Pronunciation Matters

Recommended Instructional Procedures and Variations

Diagnosis of Students' Difficulties

Before providing any focused instruction, you should diagnose students' difficulties in English pronunciation (and listening comprehension) or have them diagnose themselves. Materials and guidelines for conducting this diagnosis are provided in the "Diagnosis of Difficulties" section of this website.

Initial Presentation and Practice

Pronunciation Matters lessons can be used in a variety of ways. The exact procedure you use in your class is up to you as the teacher. What follows is a generalized list of steps you may wish to follow. These steps are illustrated with video clips (taken in various pronunciation lessons in different classes) that you can see by clicking on the links in the text below, as well as the “Sample Teaching Plan” and “Sample Teaching Script” sections of this website.

From step nine on, these steps are not necessarily sequential. Also, it is certainly not expected that you will go through all these steps in one class period. Sensitivity to your students’ learning styles, with corresponding flexibility and variety, will produce the best results.

**Note: If the videos will not play, make sure Quicktime is up to date, or try a different internet browser. We recommend Firefox.

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1. Select appropriate unitsClick to play video(click to play video)

    Based on the results of the diagnosis of students' difficulties in English pronunciation (see guidelines in the "Diagnosis of Difficulties" section of this website), select appropriate units from Pronunciation Matters for use with the whole class or with individuals (see tutoring variations below).

2. StartClick to play video(click to play video)

    In class, announce that you are going to tell a short story.

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3. Tell (or play) the storyClick to play video(click to play video)

    Use your own words or read the story aloud (or play the recording). In your presentation, relate the story with feeling and (when appropriate) a touch of drama. If you tell the story in your own words, be sure to get the wording of the “contrasting sentences” correct.

4. Draw picturesClick to play video(click to play video)

    When the story reaches the right point (indicated by the number in the printed story), you should begin drawing the appropriate picture (following the model chalkboard pictures provided for each unit). It may be even better to get a student volunteer to draw the pictures while you are telling the story.

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5. Convey meaning and model pronunciationClick to play video(click to play video)

    Even before the drawing is finished, the students may wish to guess—based on the context of the story and/or the emerging drawing itself—what it is. When it is finished, make sure everyone understands what the drawing represents. At the same time, model the correct pronunciation of corresponding key words.

6. ContinueClick to play video(click to play video)

    Go on telling/reading the story, and drawing other pictures in the same way at the appropriate times. Elicit key words from the students, model these words clearly yet naturally, and discuss their meanings as needed.

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7. Present and focus on contrasting sentencesClick to play video(click to play video)

    At the end of the story, ask the students to respond to your next utterances (the contrasting sentences) by using the appropriate rejoinders.

    For example:

    Contrasting sentences
    T: Mr. Green was bitten. S: By the dog.
    T: Mr. Green was beaten. S: With a stick.



    The rejoinders may be written on the board next to the pictures. If you are using an overhead transparency of the Pronunciation Matters page, you need only point to the appropriate words and pictures.

    Once students understand the context, the key words, and the rejoinders, have them write the appropriate key word(s) in each of the blanks in the “Contrasting Sentences” section. Writing in the words this way will focus students’ attention on them and increase their understanding as well as involvement.

8. Provide varied contrastive listening practiceClick to play video(click to play video)

    Provide listening practice by randomly choosing and saying one of the contrasting sentences and requesting students to respond in any or all of the following ways:
    1. Marking their books with a check (or number, if you do this practice repeatedly) in one of the boxes provided in front of the two contrasting sentences in their books, depending on which sentence you said.
    2. Pointing to the picture on the chalkboard that corresponds to the sentence you just said.
    3. Making a meaningful gesture that represents the sentence or its rejoinder (e.g., in unit V1-B, hand motions to indicate a dog biting or a man swinging a stick).
    4. Saying the corresponding rejoinder aloud.
    You may ask students to respond individually or in small groups. Try to create a fun, game-like atmosphere as you do this.

    After one individual or group has responded, you may involve other students or groups by asking them to confirm the correctness of the initial response. In other words, turn to someone else and ask them, "Do you agree?" This step increases involvement and often creates additional interest when the respondents disagree.

    Continue this practice until most students have demonstrated an acceptable degree of mastery in distinguishing between the two contrasting sentences when you speak them.

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9. Move on to speaking practice

    After the students have demonstrated that they can listen to and accurately distinguish between the two contrasting sentences, they are ready to move on to speaking practice. This practice may be done in a variety of ways:
9a. Reverse rolesClick to play video(click to play video)
    Have individual students randomly choose and say one of the contrasting sentences, while you take the part of providing the appropriate rejoinder.

9b. Have one student be "the teacher"Click to play video(click to play video)

    Individual students may be asked to produce one of the sentences (you may cue students by whispering one of the rejoinders in their ear or by privately showing them a picture or making a gesture), and the other class members guess what the individual said by pointing at one picture or the other, making the appropriate gesture, or saying the rejoinder.

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9c. Arrange student-to-student practice with audience involvement

    Call on one individual student to choose and say one of the contrasting sentences. Then you, or the student who said the sentence, select a classmate to provide the corresponding rejoinder. The rest of the class judges whether the second student responded appropriately. When the students disagree about the appropriate response, ask for a show of hands. "How many of you say by a dog?" "How many say with a stick?" After an appropriate amount of discussion, tell them the correct answer.

9d. Set up a communicative "information gap" situationClick to play video(click to play video)

    Ask one student to stand at the back of the class (or go there yourself) and be the “chooser.” This chooser randomly selects and shows visual cues (pictures similar to those drawn on the blackboard earlier, word cards, gestures, etc.) to a second student who has been asked to stand at the front of the class and be the “speaker.” The rest of the class must face forward so they cannot see the student in the back or the visual cues.

    Seeing the visual cue, the speaker says the corresponding sentence, and the class responds by saying the appropriate rejoinder, making the corresponding gesture, or pointing to the right picture (either individually, as called upon by the speaker or teacher, or as a group). After they have responded, students are allowed to turn their heads and look at the chooser in the back of the room who should still be holding the visual or making the gesture where everyone can see it. In this way, they can see if accurate communication took place. If it didn’t, corrective action must be taken. If they can identify and overcome the problem, let the students self-correct and try again. If they cannot, you may need to intervene and assist. After a few repetitions of this procedure, rotate the chooser and speaker with other students in the class.

    Note: This procedure can even be turned into a fun game by dividing the class into teams, whose members listen, consult with each other, and then provide the appropriate response. Keeping track of the number of correct responses made by each team and writing the score on the chalkboard will generally increase students' motivation and interest.

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9e. Reverse the procedure

    Point to one of the “rejoinder” pictures and let the students choose and say the corresponding “contrasting sentence." Students may respond individually (as volunteers or when called on) or as a group. You judge whether they said the key word correctly.

9f. Provide phonological explanationsClick to play video(click to play video)

    Some students (especially linguistically sophisticated adults) may want to have the proper articulation for each contrasting sound explained to them. You may either go through the “Phonological Explanations” (found under the “Teaching Materials” section of this website) with them or just refer them to that section.

9g. Practice with other "example words" Click to play video(click to play 1st video) Click to play video(click to play 2nd video)

    The lesson page also lists "example words" that contain the target sounds. You may wish to have students read or repeat these words, especially since many of them occur elsewhere in the story. In fact, you can have students go through the story and underline or circle all the words (or phrases) that contain the target sounds.

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10. Go on to other practice activities, such as the following:

  • Peer-practice with cardsClick to play video(click to play 1st video) Click to play video(click to play 2nd video)
  • Story readingClick to play video(click to play 1st video) Click to play video(click to play 2nd video) Click to play video(click to play 3rd video)
  • Dictation
  • Cloze ReadingClick to play video(click to play 1st video) Click to play video(click to play 2nd video)
  • Storytelling practiceClick to play video(click to play 1st video) Click to play video(click to play 2nd video) Click to play video(click to play 3rd video)
  • Mini-dramas (skits) Click to play video(click to play 1st video) Click to play video(click to play 2nd video)

Or go on to another story/lesson:
  • Glen puts in grass/glass for a living Click to play video(click to play video)
  • Grace went to a glamour/grammar school Click to play video(click to play video)
  • My uncle has a HOT dog/hot DOGClick to play video(click to play 1st video) Click to play video(click to play 2nd video)

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For most sound contrasts, Pronunciation Matters provides more than one story context. Avoid “wearing out” your students or a particular story by “running it into the ground." When you sense that students are tired of the situation you have introduced, go on to another activity or story.