Transitioning from Pronunciation Drills to Meaningful Production

Both private students and students at live streams are eager to improve their pronunciation. Working one-on-one, I can tailor all the materials and exercises to that student. Group instruction can be more challenging in that respect. However, both settings prompt me to consider ways I can help students transition from successful drilling to meaningful production. Over time, the instincts for rhythm and intonation are built, and I see the transfer of skills into conversation. But what more can be done to build that bridge within the context of a single lesson? Students may be able to mark up a text showing thought groups, stress, and intonation, but how successful will they be in using that knowledge when they speak freely about various topics?

I recently experimented with small group hop ons to combine listening and pronunciation practice. The platform I use allows me to “hop” up to four students on camera at a time. The larger group listens and can comment in the text chat. In advance, I prepared several conversation questions. Both the questions and the answers allowed students to learn stress and intonation patterns. A degree of repetition allowed for improved accuracy.

Set of questions:
Where are you from?// What do you do?//
1. I modeled my answers in the form of a self-introduction.
2. Student A followed my model and introduced herself/himself to the group.
3. Student B reintroduced Student A to the group and then introduced himself/herself.
4. The pattern can repeat for Students C and D. The key is for the teacher to provide feedback on rhythm and intonation. If the intonation was off or if some content words weren’t stressed, I had the student repeat after me.

Set of questions:
On a scale of one to ten,/ how [ambitious] are you?//
1. I asked the first question to model the rhythm and intonation. Student A asked Student B.
2. This kind of question allowed for even more original production. Student B had the freedom to change the quality: On a scale of 1 to 10, how [honest, responsible, sensitive, etc.] are you?
3. In a small group, each student who responds then asks the next variation of the question. Again, the key is for the teacher to provide feedback on rhythm and intonation. Students repeated after me to gain more accuracy. Then they could direct the question to the next student and sound more natural doing so. I also allowed students to answer freely first. Once their answer was given, I provided additional correction as needed. They had the chance to restate their answer using improved rhythm and intonation.

As additional questions were answered, I challenged students to recall what different classmates had already said. This kept the students on their toes, knowing they had to listen carefully to all responses, not only to become familiar with the pronunciation patterns, but also to understand, retain, and report information. If details were forgotten, they could ask classmates to remind them what was said, which again required use of natural rhythm and intonation.

Here are additional questions that could be used for this speaking and listening activity. The thought groups and stressed words have been marked.

Related posts:
Understanding Other ELLs: An Overlooked Listening Skill (2020)
Pronunciation and Parallel Structure (2020)
Making Pronunciation Exercises Meaningful: An Activity for Minimal Pairs (2008)

Featured photo by Mohamed Hassan retrieved from

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Madan Mohan Gupta says:

    Another addition in the treasure of knowledge you are creating for future teachers and the learners.
    Brilliant stuff as always. I always gain something by reading your posts here. I’ve downloaded the set of questions that you have provided with this post and read them with rhythm and proper intonation. However, it’s time for me to use these questions for a drill in my group to achieve better pronunciation. It’s always a key part of your teaching that every student with you will have to be attentive during hop-on. It makes the process of learning more fruitful. I wish to gain such level of teaching and guidance skills one day with lots of practice.
    Thanks a lot Teacher. šŸ˜Š

    1. Hi Madan! Good instincts. Yes, you can read through the questions for pronunciation practice. Focus on rhythm, intonation, and linking. Happy teaching! Thanks for following me here.

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