as in get)

m-voiced (as in meet)

n-voiced (as in no)

f-voiceless (as in fish)

v-voiced (as in victory)

h-voiceless (as in hat)

l-voiced as in (lull)

r-voiced (as in race)

j-voiced (as in yellow)

w-voiced (as in were)

dʒ-voiced (as in large)

ʒ-voiced (as in leisure)

hw-voiceless (as in where)

ŋ-[eng] nasal sound (as in thing)

tʃ-voiceless (as in chosen)

ð-[eth] voiced (as in these)

ʃ-[esh] voiceless (as in ship)

θ-[theta] voiceless (as in thin)

English Vowels

Tongue positions of cardinal front vowels with highest point indicated. Wikipedia.

Vowels are voiced and are usually described by where they are produced within the mouth. The areas are the front, middle and back vowels. Here are some examples, some texts vary on the symbols and on the quantity of vowel sounds. A good way to check is to look at the English dictionaries your students are using. The IPA symbols are listed in most American dictionaries.

ɑ-(as in start)

i-(as in beet)

ɪ-(as in hip)

e-(as in met)

ʊ-(as in foot)

æ-(as in trap)

ɒ-(as in lot)

ə-(as in away)

ɜ:-(as in third)

ɔ-(as in pour)

ʌ-(as in strut)

əʊ-(as in float)

Voiced/Voiceless Consonants  Activity

Another useful aspect of pronunciation are the voiced and voiceless consonants. The following is an activity to teach voiced and voiceless consonants.

Use the diagrams Site for diagram of speech organs  to show students where the vocal cords, larynx, and windpipe are located.

Objectives:Students will be able to distinguish the difference between consonants that are voiced and those that are voiceless.

Procedure: Show students where the speech organs of the throat area are located using the speech organ chart.

Consonants can be classified as voiced (the vocal cords in the throat vibrate) or voiceless (the vocal cords do not vibrate).

Note:  All vowels are voiced.

Write the following words on the board:

Group 1



Hold up the first two fingers of your hand and place them over your throat.

Instruct students to do the same. Then have them make the sound (you demonstrate the sound first) /b/ the first letter in the word Bath. They should feel a vibration.

Now have them do the same for the letter /p/ in the word Path, they should not feel any vibration. To further demonstrate the voiceless sound of /p/, have them hold a piece of paper in front of their lips as the make the sound of /p/. The paper should move.

Rule 1: The most important difference between voiced and voiceless consonants at the beginnings of words is that voiceless consonants at the beginnings of words are pronounced with aspiration (the sound of escaping air).

Exercise 1

Directions: Repeat the following words with your instructor. See if you can tell which words contain voiced consonants and which words contain the voiceless consonants.

Group 1

Path      Bath

Time     Dime

Game    Came

Fan        Van

Zoo         Sue

Shoe      Usual

Rule 2: The most important difference between voiced and voiceless consonants at the end of words is that the vowel sounds longer before a voiced consonant.

Group 2

Rip           Rib

Led           Let

Leave      Leaf

Think     Them

Sometimes the only difference between two words with different meanings is whether or not the consonants are voiced or voiceless.

Exercise 2

Directions: The following sentences contain words (in italics)  that are spelled the same, but have different meanings and different pronunciations.  What are the differences in pronunciation?

I have no more use for my old textbooks.

I no longer use my old textbooks.

Please sit close together so that I may take your picture.

Please close the door.

You must have an excuse for not doing your homework.

Excuse me, do you have the correct time?

I learned a lot from the lesson today.

She was a learned woman.

They took a minute to clean the dust off of the chair.

The minute particle was too small to see.

The present was wrapped very nicely.

They will present him with the award at the ceremony.

Pronunciation of the Plural form of Regular Nouns

-S/-ES Endings Rules (Activity)

Level: High Beginner

Objectives: Students will learn to predict and pronounce the plural form endings of the regular words in English. Students will learn the rules which govern the different plural sounds.

Handouts:  The rules governing the three sounds for plural endings of regular nouns.

Practice sheet for students to work on in pairs.

Practice sheet for pronouncing plural forms within sentences.


  1. Review the voiced and voiceless sounds by having individual students provide examples which the instructor writes on the board.
  2. Give students the handout of the plural forms and their rules.
  3. Review these rules with students.
  4. Provide students with further examples (on board) for reinforcement.
  5. Place students in pairs, and give them the sheet with the word list and sentences.
  6. Students are to work on words 1-6 only, and complete the rest of the list for homework.
  7. Allow students approximately 10 minutes to work on the sheet in pairs.
  8. Call on students to provide the correct pronunciation and rules for each word.
  9. Call on students to read practice sentences containing plural nouns.

Rules for Forming and Pronouncing the Plural Form in English

Rule # 1- Sibilant Sound

Words  ending in sibilant sounds:

/s/ /z/ /ʃ/ /ʒ/ /tʃ//dʒ/

Add -es or s if the ending already has an -e.

Note: this will also add another syllable to the word.

Examples: kiss= kisses judge=judges

Rule # 2 -Voiceless Consonants

Words  ending in voiceless consonants:

/p/, /t/, /k/, /f/ or /θ/

Add -s

Examples: clock = clocks cat = cats

Rule # 3- Voiced Consonants

Words ending in voiced consonants:

/b/  /d/ /v/ /l/ /r/ /z/ /ð/ (as in then)

Add -s

Note: this will add a /z/ sound to the word.

Examples: love= lovess  chair = chairs

Practice Sheet for Plural Endings

Directions: Write the words in the plural form. Then write the rule that governs the pronunciation.

1. advise

2. manage

3. wish

4. clock

5. bath

6. blush

7. boy

8. live

9. ask

10. tap

Practice Sheet  using sentences for Pronunciation of Plural form endings

1.The child never asks permission to go outside.

2. He lives in the yellow house.

3. Leave all messages on the answering machine.

4. There are too many cats in this room.

5. The baby coughs all day.

6. Only boys were allowed at the meeting.

7. Practice saying the phrases every day.

8. There were dishes representing all cultures.

9. All chairs need to be comfortable.

10. She made three wishes on her birthday.

Activity: Pronunciation of the Past Tense of Regular Verbs

Level: High Beginner

Objectives: Students will learn how to predict and pronounce the past tense endings of regular verbs in English.Students will learn the rules which govern the three different past tense sounds.

Materials:  The rules governing the three sounds for past tense endings of regular verbs.

Practice sheet of verbs for students to work with in pairs.

Practice sheet of sentences.


  1. Review the voiced and voiceless sounds by having individual students provide examples which the instructor writes on the board.
  2. Give students the handout of the three sounds of the past tense and their rules.
  3. Review these rules with students.
  4. Provide students with further examples (on board) for reinforcement.
  5. Place students in pairs, and give them the chart with the verb list.
  6. Students are to work on verbs 1-6 only, and complete the rest of the chart for homework.
  7. Allow students approximately 10 minutes to work on the charts in pairs.
  8. Call on students to provide the correct pronunciation and rules for each verb.
  9. Call on students to read the sentences.

Rules for Forming and Pronouncing the Past Tense in English

Rule # 1- T or D Endings

When verbs end with the letters /t/ or /d/

Add /id/ (-ed)

Note: this adds another syllable to the word.

Examples: want = wanted  need = needed

Rule # 2- Voiceless Endings

When verbs  end in a voiceless sound /p/, /t/, /k/, /f/ /ʃ/ or /θ/ (thin) add -ed.

Note: the ending will now have a /t/ sound.

Examples: laugh = laughed kiss = kissed

Rule # 3-Voiced Endings

When the word ends in a voiced sound /z/ /ʒ/ /tʃ//dʒ/

Add -ed. Note: the ending will now have a /d/ sound.

Examples: save = saved enjoy = enjoyed

Directions: Write the past tense form for each verb in the list and the rule that governs the pronunciation.

1. test

2. use

3. visit

4. learn

5. destroy

6. manage

7. decorate

8. bury

9. breathe

10. own

Sentence Practice Sheet for Pronunciation of Past Tense endings.

1. She attended the class yesterday.

2. The plane crashed into the house.

3. The teacher invited everyone.

4. He escaped the crash.

5. She changed the furniture around.

6. The food was over- cooked.

7. The baby cried all night.

8. They danced all night long.

8. He finished his homework in time to watch the movie.

9. They agreed to meet at noon.

10. She demanded that they finish their work before the movie.

Grant, Linda. WELL SAID

Speaking Activities

Teaching Conversation Phrases

After students have learned the correct Pronunciation, and before they move on to speaking activities, it’s a good idea to review certain phrases for conversation. This is important because what may seem polite in one culture, might be considered rude in another culture. Students learning English need to understand the proper phrases to use when asking directions, disagreeing, interrupting etc. Here are some examples.

Phrases for Discussion Groups

Interrupting politely

Excuse me,
Pardon me…  May I interrupt? Could I inject something here?  Do you mind if I jump in here?

Getting back to the topic

Now, where was I?
Where were we?
What were you saying?
You were saying . . .
To get back to . . .

Giving your opinion

I think that . . .
I don’t think that . . .
In my opinion . . .   I feel that…

Asking for support or details

Why do you think that?
Could you elaborate?
Could you give (me) an example?
Can you illustrate that?
Could you explain it in more detail?
Could you provide some details?

Supporting your opinions

For example,
For instance… To give you an example,…Let me give you an example… On the other hand…

(Do you) know what I mean?
Do you know what I’m saying?
Do you understand?
Are there any questions?

Showing Understanding

I see.
I understand.

Expressing Lack of Understanding

(I’m sorry.) I don’t understand.
What do you mean?
I’m not following you.
I don’t quite follow you.
What was that again?

Conceding to Make a Point

That may be true, but . . .
I may be wrong, but . . .
You might be right, but . . .
You have a good point, but . . .

I don’t mean to be rude, but . . .

Focusing on the main problem/issue

What is the main problem?  What is the real issue (here)  (I think) the major problem is . . .Our primary concern is . . .

The main problem we need to solve is . . . We really need to take care of . . .

Asking for input

What should we do about it?  What needs to be done? What do you think we should do? What are we going to do about it?  Do you have any suggestions? Any ideas?

Making Recommendations

I recommend that . . . I suggest that . . . I would like to propose that . . .

Commenting on what someone has said:

If you would like to make a comment in an ongoing conversation, it is polite to acknowledge what someone has just said before stating your own ideas.


That’s interesting. I think that… That is an interesting point.  I would add…

Questions can also be a useful way of bringing new ideas into a conversation

What do you think about . . .?
Have you considered . . .?
What about . . . Excuse me, can I add something here?
(Do you) mind if I interject something here?

TESL: Conversation Questions for Lower-levels

English Pond.com
Phrases for Conversation-(levels: Low beginning-Advanced)

Debate: Pros and Cons of AIDS

Objectives: students will

• reinforce their speaking skills by expressing opinions orally

• reinforce their listening comprehension skills by responding appropriately to ideas presented by other students and instructor

• understand and practice the concept of group dynamics

• develop their debating skills

• increase cross-cultural awareness of the AIDS problem in other countries

Materials: handouts of debate information (Pros-Cons)

Arguments for AIDS Victims (key words and phrases)

Job Discrimination

  1. everyone is entitled to work, and earn a living
  2. most aids victims are willing to work if given opportunity

Health Insurance Issues

  1. can not get health insurance
  2. will loose current coverage if discovered they have AIDS

Judicial System

  1. AIDS victims receive harsher penalties than most other criminals who commit worse crimes
  2. AIDS victims often die in prison

Society Viewpoint  (fears, myths)

  1. most people are ignorant of the AIDS issues, and only hear the myths
  2. AIDS victims should not be treated like outcasts

Arguments against (key words and phrases)

Job Discrimination

  1. people with AIDS put co-workers at risk of contracting the disease
  2. many people with terminal illness work, but there is no risk to others
  3. many businesses risk bankruptcy if customers discover an employee has AIDS (restaurants, hospitals, etc)

Health Insurance

  1. medication is too costly
  2. AIDS patients are “high-risk” for death
  3. money could be used to cover other people who are not high risk
  4. people with AIDS are not the only ones who receive little or no coverage –people with active cancer, back trouble etc, are treated in the same manner

Judicial System

  1. courts feel that when a person infected with AIDS “intentionally” inflicts another individual, the guilty party should be punished in the same manner as a criminal with a weapon would be (knife, gun bomb, etc)
  2. individuals with AIDS may die in jail, which is the “risk” all people take when committing a crime.

Society Viewpoint  (Discrimination)

  1. from most peoples point of view AIDS is perceived as more contagious than other diseases.
  2. the symptoms of other diseases are more visible than those of AIDS.

The Hypothetical Story of Jane Doe

Jane Doe is a 35 year-old doctor with a dreadful secret. She has tested positive for the HIV virus. Jane realizes that if her superiors at her job were to discover this,she’d lose her position.

Losing her job would mean that she’d have no income, and she’d lose her health benefits.

On the other hand, if she keeps her secret and one of her patients found out, she’d could still lose her medical license through lawsuits.

Jane understand that people for the most part are ignorant about the virus, and many would prefer to be treated by a doctor who is healthy, as oppossed to a doctor who is infected. In addition, once an insurance company finds out that a doctor has AIDS, his or her malpractice-insurance can be canceled.

Health care workers have been suspect ever since the public case of Kimberly Bergalis who in 1987 had two extractions from her dentist, Dr. David J. Acer. The time between the teeth extractions and her development of AIDS was short. It was believed that she contacted the virus from her dentist.

Many people believe that health care workers should no longer practice their profession when they know that they have AIDS. Patients feel they have the right to know if their doctor is infected with the AIDS virus, and the right to protect themselves from any danger of getting the disease.

Research has shown that there is no danger of transmission unless the blood is directly transferred.

Jane believes she is safe as long as she remains careful around her patients. As a precaution, she has started wearing gloves.

What do you think Jane should do?

*Adapted from Consider the Issues, by Carol Numrich

Students’ Informal Interview

This is a great way to encourage students to talk about themselves on the first day of class. It can also be used to assess the oral skills of your students.

Place 2 students together and have them take turns interviewing each other. Then they present the information to the class.

Directions: Answer the following questions in complete sentences.

Interviewer’s Name_____________________________

1. Name of student being interviewed:

2. Country:

3. First Language__________________________________

4. What other languages do you speak? _________________________________________

5. Why are you studying English? _____________________________________________

6. How long have you been studying English? _______________________________________

7. What kind of books or newspapers do you read? In your language? In English?


8. Do you practice writing in English? How often?


9. What are your plans after you finish this course?


News Questionnaire Interview

This is the initial format used to prepare students for news presentations. Place 2 students together and have them ask each other the questions, then each students present the results to class.

Interviewer’s Name__________________

Student Name____________________

Country and First Language____________________________

Directions: Answer the following questions and try to provide reasons for your choices.

How often do you read the newspapers in your country?

Are there any particular magazines that you like to read?

Of the following areas, which ones are you most interested in? Use the scale as a measure.

1= not interested

2= a little interested

3= I read about it once/twice a week.

4= very interested

5= it is my favorite subject.

a. Politics____

b. Business____

c. Science/Technology____

d. Health ____

e. Media (movies/films)____

f. Music/Art ____

g. Religion ___

h. Crime ____

i Other____

Format for Oral Presentation of News Articles



News Presentation Format For Group Discussion

Directions: Read the article once, noting any new vocabulary words. Look up the meanings to the words, and then read the article again. Fill in the following information. Be prepared to discuss the article in class.

Name of newspaper or magazine___________________

Who or What is this article about? _________________________________________

When and Where did this incident occur? ____________________________________

Why or How did this happen? ____________________________________________

Personal Opinion: ______________________________

New vocabulary, idioms, phrasal verbs________________________________________


Group Discussions Using Photos and Art

Using Photos To Stimulate Discussion

Suggestions: This is an excellent activity to encourage students to use their imaginations, the language, and their writing skills. It’s also an enjoyable exercise.  It can be formated to fit the time constraints of the class.


Students will use their imaginations and language by discussing and creating a short story about the subject matter in each photograph.


• A number of photos or pictures from magazines, and newspapers. Leave out any writing. Make sure there are enough for each group, or pair of students. At least 2-3, depending on time. There are sample photos at the end of this exercise that you might like to use.

• An example already filled in by the teacher.


• Place students in groups or pairs and hand out photos.

• Ask them to first discuss what they think is going on in the photo, using the brainstorming technique.

• Some possible questions you might propose to the students:

  1.  Who is the person in the photo? Who are the people in the photo?
  2.  What do you think they are doing, thinking, saying?
  3.  Write down your thoughts.

• Visit each group and provide help if needed.

• Each group prepares a short story for each photo. Vocabulary should be checked by group using a dictionary.

• Students share their photos and stories with the class.

Also visit ESL Voices Current Lesson Plan and ESL Voices Previous Lesson Plans for additional speaking topics.

Additional  Speaking Activities and Lesson Plans

The pictures are less complex for younger students or beginners visit Scholastic Resources

The Sounds of Speech: Linguistics Wiki/Portal animated anatomy and sound production.

This site offers animated libraries of the phonetic sounds of English and several other languages. There is also an interactive diagram of the articulatory anatomy.

Carolyn Graham Teaching Jazz Chants to Young Learners

A wonderful Youtube segment showing the delightful Carolyn Graham working with young learners.


Celce-Murcia, Marianne, Donna M. Brinton, Janet M. Goodwin. Teaching pronunciation: Reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages

Grant, Linda. Well Said: Pronunciation For Clear Communication

Molinsky, Steven J., and Bill Bliss. Side by Side Text/Audio Series

Reed, Marnie, and Christina Michaud. Sound Concepts An Integrated Pronunciation Course

Feature Article: Language Features Involved in Pronunciation:The Center for Adult English Language Acquisition  (CAELA)

This is an excellent article by CAELA  with input from leaders in Pronunciation instruction.

Historical Perspective

Pronunciation instruction tends to be linked to the instructional method being used In the grammar-translation method of the past, pronunciation was almost irrelevant and therefore seldom taught. In the audio-lingual method, learners spent hours in the language lab listening to and repeating sounds and sound combinations. With the emergence of more holistic, communicative methods and approaches to ESL instruction, pronunciation is addressed within the context of real communication (Celce-Murcia, Brinton, & Goodwin, 1996; Morley, 1991).

Language Features Involved in Pronunciation

Two groups of features are involved in pronunciation: segmentals and suprasegmentals.

 Segmentals are the basic inventory of distinctive sounds and the way that they combine to form a spoken language. In the case of North American English, this inventory is comprised of 40 phonemes (15 vowels and 25 consonants), which are the basic sounds that serve to distinguish words from one another.

Pronunciation instruction has often concentrated on the mastery of segmentals through discrimination and production of target sounds via drills consisting of minimal pairs like /bæd/-/bæt/ or /sIt/-/sît/.

Suprasegmentals transcend the level of individual sound production. They extend across segmentals and are often produced unconsciously by native speakers. Since suprasegmental elements provide crucial context and support (they determine meaning) for segmental production, they are assuming a more prominent place in pronunciation instruction  Suprasegmentals include the following:

stress-   a combination of length, loudness, and pitch applied to syllables in a word (e.g., Happy, FOOTball);

rhythm–    the regular, patterned beat of stressed and unstressed syllables and pauses

(e.g., with weak syllables in lower case and stressed syllables in upper case: they WANT to GO Later.);

adjustments in connected speech-modifications of sounds within and between words in streams of speech

(e.g., “ask him,” /æsk hIm/ becomes /æs kIm/);

prominence– speaker’s act of highlighting words to emphasize meaning or intent

(e.g., Give me the BLUE one. (not the yellow one);

 intonation-the rising and falling of voice pitch across phrases and sentences (e.g., Are you REAdy?).

Incorporating Pronunciation in Instruction

Celce-Murcia, Brinton, and Goodwin (1996) propose a framework that supports a communicative-cognitive approach to teaching pronunciation.

Preceded by a planning stage to identify learners’ needs pedagogical priorities, and teachers’ readiness to teach pronunciation, the framework for the teaching stage of the framework offers a structure for creating effective pronunciation lessons and activities on the sound system and other features of North American English pronunciation.

  • description and analysis of the pronunciation feature to be targeted (raises learner awareness of the specific feature)
  • listening discrimination activities (learners listen for and practice recognizing the targeted feature)
  • controlled practice and feedback (support learner production of the feature in a controlled context)
  •  guided practice and feedback (offer structured communication exercises in which learners can produce and monitor for the targeted feature)
  •  communicative practice and feedback (provides opportunities for the learner to focus on content but also get feedback on where specific pronunciation instruction is needed).

A lesson on word stress, based on this framework

1. The teacher presents a list of vocabulary items from the current lesson, employing both correct and incorrect word stress. After discussing the words and eliciting (if appropriate) learners’ opinions on which are the correct versions, the concept of word stress is introduced and modeled.

2. Learners listen for and identify stressed syllables, using sequences of nonsense syllables of varying lengths (e.g., da-DA, da-da-DA-da).

3. Learners go back to the list of vocabulary items from step one and, in unison, indicate the correct stress patterns of each word by clapping, emphasizing the stressed syllables with louder claps. New words can be added to the list for continued practice if necessary.

4. In pairs, learners take turns reading a scripted dialogue. As one learner speaks, the other marks the stress patterns on a printed copy. Learners provide one another with feedback on their production and discrimination.

5. Learners make oral presentations to the class on topics related to their current lesson. Included in the assessment criteria for the activity are correct production and evidence of self-monitoring of word stress.

In addition to careful planning, teachers must be responsive to learners needs and explore a variety of methods to help learners comprehend pronunciation features. Useful exercises include the following:

  •  Have learners touch their throats to feel vibration or no vibration in sound production, to understand voicing.
  • Have learners use mirrors to see placement of tongue and lips or shape of the mouth.
  • Have learners use kazoos to provide reinforcement of intonation patterns
  • Have learners stretch rubber bands to illustrate lengths of vowels.
  • Provide visual or auditory associations for a sound (a buzzing bee demonstrates the pronunciation of /z/).
  • Ask learners to hold up fingers to indicate numbers of syllables in words.


Pronunciation can be one of the most difficult parts of a language for adult learners to master and one of the least favorite topics for teachers to address in the classroom. Nevertheless, with careful preparation and integration, pronunciation can play an important role in supporting learners’ overall communicative power. 


Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D., & Goodwin, J. (1996). Teaching pronunciation: Reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gilbert, J. (1990). Pronunciation: What should we be teaching? (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 320 443)

Gillette, G. (1994). On speaking terms: Practical guide to pronunciation for ABLE/ESL teachers. Euclid, OH: Northeast ABLE Resource Center. (EDRS No. ED 393 323)

Graham, J. (1994). Four strategies to improve the speech of adult learners. TESOL Journal, 3 (3), 26-28.

Jordan, J. (1992). Helping ESOL students to improve their pronunciation. London: Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit. (EDRS No. ED 359 837)

Morley, J. (1998). Trippingly on the tongue: Putting serious speech/pronunciation instruction back in the TESOL equation. ESL Magazine, January/February, 20-23.

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Pennington, M. (1994). Recent research in L2 phonology: Implications for practice. In J. Morley, (Ed.) Pronunciation pedagogy and theory. New views, new directions. pp. 92-108. Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (EDRS No. ED 388 061)

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