Perfect pronunciation – every ESL student’s goal and no one’s achievement.
It is rare for any ESL student to have perfect pronunciation, and some would say it’s actually wrong to expect it of them. But no matter your view on that issue, the fact remains that most ESL students need practice with pronunciation. Just like knowledge of vocabulary is essential for comprehension, successful pronunciation is essential for communication. If you want to work on pronunciation with your students but are unsure where to start, here’s a simple plan for developing your own pronunciation lesson based on a short reading passage. It’s a great way to incorporate pronunciation practice into a reading class or when students are doing research. Just follow these seven steps for a complete and effective pronunciation activity for any level student.
7 Surefire Steps for Creating Your Own Awesome Pronunciation Lessons
Determine Which Specific Pronunciation Skill You Want to Focus On
If you are teaching beginners, you will have tons of specific English sounds you can work on to help your students improve. If you are teaching higher level students, their pronunciation will be at a generally higher level. So focus on the sounds you hear misspoken in your class frequently. This means you should be on the listen for pronunciation mistakes being made by multiple members of your class. Sometimes these mispronunciations will come because of the native language your students speak. Others times it may be because they were not taught proper pronunciation in their early days of studying English. Other times confusion can come because of English spelling. To determine what sounds your students need to work on and not stress yourself out over it, try keeping a sticky note on the corner of your desk and jotting down the mispronunciations you hear your students making during other lessons. Then when it’s time to teach pronunciation, just come back to your sticky note and see what shows up more than once. That is the sound you will want to work on during your pronunciation lesson.
Choose a Short Reading Passage That Uses the Sound Frequently or Write Your Own
If your students will be reading an article, story, or something else, take a close look at it and find a section that uses the pronunciation point you want to practice. Ideally the passage will have that sound in it frequently. Feel free to rewrite the passage so it uses that sound more often. Or write your own passage altogether. The main thing is that the passage uses the target sound not that it covers a specific amount of information. (Bonus points for you if you can include the target sound in your passage with different spelling patterns.)
Read the Passage to Your Students
At first slowly and carefully. Subsequent times faster at with more normal pronunciation and speed. As you read, you want them to hear the correct pronunciation of the target sound. Once they have that in their minds, you want them to hear it in normal language use, not necessarily slow and articulated like you use the first time you read it through.
Point out Specific Words That Might Trip up Your Students
This will probably be the words with the target pronunciation sound, but there might also be others in the passage. If you have different spellings for the same sound, point these out (and give your students a minute to complain about spelling in English, agreeing with them as you feel led).
Give Your Students a Chance to Read – Out Loud
You can either have students practice in groups and walk around the room to listen to each person or have one member of the class go at a time. Ultimately, you want to hear each member of your class read the passage. It’s up to you how you make that happen. In part, your decision will depend on the personality types you have in your classroom and the number of students in class as well as the amount of time you have set aside for the activity.
As You Are Listening to Your Students, Correct Their Mistakes and Have Them Read Again
If you have a class of internationals, this is the time you want to group them with speakers of different first languages. Since these students speak different first languages, they will have different mispronunciation patterns. This also means they make different mistakes and can hear the mistakes their classmates make. You can have your students offer each other corrections as they are able to. Students who speak the same first language likely won’t hear many of their classmates’ mistakes, so make a point of grouping students with speakers of different first languages. If your entire class speaks the same first language, you may want to have individual students take turns reading to the entire class rather than having students work in groups or have them work in groups first and then read for you or the entire class. You might also choose to have students come up to your desk and read for you while the rest of the class is working on step seven.
Have Students Read the Rest of the Passage
At this point in the lesson, the pronunciation practice is complete, and you will want to move on to using the reading material for whatever purpose you chose it to begin with. You can have students read on their own, but think about doing a jigsaw or other interactive reading activity to complete the passage. Then follow the reading up with whatever activities you had originally planned to use with it.
Pronunciation doesn’t have to be the focus of every ESL class, but it does benefit your students to isolate those skills at some points.
Try this simple strategy for creating your own pronunciation lessons and you will always be ready to help your students improve the way they speak English.