Pronunciation: Interactive activities

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Truly communicative activities for pronunciation practice are difficult to create, especially for vowels and consonants. After listening exercises and production exercises, guided practice activities, controlled practice activities, or semi-communicative or quasi-communicative activities are at least possible and should be used. If possible, these can then be followed by more interactive activities. The activities below are particularly suited for practicing prosody (stress, intonation) and prosodic effects (e.g., natural speech phenomena).


1 Guided discussion

These involve brief discussion topics based on vocabulary prompts. These can be done in pairs, or in info-gap style, or you can have students go around the room interviewing each other. The following example involves colloquial contractions or reduction of helping verbs & pronouns:

  • have→ 'v /əv/
  • you → /yu/ → ya /yə/
  • do→ da, d' /də/
  • verb + you → ja (shouldja, wouldja, couldja...)


A. Shouldja / oughta?

Do ya think I oughta buy a computer?
Yeah, you oughta / you’d better / ya better buy a computer.
No, you'd better not buy a computer.

1. Oughta...?

  • take some medicine
  • study English
  • get a large dog
  • get more exercise
  • go see a movie
  • take the TOEFL
  • study all night
  • get an iguana


2. Should I have gone home? [have = əv]

Yeah, ya shoulda gone home. / No, ya shouldn’t have stayed home.
  • stayed home today
  • majored in philosophy
  • studied harder for my exams
  • slept last night
  • skipped class
  • learned Spanish
  • become a rock star


B. Couldja?

Could you loan me twenty bucks?
Sure, I can loan ya twenty bucks.
Nope / No way / No, I can't loan ya twenty bucks.
  • loan me your car
  • fix my computer
  • cook me breakfast
  • loan me $100
  • buy me dinner
  • teach me French
  • buy me a new car


C. Ya gonna? Whacha gonna do? [ = going to, what are you]

(Are) ya gonna study Swahili today?
No, I'm not gonna study today. / Nah, I ain't gonna study .
Yeah, I'm gonna study.
  • study hard in college
  • get an 'A' in the class
  • eat some kimbab
  • fall asleep
  • eat some squid
  • buy me lunch
  • be quiet
  • buy the teacher some Starbucks coffee
  • read a Russian novel
  • go dancing


D. Do I hafta / gotta? [ = have (got) to]

Do I hafta / gotta take you to a concert?
Yeah, you gotta / hafta take me to a concert.
  • go to English class
  • get you a gift
  • take you to a movie
  • buy you dinner
  • clean the house
  • be nice to the teacher
  • loan you twenty bucks
  • fix your computer
  • take a quiz
  • get married

E. Whaddaya wanna do? [ = what do you]

Do ya wanna eat some cake?
Yeah, I wanna eat some cake / Yeah, I'd love to eat some cake
No, I don't wanna eat (any) cake.
  • go to work
  • go out to a bar
  • study philosophy
  • wash dishes
  • get married
  • get the flu
  • catch a cold
  • watch soccer
  • go to prison
  • get a haircut
  • eat lunch
  • help me shovel snow
  • go to Canada
  • do some homework
  • learn German
  • drink some German beer
  • take a nap
  • skip class


2 Info gaps

These are listed under the Pronunciation: Controlled activities page, as thy are relatively controlled rather than interactive activities.


2.1 Discussion topics

Various questions for open-ended discussion topics are listed here.

2.2 Creating dialogues or stories from scratch

Students are given a prompt, and are to create a story, dialogue or role play with the words. a The prompts include words with the target phoneme, such as a list of words with a common theme, a story, or a picture or chart with sample vocabulary items. For example, they might be given the following /r/ and /l/ words to create stories (from Celce-Murcia, Brinton & Goodwin)[1]. For a simpler, more controlled exercise, the teacher can create short stories or scenarios featuring such words.

  1. colors: red, yellow, blue, green, brown, purpose, maroon, black, gray
  2. professions: bar tender, bank teller, waitress, cab driver, doctor, English teacher, lawyer
  3. places: library, flower shop, grocery store, hair salon, church, temple
  4. comparatives, superlatives: better, worse, more graceful, less realistic, most terrible
  5. body parts: elbow, ear, finger, knuckle, ankle, leg, wrist, eyebrow, forehead
  6. names: Ralph, Beverly, Harold, Pearl, Laura, Larry, Marlon, Laverne

2.3 Artificial dialogues

Students practice in pairs or small groups with prewritten dialogues. Before reading it together, the teacher can also have them try to identify instances of the target sound, or predict occurrences of a sound, as in these examples. Afterwards, they then create their own dialogues based on the example. These are particularly suited for teaching sentence stress, intonational emphasis, and sentence intonation. They they can also be adapted to more interactive activities, also, by having students create their own dialogues based on these examples. The first is based on an example from a source that I'm not sure of (maybe Nespor & Vogel), #2-4 are from Lee (2001)[2] and Lee (2013)[3], and I'm not sure about the last one.

1. (dinner table conversation)

A. So why isn't Johnny eating his octopus?

B. He thinks it looks disgusting, and it's hard to chew.

A. Can you get him to eat squid?

B. No, he won't eat squid. He doesn't eat seafood besides shrimp. How about Fritz?

A. He only eats octopus or squid with peppers. He's so very picky.


2. (dinner table conversation)

A. I read in the paper last night... That they're filming Star Wars episode three now.

B. I'd love to see it sometime. Will it be out soon?

A. Not anytime soon. - Say, could you pass the salad, please?

A. I'd like to watch all the past episodes again. Have you seen episodes four thru six before?

B. Yeah, but it's been a while. I'd sure love to watch it again. Do we have them on video, Chuck?

C. Sure, and we have the afternoon free, you know. Why don't we watch them today?

A. Sounds great, I guess.


3. (dinner table conversation)

A. Say, have you ever seen Star Wars episode four?

B. What is it?

A. It's the original Star Wars.

B. I don't think so. But I should have.

A. I think you must have.

B. Maybe...

A. Remember, it came out in the late seventies.

B. When was it?

A. Oh, about 1979.


4. (dinner table conversation)

A. Hey, you wanna watch one of those Hitchcock movies tonight?

B. I don't know. You know, I don't really like Hitchcock.

A. I think Hitchcock movies are great. We should watch The Third Man. # The Rise is a good movie. It's got Paul Newman in it.

A. What is it?

B. It's The Rise. It won an academy award.

A. I've thought about maybe getting Notorious. I've never seen that.

C. Oh, that's a good movie. It's got Cary Grant in it.

A. The other one that I haven't seen is Rear Window. It's got Jimmy Steward, who's a good guy, and Raymond Burr, who's a bad guy.# That one I've heard is a little strange, but I haven't seen it. Notorious, though, is the one where Cary Grant's a spy, and Ingrid Bergman is the daughter of a Nazi German, who just committed suicide after a trial, and they want her to infiltrate his contacts. And they fall in love.

B. Oh, that might not be bad.


5. The thermos

One day Joe was walking across a building site and saw his foreman pouring coffee from a thermos flask.

"What's that you've got there, foreman?" Joe asked.

"A thermos flask," said the foreman.

"And what does that do?" says Joe.

"Well," said the foreman, "if you put anything hot in it, then it stays hot, and if you put anything cold in it, then it stays cold."

"That's fantastic!" said Joe. "I must get myself one of those."

The next day Joe sat eating his lunch when his friend Mick came in.

"What's that there Joe?" asked Mick.

"A thermos Flask," replied Joe.

"And what does that do?" asked Mick.

"Well," said Joe, "if you put anything hot in it, then it stays hot, and if you put anything cold in it, then it stays cold".

"That's marvelous," Mick exclaimed. "And what have you got in there now?"

"Well," said Joe, "I've got two cups of coffee and an ice-cream."


3 See also

  1. Phonology & pronunciation portal
  2. Phonology & pronunciation topics (Minimal pairs will appear here later in wiki pages for various segmentals)
  3. Pronunciation: Teaching overview
  4. Pronunciation: Listening exercises
  5. Pronunciation: Production exercises
  6. Pronunciation: Controlled activities
  7. Pronunciation: Interactive activities
  8. Discussion questions for listening-speaking class

3.1 External links

  1. Sounds of English
  2. Phonetics flash animation practice (U. Iowa phonetics site)
  3. English phonetics and phonology for non-native speakers
  4. Tongue twisters website (also, tongue twisters for other languages)
  5. Phoneme flashcards for kids
  6. MoreWords] (Here you can search for words by spelling patterns)


4 References

  1. Celce-Murcia, Marianne; Brinton, Donna M.; & Goodwin, Janet M. (2010). Teaching Pronunciation, 2nd ed. Cambridge Univ. Press.
  2. Lee, K. (2001). Teaching discourse stress to Asian students. KOTESOL Proceedings 2001, pp. 103-116.
  3. Lee, K. (2013). Sentence stress in information structure. Oeneohag [J. Korean Ling. Soc.], 66,3-30.