Integrating pronunciation



We all know that we need to teach our students how to pronounce words and sentences properly. In this tip we look at how we can do this kind of teaching without actually saying ‘Today we are going to teach pronunciation.


The word ‘integrating’ means that you ‘mix’ pronunciation teaching with other teaching, so that every lesson includes some sort of pronunciation focus. This is easy to do. Here are a number of useful tips.


TEACHERS’ HOMEWORK A good pronunciation teacher does their homework first!


Do your research.

The key words in teaching pronunciation are intonation, pronunciation and stress. Make sure you are clear about these and how they work together.

Intonation is the ‘ups and downs’ in a statement. Intonation changes depending on whether what someone says is a statement or a question. It also changes depending on how much doubt the speaker has about something or how excited they are.

How many people live in Smithtown? 50,000 maybe.

How much money did you say I have won? 50,000, you lucky person.

The number will be said in a very different way.

Pronunciation is about the sounds of a language. For students both vowels and consonants can cause difficulties but it is the vowels that cause most problems, as there are a lot of them including diphthongs. The sounds of English are described by the phonemic chart, which is easy to learn.

Stress is where the heaviest accent falls in a word (see banana, below). It is also where the stress falls in a statement. This often alters the sense as in:

Are you meeting him at 10? (or is it 9)

Are you meeting him at 10? (or is that my job?)


All teachers should know the phonemic symbols. Why? Because they describe exactly how a word sounds. English is irritating:

Shoe, through, threw, blue, to and shoot all have the same vowel sound.

Hear doesn’t sound like bear and cow doesn’t sound like low

This means that the only way to find out sometimes how a new word is pronounced is to look in the dictionary and the dictionary uses phonemics.

They do not take long to learn. It is especially important that you as a teacher know what a ‘schwa’ is and how it is used in connected speech. You can find out by typing ‘schwa’ into your internet search engine, or by looking in any good grammar book.


In fact all these things can be found by searching the net or looking them up. It is not hard to find information nowadays.

Practice what you pronounce

Practice the spoken parts of your lessons. If you are going to teach using a tape or dialogue and practice model sentences, listen carefully to the intonation in them. Do not sound like a robot but learn to exaggerate intonation and sentence stress for your students so they can hear the pattern of natural English. If you use video, draw their attention to words and phrases. But get ready- don’t try to do it off the top of your head.


‘Plan for pron.’

This means that before you start your lesson you have gone through and predicted what words you think might cause problems and in the case of conversation, which nuances they might not catch. Does someone sound angry or doubtful in the dialogue? Is someone excited or bored? If you can hear it in the voice on the tape, then be ready to show it to students and maybe demonstrate.

On the next page we will look at easy ways to highlight pronunciation in your lessons.


1. Word level –marking syllables and stress.

When you are teaching new vocabulary you should always write it on the board with a clear mark showing the stress. This can be done with a small box above the main syllable:


Banana       Or by highlighting:   Banana        Or by using a different colour: banana


When you are confident with phonemic symbols you should also write these over the words and so encourage students to find out more about them. English is an irritating language:


Shoe, through, threw, blue, to and shoot all have the same vowel sound.


Hear doesn’t sound like bear and cow doesn’t sound like low


This means that sometimes the only way to find out how a new word is pronounced is to look in the dictionary -and the dictionary uses phonemic symbols. Try to group words so that students can see patterns physically on the board. (see the rhyme and rhythm teaching tip. ) This means students are using their eyes to work out how to say words- visual learning. They will also copy the word into their vocabulary books as you write it. When they revise vocabulary they will see how to pronounce the word.


2. Listening for patterns and mood.

Students also need to use their ears to become more sensitive to what intonation and stress do.

Good pronunciation teachers make students aware of voices. Look at the following dialogue:


Customer: Good morning. I’ve come to collect the books I ordered.

Shop: Oh, sorry they’re not ready yet. You’ll need to come back on Tuesday.




A: What kind of service is this???(angry)   B: Oh that’s a pity, but thank you.

Students can practice short dialogues like this from your coursebook, so that they make their partner feel irritated (A) or happy (B). They can listen to you being polite and then rude also. Make them aware how the same words can be said differently. If someone on your recording gets angry or annoyed, talk to students about when it happened and model the line. Did the other person say something to make them angry? Listen to someone telling a story and notice which words they stressed to make it exciting.


Be the ‘teacher actor’. It is amazing how many teachers are very static, they do not move around and they do not use their voice very much. Use your voice to play trick on the students. Give instructions in a very bored voice, until they begin to wonder what has happened. Or give them in a very excited way. Then discuss how you spoke. Generally enthusiasm is shown by more exaggerated intonation.


3. Getting the students to move their mouths.

Some teachers see teaching ‘pronunciation’ as having the students repeat single words. It is much better to put words into short phrases, as they are easier to remember. Choral repetition is especially useful for modelling and practising connected speech (see Teaching Tips- Rhyme and Rhythm).

Include contrasting sentences like the ones on page 1 and make it fun! BIG MOUTHS!!

You can practice ‘flat reading’ and exaggerated reading’ as two ways to read a dialogue or even a text. Have students practice sounding interesting and sounding boring. This is fun if the sentence is something like: Guess what! I won a million dollars!

But it can also be done for a non-fiction or fiction text.

Tell students they are going to read aloud a sentence from a text they are studying. In pairs or threes they have to decide which words to stress in the passage and why. Then one of them reads out their sentence with good sentence and word stress. The other claps on the stressed words.


The key to all good pronunciation teaching is teacher awareness. Before the lesson starts, be ready to show them what good clear English is all about and don’t be afraid to demonstrate