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…)


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…)


A rant about comprehension questions

On my module in materials development we’ve just looked at reading and listening tasks.

We spoke about what makes good/bad comprehension questions. ‘Plain sense’ questions are seen as pretty ineffective, as they just test familiarity with sentence structure rather than actual understanding. Here’s an example of a plain sense question that I came across on my Dip (at TLI)

Most zins are bosticulous. Many rimp upon pilfides.

Q1. What are most zins?

Q2. What do many rimp on?

Although the text is full of nonsense words you can answer the questions without really understanding it.

I can see why these questions aren’t considered that useful. So why do coursebook writers fall back on them?

I know, it’s really easy to be critical. I’m guilty of writing rubbish questions like this too. Actually, I don’t do it that often. I prefer to write really ambiguous questions which will prompt conversation/debate – these are equally annoying I think!

But these ‘plain sense’ questions… I mean… I came across this activity the other day:


these are from Beyond A2+ (copyright Macmillan), which is actually quite a good coursebook.

Here’s the text, with relevant parts highlighted for each answer:


I’m not saying the whole activity is pointless. It’s just that some questions are plain sense or focus on simple grammatical relationships.

Q4: To have a healthy heart, how often do we need to exercise?

A: (To have a healthy heart, we should exercise for) 30 minutes at least three times a week

Q5: What happens if we do puzzles?

A: (if we regularly use our brains to do puzzles), we actually become more intelligent

I could give the author the benefit of the doubt I guess. For example, you can still teach some reading strategies related to the questions. In Q4 students could predict the answer based on question stems (e.g. How often = a frequency), then scan the text quickly for the relevant info – if they didn’t already have a massive clue by being given the start of the sentence. Maybe Q5 draws attention to the word ‘intelligent’ as new vocabulary, but you don’t need to know the meaning to answer the comprehension question.

I’m not suggesting how these questions could be improved. That’s not because I’m lazy. It’s because when they were devised they must have been written by a far more experienced teacher and then accepted by a skilled editor, both of whom must have had a clear pedagogical rationale for choosing these questions.


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



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…)


15 ways I’ve developed as a teacher this year

I’ve had a really busy year. I’ve taught in four different countries since January. They’ve included a quick winter camp in Spain (which was great fun), a short stint back in England, an amazing summer in Vietnam and now Christmas in Bangkok! You can’t beat the life of an EFL teacher!

I’ve certainly learnt a lot this year. Here are a few things I’ve done that have improved me in some way as a teacher. I hope they give you some ideas for professional development. Some of these were motivated by this great post from ELT Experiences, I recommend looking at it for more inspiration! (more…)