Word stress – footballs and sticky balls

I like teaching word stress. I have various ‘go to’ activities for noticing and practising word stress – stuff like this:

  • Using Cuisenaire rods


  • Humming the stress pattern
  • Fist pumping when you say the stressed syllable
  • Building vocab based on stress and word formation – tasks like these activities from Book of Pronunciation:



and…      stress2

Copyright Marks and Bowen (2012)

  • A ‘stand up/sit down’ game… Students in a group of 3 or so. Say a word. If stress is on the first syllable, student 1 stands up, second syllable, student 2 stands up, etc.

What have I been trying recently?

I’m trying to make things more fun for young learners…

  • I got bored of the stand up game and the rods for a bit, so I brought in footballs and tennis balls. Put students in a group of 3. One person holds the football (main stress), the others have the tennis balls. You say a word and they pass the balls between them to show the stress pattern.

The other fun thing is this…

  • Get hold of some sticky balls that will easily stick to the whiteboard. Like these:


Pic from dhgate.com

Board the stress patterns, e.g. like this:



Say a word. The students discuss which stress pattern it has with their team. They throw their sticky balls at the correct pattern. Work out some kind of points system. They seem to love this game, or perhaps they just love ‘accidentally’ throwing the balls at me…!

You could also make them throw their ball at a particular stress pattern. They must then think of a word they know with that pattern.

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

Categories: Lesson Ideas, pronunciation, teacher development

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. Trying the sticky ball one with my teens this weekend! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooooo I like these ideas Pete. I like the range and the number with involve ss in identifying the patterns- the first step.

    I’ve also used the fist pump idea as well as
    -clap the main stress
    -beat the stress. Imagine a counter top with a groove in it. The right arm moves from right to left and moves down into the imaginary groove as you hit the main stress.

    I once watched a teacher in a room of late primary age children doing a ‘circle bob’.
    Everyone makes a circle and walks in the same direction. You bob down for the stressed syllable. This caused much merriment!

    It’s a good idea to vary the techniques I think. Keep the interest going.
    Thanks for the ideas- I will direct my trainees to have a look at these for our session on word stress.


    • Hey Nicky. The circle bob sounds great, I’ll try that one out! Cheers for adding some more variations, always good to have a bank of ideas to refer to. How are your Celta courses going these days? Where are you doing the latest one?


  3. Loved the idea of using kahoot for word stress!



  1. Here’s a post by #eltplanning. Used this activity today. Successful and engaging!
  2. General ideas for teaching pronunciation | ELT planning
  3. Correcting pronunciation errors from Thai speakers of English | ELT planning
  4. Lesson idea: Kahoot! for word stress | ELT planning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: