Are you looking for some of the best ESL pronunciation activities and games for your English learners? Then you’re definitely in the right place. We’re going to give you a quick rundown on some of the best things you can do in class to help your students with English pronunciation.
Top 14 Pronunciation Activities ESL
Are you ready for some English pronunciation practice activities? Let’s get to it! Keep on reading for everything you need to know, including our favourite games for ESL pronunciation.
#1: Minimal Pairs Bingo
Every English teachers knows and loves Bingo! But, you can also do them with minimal pairs. Basically, a minimal pair are two words that differ by only one aspect. For example: bat/bet, or ship/sheep.
Choose a number of these kinds of words and have students choose some of them to write on their Bingo sheets. Play the game, with the teacher calling out various words. Students have to listen carefully to see which word it is. Don’t spell out the words! That’s part of the challenge of this activity. Then, if someone has a Bingo, be sure to check carefully because it’s easy to make mistakes in this one.
Quick teaching tip: Instruct students to use a pencil to make words off (with only an “X”) instead of pen or scribbling them completely. This way, they can easily correct their mistakes and also see what words were underneath.
#2: Running Dictation Pronunciation Game
Running dictation is one of my favourite English pron activities because it also covers a whole ton of other skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing. Plus, it’s fun and adds a nice element of competition to the classroom.
The way it works is that post some sentences that make up a conversation at various points around your classroom. Then, one student has to read them, remember what they say and report back to their partner who writes them down.
This is where the pronunciation aspect of it comes in. If they are saying something incorrectly, the student writing down the sentences won’t be able to understand!
Do you want to find out more about this ESL speaking and listening activity? You can check it out right here: Running Dictation ESL Game.
#3 Pronunciation ESL: Pit Pat Putt
This is an excellent activity to help students with vowel sounds. The way it works is that you write down 10, 1-syllable words that begin and end with the same consonant.
For example: pit, pat, putt, port, part….
Then, write the numbers 0-9 on the board under each word.
Practice each word until students can both recognize the word when you say it, and then also say it themselves. After that, tell the class that you’re going to give them your phone number and it’s one of the best pronunciation games.
Instead of saying numbers, say the word which corresponds to the number. The students have to write out the numbers that correspond to what you said. You could say it any numbers of times, depending on the level of your students.
Students can then take turns playing the game with a partner as this will give them some practice with both listening and speaking.
#4: The Flyswatter White Board Race
Who doesn’t like hitting something with a flyswatter, right? You can use this game to work on recognizing minimal pairs, but only if your classroom has a white board.
The way it works is that write a bunch of similar sounding words on the board all spaced out randomly. Then, two students come up to the front (one from each team) and are given a flyswatter. The teacher says a word and the students race to hit the correct word first. You can erase the word, leave it on, or replace it with a new one.
Then, the next two students from the team come up and the activity goes on from there. More information right here: Flyswatter ESL Game.
#5 ESL Pronunciation Activities: Flashcard Sentences
Flashcards are one of those things that belong in the hands of every single ESL teacher for young learners! In my opinion, they are one of the most under-utilized resources in the English classroom.
This is a simple activity that you can use to help your students with English pronunciation. It makes an ideal warm-up, review activity or filler! Find out more about this versatile ESL activity right here: Flashcard Sentences.
#6: The Memory Circle
The memory circle is a fun way to get students to speak, a lot on a certain topic and it’s one of the best activities for kids for teaching pronunciation. For example, if you’re teaching about jobs or animals (more ESL animals activities here), or irregular verbs in the simple past, this activity will work. You can even use it an an icebreaker for the first day of class!
Where pron comes in is that you have a chance to hear each student say the target words. At this point, you can correct some of the errors that they’re making. Or, take some notes during the activity and then correct errors as a class at the end.
But for this English pronunciation activity, I’ll generally veer towards correcting an error when it happens because I find that students will repeat the incorrect way if I don’t! And obviously this is the last thing you want.
Do you want to learn more about it? You can check out all the details for yourself: Memory Circle ESL Activity.
#7 ESL Pronunciation Game: Word Watch Minimal Pairs Activity
The ultimate goal of this activity is to help students hear the difference and produce similar sounding words. A minimal pair is a group of words that differ in only one element. Some examples of minimal pairs are as follows:
As you can see in terms of English pronunciation, one word is not that much different from the other one, but the meaning certainly is and you’ll want students to use the correct sounds! That’s why practice is so important.
Students from various countries may have a difficult time with one specific aspect of this. Target this for your lessons!
The way Word Match works is that you choose 4-6 minimal pairs and write them on the board in two lists.
Say a word and have students tell you whether it came from column one or two. Do this until you’ve said all the words, in random order of course!
After that, put students into pairs and give them two decks of cards with 6 sets of minimal pairs. Each student gets an identical deck. This game contains an element of random luck which can make it more fun.
The students can make a barrier between them and the student to play first can choose 8 cards randomly from their deck of 12.
The second students lays out all their cards, face-up so that hey can see them.
The first student says each word, one by one and the second students chooses what they hear from their cards. At the end, students compare their cards and see if they’ve done the activity correctly. Students can change roles and plan one more time.
You can easily adjust the difficulty of this activity by using more, or less similar groups of words. For example, the worlds could all start with different letters (easy) or all begin with the same letters (difficult).
#8: Use Some Videos to Work on ESL Pronunciation
If you take a look over on YouTube, you’ll see that there are a ton of videos for English learners. Like probably more than a million of them, on just about any and every single topic you could possibly imagine, including pronunciation.
Maybe you’re kind of like me and not really an expert on pron. I can kill a grammar or vocabulary lesson and listening? No problem. But pronunciation…well, I kind of struggle on how to explain and how to help students correct errors. If I don’t feel confident about a certain aspect of it, I’ll go over to YouTube and find a nice video to show my student instead. Many of them even include drills the students can do along with the teacher.
For example, here’s one video that contains everything you students need to know about vowel sounds:
The other time I like to use these pronunciation videos is to recommend them to any of my students who are having very specific problems.
#9 ESL Pronunciation Activity: Disappearing Text
This is a quick review activity that you can use at the end of class. The way it works is that you write a sentence on the board and students have to say it out loud, together. Of course, your students should pay attention to English pronunciation.
Then, erase 1-2 words from the beginning and have students say the complete sentence again. Keep going until the entire sentence is gone. Find out more about this quick review activity right here:
#10 ESLPronunciation Games
Do you want to find out even more of these fun activities you can use in your class? Then you’ll want to check out this short video on YouTube for even more ideas:
Are you looking for some more resources besides just English pronunciation games? Then you’ll want to keep on reading for all the best stuff here.
#11: Odd One Out Pronunciation Game
Normally I play odd one out with vocabulary words but in this case, you can also do it with minimal pairs and pronunciation. The way it works is that you write down words in sets of 4 on the board, and either the vowel or consonants will be different.
- Meat, meet, slip, sleep
- space, race, plays, pace
In the first case, slip doesn’t fit and the second, plays.
#12: Pronunciation Basketball
In this game, students each receive some slips of paper with words on them. If they pronounce it correctly, they crumple the paper up and get a chance to toss it into the “basket” for a point for their team. If not, they keep it and get another chance when the game comes back to them. This is one of my favourite pronunciations games because it has some serious pronunciation practice but also a nice element of luck to it.
#13: Dictation Practice
The first step in pronunciation is being able to hear the difference in sounds. One way to assist with this is by doing some dictation practice. Read out some words or sentences to your students and have them write down what they hear. It’s simple but effective and will give you a nice indication if students are ready to move onto the stage of learning how to say the words themselves.
#14: Chinese Whispers (aka Telephone)
I’m sure every single TEFL teacher likes to have a few activities or games that require absolutely nothing in the way of preparation or materials in their back pocket, right? Chinese Whispers is one such game and the other good thing is that it’s perfect for practicing pronunciation in a fun way.
Want to know more? Check it out here: Chinese Whispers Game.
Online ESL Pronunciation Practice
Do you want to direct your students to an online resource that’ll help them improve their pronunciation? Here are a few of our favourite resources to check out:
Pronunciation ESL Lesson Plans
If you’re looking for some complete, interactive lesson plans for helping your students out with pron, here are a few of our go-to sources:
Do you have a go-to source for this kind of thing? Leave a comment below and let us know your resource. We’ll add it to our list.
ESL Pronunciation Worksheets
There are a ton of resources online for pronunciation worksheets. Just print and go, and you’ll have a nice chunk of your lesson already done for you! Here are the best sources we’ve found for worksheets covering this skill:
How Can Students Improve Their ESL Pronunciation?
Do your students want some tips for improving their English pronunciation? When my students ask me this question, here are a few of the tips that I give them.
#1: Work on Listening and Differentiating Words and Sounds
When you’re a baby learning your first language, listening comes before speaking. Learning English in the same. The better you are at listening, the better you’ll be at speaking.
Think about minimal pairs. Is it sleep or sheet? Rice or lice? If you can’t hear the difference, then you’ll have a very difficult time saying these words correctly. Try some minimal pairs listening activities if you really want to test yourself!
#2: Syllables and Sounds are Key for ESLpronunciation
Longer words have multiple syllables. If you turn them into syllables, it can make them easier to pronounce. For example:
El-e-phant is 3 syllables. If you didn’t know this, you might be tempted to say Ele-phant which would obviously be incorrect!
Learn the rules for where to break up words and you’ll be well on your way to pro level English pronunciation. It’s the key to figuring out the different sounds.
#3: English Pronunciation Videos on YouTube
If you’re practicing ESL pronunciation on your own, one of the best ways is to look on YouTube for some practice videos. The teachers do a great job at explaining things and giving you lots of opportunities to practice on your own.
#4: Pay Attention to your Lips, Tongue and Mouth
Each letter sound in English has a specific way that your lips and mouth should move in order to make it. Your tongue also plays a vital role in this. A good teacher can show you the correct placement if you’re struggling with making the correct sounds for a certain letter, or letter combination.
Of course, when you combine sounds, it can change so be sure to learn the specific rules for each situation. The other tip is be patient if you hit a wall. Stop and then try again later. You will eventually bust through that wall towards better English pronunciation.
#5: Pay Attention to Peoples’ Reactions When You’re Talking to Them
If you’ve having an English conversation with someone, is there are a word that they don’t understand? Is it because it’s the wrong vocabulary choice and they’re confused, or is it because you’re saying the word incorrectly.
This can give you some nice clues about where things have gone wrong. Take note of this and pay close attention. Ask your teacher if you’re not sure.
#6: Word Stress and Sounds
Words often have syllables that are stressed, while others are not. This is where many pronunciation problems happen and it can lead to a lack of understanding. A good dictionary will show you the stressed and unstressed parts of the word so learn how to use this tool and you’ll be a master at speaking English in no time!
#7: Record Yourself
Sometimes you can think that you’re saying things a certain way, but when it comes out of your mouth, it’s actually different. One way to check on this is to record yourself reading something. How do you sound? Are there certain sounds that are a bit rough for your to pronounce?
#8: Use Contractions when Speaking English
I would never talk like this. It is okay to write like this, but do not speak like this.
This way is better:
I’d never talk like this. It’s okay to write like this, but don’t speak like this.
Use contractions! Say both of those lines out loud. The second one sounds way better, right?
#9: Speaking Slowly isn’t so Bad
Many students think that they need to speak very quickly in order to be fluent. This isn’t really true however. The key is not speaking at a very slow pace. Normal is okay. Take some time to think about what you’re going to say. It’s really no problem at all, even when doing something like free talking.
#10: Try Singing
Learn some popular English songs. It’s a fun way to practice English in a more relaxed atmosphere and it’s a great, free resource especially for musical types.
#11: World English
English sounds different around the world and there are both native, and non-native speakers. They make different sounds for certain words so be sure to listen to a wide variety of sources.
How do you Teach ESL Pronunciation?
There are a few things you can when teaching ESL pronunciation:
- Work on listening skills
- Teach the phonetic alphabet
- Work on minimal pairs
- Know the specific pronunciation weaknesses for students from each country
- Let students see how your mouth moves
- Use games and make it fun
- Think about the sound each letter makes
- There are various accents from around the world, so use a variety of listening sources
What is English Pronunciation?
Pronunciation refers to the way in which people make the sounds of words. To pronounce words, our bodies push air up through our lungs, through the throat and vocal cords and finally into the mouth and past our tongues and lips. The way we do this makes the different sounds.
What is a Minimal Pair?
A minimal pair is a pair of words that differ by only a single phoneme. They are used to show the contrast between two sounds in a language and the difference can either be a consonant or vowel. Some examples or bit and sit. Or, bus and boss are some examples of minimal pairs.
What is the Point of a Silent Letter?
A silent letter in English is often a diacratic letter which instead of being spoken, changes the pronunciation of another syllable. For example, the “e” at the end of tone, changes the pronunciation of the “o” from a short vowel to a long one, even though it’s not specifically spoken out loud.
Why is the K in Knife Silent?
Knife has a silent K in it and is similar to words like knight, knock or knob. It’s a throwback to old English and is thought to have become silent around the 16th or 17th century but the spelling still remains the same today.
Did you Like These English Pronunciation Games?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 100 Pages - 05/30/2015 (Publication Date)
Yes? Thought so. Then the book you’re going to love is this one available on Amazon: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities for Teens and Adults.
The key to interesting and engaging English classes is a variety of activities and games. This book will help you get there in style. There is enough material to help you get through an entire semester in style and it will certainly make your lesson planning easier!
The book is available in a variety of formats: audio, digital and traditional. Take the audio version with you while commuting to work, or the digital copy to your favourite coffee shop for lesson planning on the go. Or, keep the physical copy on the bookshelf in your office to use as a handy reference guide. It really is that easy to have better English lessons.
Does it sound like exactly what you might need to kick your English conversation and speaking classes to the next level? Then check out the book for yourself over on Amazon, but only if you want to get yourself a serious dose of ESL speaking awesome in your life:
Have your Say about these ESL Pronunciation Activities and Games
What are your thoughts about these ESL pron games and activities? Have you tried one of them from this list, or do you have some other go-to games that you like? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. It’ll help other busy teachers, like yourself when planning their lessons.
Last update on 2020-04-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API