Fun with pronunciation challenges

Fun with pronunciation challenges

Sometimes teaching pronunciation seems boring for both students and teachers. The reality is that it can be fun and challenging at the same time. We are talking about  pronunciation challenges. Here are a few activities that will help your ESL adult learners to sound better and make their pronunciation flourish in a fun way. 

Celebrity time

Choose a celebrity or a TV show character and one of their short monologues. Break it all down into tiny pieces and analyse with your students everything there is: sounds, assimilations, reductions, connected speech and so on. Then let your students practise and  record themselves. Listen to the recordings with the whole class and organise the voting on the best one. 

Silently mouthing 

This exercise can be fun not only for young learners but also for adults. Prepare two different lists of the same words or sentences. Give one of them to your students. Start pronouncing your list of words silently. Students try to identify what has been said. When they guess, it’s the teacher’s turn to watch and name the word. This activity is good for raising awareness of mouth/lips/tongue position for English sounds.

You can give students a task for homework to look in the mirror while they will be saying the sounds learnt from the lesson. This will help them to become familiar with how their mouth moves as they speak.

Make sense

Prepare several questions, each with two possible answers, for example:

Question: The soup is cold. What should I do? 

Answer: Heat it. / Hit it. 

Ask students which answer makes sense. Check the differences in pronunciation.


Physical activities during the lesson are fun not only for young students but also for adults. Here is a pronunciation practice with a physical response. Assign a movement to a specific sound, for example, clapping hands for /ɔ:/, raising a hand for /ə/, standing for /aɪ/, etc. Ask your students to make those movements when they hear the corresponding sound. Make it more challenging by saying not just sounds but the words containing those sounds.   

What’s the word?

The knowledge of phonetic spelling helps some students to get proper pronunciation as they need to see how the word is pronounced. Prepare a list of words spelled phonetically. Students find the word it represents, for instance, /ˈkwaɪərˈ/ – choir. To make the activity more effective, practise words that have a similar sound. In this way, students start seeing a pattern.   

Chinese whispers 

There can be situations where whispering “is needed” and sometimes it isn’t possible to hear the difference between minimal pair words clearly, for example, bill-pill, bay-pay, bet-pet, etc. In these cases, we rely on context to fill out the meaning. To avoid unpleasant misunderstandings, practise “the real-life situations in class”. Think of a message you want to pass. Give it to one of your students. The student must whisper the message to another student and so on. The last student who gets it says it out loud. It’s a perfect way to practise pronunciation in a fun way. 


For those who love sports with a ball and especially basketball, there is an activity which will be good both mentally and physically. Write words on pieces of paper. Divide students into two groups. Each of them reads the words and tries to pronounce them correctly. If they do, they have a chance to make a ball from the paper and throw it into the basket. If students don’t pronounce the word correctly, the other team gets a chance to do it.    

Running dictation

Put students into pairs. The idea is that one of the students reads an article that the teacher provides and tries to memorize as much as he can. Then he dictates it to his partner who writes it down. So the first student has to pronounce the words correctly in order for the second student to understand him and be able to write them correctly.   

To check out how well students master the pronunciation of specific words and sounds use tongue twisters. Here are some more ideas to teach pronunciation.  

Constant problems with pronunciation might affect students’ ability to communicate efficiently. And in order to enable our learners to understand and to be understood, make sure that you have included a couple of fun pronunciation activities in every lesson.  

Speaking activities are, obviously, essential for English language speaking classes. A lot of students join classes particularly to develop their communicative competence, become more fluent, versatile, adaptable, and confident communicators in English. However, designing speaking activities might be time-consuming and nerve-wracking for any teacher. We have prepared a memo with superb ready-made speaking tasks that will make your student talking. Download it here.

Fun with pronunciation challenges
Маргарита Аветисян

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