How Do You Say That? The 10 Coolest Pronunciation Tools for ESL Students

ESL students struggle with a lot of things.


Many of these they can practice with the use of self-study materials. They can do as many grammar exercises as they want; they can work with audio and video to improve listening; they can even join native English speakers in their free time for some extra speaking practice. But it is not likely they will correct your students’ pronunciation. Pronunciation is one of those things that only teachers correct – in the classroom. Friends and acquaintances will usually let pronunciation mistakes slide for the sake of keeping the conversation flowing.

So what can your students do in their self-study time to improve their pronunciation?

Speaking Activity: Mission Impossible!

English: A mechanical kitchen timer

This speaking activity is designed to help your students to revise their written work and improve their critical reading. It is quite a flexible activity, and can be used as a warmer or as a prize at the end of a lesson, or it can form the basis of a lesson in itself.

  • Explain to the students that they are going to create a story as a class, but that the exercise is timed. (I like to play the music from ‘Mission Impossible’ to introduce the lesson – this introduces a sense of urgency.) The time limit depends on the level of the group. I usually use five minutes to begin, then reduce the time as they become more familiar with the game.

  • The timing can be done with a stopwatch on a computer, if possible projected so they can all see the time, or with an egg-timer, preferably one with a loud tick. In any case, they students should have some object which they can pass to indicate whose turn it is, representing the bomb – if they are not passing an egg-timer, a ball will do, but they should pass it carefully, not throw it!

  • The first student is handed the bomb and is told to be very careful! Their task is to dictate the first sentence of a story to the teacher, who will write it on the board. Write what the student says, without judgement, but do not put the full stop until you are satisfied that the sentence is correct. You should not tell the student where the errors are – they must find them and correct them with the help of the rest of the class. Once the sentence is correct, the student can pass the ‘bomb’ to the next student, who has to continue the story with the next sentence.

  • The students each take a turn to add a sentence to the story being created, until the time runs out (the egg-timer rings, or the timer on the board / computer sounds – try to chose a fairly strident sound if possible). The student who is working on his / her sentence when the time finishes is eliminated.

  • If you play several rounds of this game, it is a good idea to make the final round a ‘Zombie’ round, in which only the people eliminated take part. This brngs them back into the lesson, and gives them a second opportunity. I find that they are normally much more careful when revising their work than the first time around.

100th Post

This is my 100th post on this blog, and I feel this is a good occasion to thank all the people who have visited this site and shown interest in what I have published here. I hope you have found it useful.

thank you for your attention

Tweet from Busy Teacher (@busyteacher_org)

Busy Teacher (@busyteacher_org) tweeted at 1:53 AM on Fri, Feb 01, 2013:
Mind Your ‘P’s and ‘Q’s: Teaching Pronunciation at the Segmental Level: Any English speaker who has ever tried t…