DipTESOL tips

General ideas for teaching pronunciation

(This is a follow-up to my post on phonology-based activities. I’m sharing it now because some of our teachers are about to begin training for the Trinity DipTESOL. Phonology/pronunciation features quite a bit on that course, so I want to offer our teachers an ideas bank to help them explore this area in class)

Here are a load of random pronunciation activities to try out in class. These activities have pretty worked well for me with students aged 9-16. This is a work in progress! I’ll add more to this list when I get more time or try new things.

Note: there are not many activities here that focus on connected speech. That’s because most of my CS activities come from Marks and Bowen (2013) and I don’t want to do them a disservice by plagiarising their whole book! Buy it – it’s great!

If you find something useful then please share your own ideas in the comments! Sharing is caring 🙂

Use GIFs / images / actions

Use whatever you can to associate sounds with a particular object or action. If it’s /æ/ mime a cat, /ɪ/ then mime kicking a football. Keep it active. GIFs are pretty memorable too.

Mime games

The best thing about assigning actions to phonemes is miming games! Say, for example, you’ve taught certain sounds like /d/ (act like a dog), /b/ (throw a ball), /æ/ (act like a cat). You can play a ‘backs to the board game’ where each word includes only sounds that have been taught (bad, dad, etc). The students describing the words can’t say anything, they can only mime the action for the corresponding sounds. Great fun!

Fly swat games

You’ve introduced a set of phonemes. Display them on the board. Organise the class into teams, give each with a fly swat. They line up at the board. Say a word which includes one of the sounds (best to prepare a list of words beforehand). The first team to swat the correct sound wins a point.


Add more challenge. With the above sounds you can say either ‘vowel’ or ‘consonant’ before you say the word.


Teacher says: ‘vowel, butter’. Students must swat /ʌ/

Teacher says: ‘consonant, butter’. Students must swat either /b/ or /t/, or both in order if you’re feeling particularly cruel. Some of my students go mad for this! (more…)


Writing pronunciation activities – 5 things to consider

I’ve written quite a few pronunciation activities this year for a regional product (Asia). Here are a few random thoughts on the process…

Pronunciation for… what?

As Laura Patsko mentions in this interesting Pedagogy Pop-up, pronunciation is important for all skills, not just speaking.

A lot of the pronunciation stages in our materials focus on connected speech. The aim of these activities (IMO) is more to help learners decode natural speech rather than to produce a certain pronunciation feature accurately themselves. Of course, it would be nice if they could do both…

If the purpose of a pronunciation activity isn’t clearly communicated to teachers (and to learners) then this could lead to either having the wrong expectations. There is always a production element in our pronunciation activities, but accurate production of a certain feature might not be the primary aim of an activity.

What problems do the learners have?

This year I’ve been writing a regional product. I’ve taught in 3 of the 15 or so countries where the materials are used. I’ve found it’s pretty tough to address the needs of every learner with a regional product. Resources like Swan’s Learner English have been really useful for understanding common pronunciation problems faced by learners across a region. It’s always worth asking other teachers too – I’m pretty sure that our teachers have taught across the whole region between them.

Of course, it’s worth asking the learners themselves what difficulties they have, but there are practical issues. It might be hard to do this across a whole region, plus they might not actually know what they have difficulties with! (more…)

My TEFL articles

I’ve just uploaded a few of my articles to Scribd. Hopefully I’ll have more to add in the future… Click here for advice on writing for ELT magazines.

Here’s an article I wrote in July 2015 for ETp on error correction. It’s based on a series of observations I undertook for a DipTESOL assignment.

ETp again, November 2015. This was based on my independent research project for the DipTESOL. I designed my own supplementary materials based around various Google products.

ETp, May 2016. An article about my blog. Might be useful if you’re thinking of setting up your own ELT blog.


Q+A: Reading and listening texts for DipTESOL teaching practice

Someone contacted me on this blog asking a question about the DipTESOL.

Q: Where/how did you find good listening and reading materials for the teaching practice?

My answer:

a) I recorded my own

b) I sourced authentic materials on the net and adapted them

A bit more explanation: (more…)

DipTESOL Phonology Interview

I don’t have much to add when it comes to the DipTESOL phonology interview. You can find two great overviews about it from Gemma Lunn and Dave Dodgson. Both mention the example videos by Oxford TEFL, which I think are done by the tutors there.

All I can really add are some concrete examples, and a bit about my experience of doing the interview itself.

Just for context, I got a Distinction for the DipTESOL. I scored 82 for my assignments – you can read a summary of one here and find the others in English Teaching Professional (see ‘About me’). I got 83 (I think) for the phonology interview, 81 for the teaching practice and 73 for the exam. However, I’m not a Dip examiner or tutor, so I can only share my subjective views…


I presented about activities I use to raise awareness of contrastive stress. I mentioned:

  • a specific group of learners
  • WHY this was an important or relevant skill for them to practice
  • how I got students to notice contrastive stress
  • how I got them to practice it
  • how I encouraged them to produce this feature in a freer context


Some thoughts on authentic listening materials

I’ve been a materials writer for 2 months now. It’s about time I started reflecting on it. I haven’t had time to do so as it’s a very busy role – hence the lack of blog activity.

I’m currently writing lessons for a functional, task-led syllabus. There’s a strong focus on speaking, listening and pronunciation. Each lesson has a listening text (well, bout 90% of them do) which is a model for the main task that students complete during a lesson. Target language and target pronunciation features (normally suprasegmental) all appear in the listening text. The text itself is commercially produced, by which I mean I write it, it’s kind of semi-authentic.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the nature of these listening materials since starting the job (and even since teaching the product). I’m trying to decide whether I’m pro- or anti- when it comes to these semi-authentic materials, or whether I need to have either stance. Here are a few of my thoughts. (more…)

Perceptions of the DipTESOL

If you’re about to finish the Trinity DipTESOL, prepare yourself. You’ll soon have one of the most poorly understood qualifications in ELT.dip1

I finished mine in late 2014. Since then, I’ve had 3 different DELTA-qualified teachers suggest that my next step should be to take their Cambridge-accredited course. At least a handful of teachers have commented that I took the ‘easy DELTA’. My old boss all but dismissed my qualification by stating that the assessment ‘does appear less rigorous than the DELTA’. I’ve come across a fair few job adverts where the requirements ask for ‘DELTA or equivalent’ – my qualification isn’t even mentioned by name!

I can’t honestly say which is a harder course, I haven’t taken both and I don’t intend to. I’ll soon sit down with a DELTA-qualified colleague and record a conversation comparing our experiences of the two courses, which should be pretty interesting. I’ll post it up once it’s done. In the meantime, here are some of the most common perceptions I’ve encountered about the Trinity DipTESOL in the last year or so, and my own thoughts on them. Feel free to comment, disagree, and share some of your own experiences of both courses. (more…)