Confusion over ‘U’

During a private lesson I was asked about the different ways we pronounce the letter ‘U.’ There are a number of resources that shed light on the different pronunciations. One I found helpful was Teflpedia.com. It can serve as a reference when you need to offer an explanation, create a lesson plan, or design an…

Precious Practice: Learning to Say Consonant Blends with R

A private student called my attention to a tricky aspect of pronunciation. We were focusing on linking sounds from one word to another to produce connected speech, but then she asked about connecting two sounds within a word, namely the “tr” in truth. Slowing pronunciation down too much had its dangers. Truth could end up…

Either One: Words with More than One Pronunciation

I was asked recently to explain the pronunciation of “comfortable.” It took a moment of reflection to decide which pronunciation to teach. I actually taught both the 3- and the 4-syllable variation. I’ve heard and used both myself, and I was able to find dictionary entries acknowledging both. Why not prepare learners by presenting two common ways…

Wrong Angle: An activity to practice /ŋ/ in different positions

Often a student’s question prompts me to create an activity. I see the need for a certain kind of practice, and I try to offer that practice through a sequence of steps that helps learners not only practice a language point, but also internalize the underlying rules or patterns. A student asked me why “singer”…

Hopes and Wishes: Practice with regular verbs in the past tense

One of the challenges of the past tense is learning the pronunciation of the -ed endings of regular verbs. With basic students in mind, I offer a timely activity about hopes and wishes. If you choose to make use of it in January rather than December, you can easily modify the questions at the end…

Seeing is Believing: An oral reading activity in the present tense

In my private lessons with Natasha, I’ve finally begun to place more emphasis on reading. We are working with a textbook, and while I appreciate the convenience of ready-made materials, I still feel the need to design some original materials to practice specific skills that match her needs exactly at this moment. Natasha is mostly…

TESOL 2012 Highlights: Day 2, Part 2

Session 3 Marnie Reed of Boston University and Tamara Jones of SHAPE Language Center in Belgium proved to be a dynamic duo. Their afternoon session Intonation: Overlooked in IEPs, Essential for Conveying and Interpreting Meaning was well attended, and each minute was packed with insights and helpful, practical ideas. Do English language learners grasp the…

Wants and Needs: A pronunciation activity to practice word stress

Click here to listen to this post. A while back a student asked me about the rule for word stress in two-syllable words that can function both as nouns and verbs. I explained that for words like record and progress we place the stress on the first syllable when it’s a noun and on the second…

Playful Practice with Plosives: Practicing plosives through product reviews

Click here to listen to this post on an activity for plosives. Pronunciation practice involves some drilling because certain challenges are overcome through mastering the mechanics. Just as dancers rehearse moves to the point that they become automatic, speakers need to practice using their articulators in specific ways so that the mechanics become secondary and…

Rethinking How We Categorize Consonant Sounds

Click here to listen to this post. [Link to today’s handout is below.] In an effort to help a learner master the consonant sounds in English, I recently decided to rename the traditional consonant groupings based on the manner of articulation. Why? I question if the textbook terminology has real value for a student who has no background in linguistics…

Personalized Pronunciation Texts

In a search for pronunciation materials that my students can relate to, I found that one option is to help them create texts with the features we need to target. I use questions to guide them and elicit information that we can mold into our practice material. For example, to practice linking a final vowel…

-ed Ending: Reviewed and Practiced

Please take a look at my ED ending_handout. I originally designed this for a one-on-one session, but I modified the teaching suggestions on the first page for classroom teachers. Note that I am including audio recordings in this post. You can use them in class or share the URL with your students and let them hear my…