Tag Archives: pronunciation

7 Activities and Ideas to Practise B and V sounds

Let’s not beat about the bush.

Some of us are probably spending lots of time and energy teaching how to pronounce the schwa /ə/ or helping our students’ /ð/ sound just right, and while this is not a bad idea and something we obviously need to do, we might be overlooking a very subtle yet essential pronunciation distinction: the difference between the /b/ and /v/ sound.

If you are Spanish, it might be even more difficult for you as there’s no difference in the pronunciation of b and v.  In Spanish, despite differentiating in writing between “vaca” and “baca”, when it comes to pronouncing them,  the “v” sound is miraculously transformed into a /b/ sound. 

So, it is imperative that we teach our students that the “v” sound exists much like Teruel) and here are some exercises we can do to help our students with this elusive sound.

One. The obvious. Practise the sounds in isolation.  

Demonstrate how to pronounce the sounds /b/ and /v/ and ask students to imitate you. I can guarantee they will have no problem pronouncing the bilabial plosive /b/ sound but some fun and a bit of reluctance on their part are bound to happen when they attempt to pronounce the labiodental fricative /v/. 

Now, give them a minimal pair they can easily recognise like “boat/vote” to do some practice and help them while they struggle with the “v” sound.

Two. Guess the words. Lady Gaga and Beyonce's  video "Telephone"

Nope. We are not going to sing.

For this exercise -not necessarily done after  One above-, we are going to use a short clip (4:30-4.55)  from Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s video “Telephone”.

Play the video once without sound. Tell students they will need to guess Beyonce’s words. You might want to stop the video to elicit that Gaga is leaving prison. I can already warn you the first time you play it, students will look at you and tell you: “It’s impossible to guess“. Do not give up. Tell them it is a very short sentence containing “v” and “b” words. Play it a couple more times and listen to what they think Beyonce says. Play it with sound now. The important thing here is that they realize how the “v” sound is pronounced when emphasized.

Write the sentence on the board and play the video once again to pronounce along with Beyonce. If only Gaga was called Vivien, it would be perfect!!!!!!

You’ve been a very bad girl. A very very bad bad girl, Gaga!

Three. The Clever Parrot.

 1. On the board, write some minimal pairs and drill pronunciation.  If possible, listen to all the students individually pronouncing a set of minimal pairs.

 2.  Tell students you are going to point to one of the words on the board and pronounce it. They should only repeat after you only if they think the pronunciation is correct. If they think you are mispronouncing the word, i.e. pronouncing a /b/ when it should be a /v/, they should remain silent. Repeat and reinforce the correct pronunciation of all the words on the board.

Four. On their own now. Minimal Pairs Pyramids.

Lovely exercise from www.myhappyenglish.com/.   The instructions for the activity are on the second page. I have demonstrated the activity twice before asking them to pair up and do the activity. They liked it so much that most of them did it more than once. Then, ask some students to volunteer to do it for the rest of the class. A great success. They didn’t want to stop.

Five.  Fun. Tongue twisters.

Tongue twisters are a fun and challenging way to encourage confidence.

Tip: the only way, if there is one, to get your tongue twisters straight is to do it very slowly at the beginning and then increase the rhythm. And to be honest, it is very hard to get it right but this is not the point, is it?

Write tongue twister 1 and tongue twister 2 on the board and ask students to practice them in pairs. After a couple of minutes, write tongue twister 3 and ask for volunteers to read it.

Six. Getting Creative.Creating your own tongue twisters.

Ask students to write a list of 10 words containing either “b” or “v”. Encourage them to write nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs… etc.  Give them about 2 minutes for this task.

Now, you can do this activity in two ways: you can write their words on the board- I find this very time-consuming- or you can ask them to use  Wooclap or Mentimeter and effortlessly you will get a very nice word cloud in under 1 minute.

Once their words are displayed, ask students to write their own tongue twisters with some of the words on the word cloud. Give them 2-3 minutes and then ask them to write their sentence on a slip of paper. Collect all the slips and put them on the walls of the class; ask students to stand up and gallery walk in pairs trying to read their partner’s tongue twisters. Lots of fun guaranteed!

Ex: Bob’s beautiful vase has been visited by visitors vaccinated with available vaccines.

Seven. Speaking Activity with the same Word Cloud

Ask students to write a question to ask someone in the class using at least a word containing a “b” sound and a “v” sound. Needless to say, I encouraged them to be creative and, as long as the sentence had sense and could be answered, use as many words as possible containing /b/ or /v/.

The sentence should start with… When did you last…?

Allow 2-3 minutes for this task.

Whole class: ask a student to ask his/her question to another student. The answer should start with the same words used in the question to further practise these two sounds?

Example:

A: Peter, when did you last watch a beautiful music video? Peter: I last watched a beautiful video last month. It was Telephone by Lady Gaga and Beyonce.

I hope you have enjoyed the activities. If you have, please share this article!

 

Modern Taboo with a Twist

Is there anything students love more than a good game? The Taboo Game is an oldie but goodie and I have yet to find a student who does not like it.  Playing and learning? It’s always a win-win.

Playing games in class is something that I often do. Well, not this year. I have been on sick leave for 2 weeks and it is taking its toll on my lessons. I feel like I am always in a  hurry trying to make up for lost time. It might be working. I might be finally catching up with the syllabus but I am not having as much fun this year as in the previous ones. And this needs to stop. Right now.

So, to give my students a much-needed respite, we have revised the relative sentences using the Taboo game.

GUIDED PRACTICE: RELATIVE SENTENCES
  1. Before playing, I wrote the beginning of a sentence and asked students to provide the relative pronoun. This is the best time to correct potential mistakes.
  • It’s a person… WHO/THAT
  • It’s something … WHICH/THAT
  • It’s  a place … WHERE
  • It’s a time … WHEN

2. I wrote the word  DOG on the board and asked students to define it using the correct relative pronoun. (for ex, it is an animal that barks).

3. Then, I wrote TEACHER in capitals and under the word TEACHER, I wrote 4 taboo words they were not allowed to use in their description of the word. For example: teach, students, subjects, school. Their definition could be something like ” it is a person whose job involves using the board a lot and helping people learn  English or maths”.

Tip: if it’s a B1 class, I would use only 3 taboo words instead of the 4 you have in this game

SEMI-GUIDED PRACTICE: MODERN TABOO

Once again, to create this game I have used the flexible multipurpose Spark Adobe ( honestly, I cannot go without it).

Procedure:

  1. Divide the class into two teams and ask a representative from each team to come to the front of the class and face away from the board. Decide which team is going to start.
  2.  Player A faces their team A.  Display the presentation below. Team A describes the word at the top of the slide, without using any of the words below it (taboo words). If they use any of the taboo words, they will lose 1 point for their team and a new slide will be displayed. When Player A guesses a word, the team gets 1 point and a new slide is displayed.
  3. Team A continues to describe words for Player A for 1 minute. The game continues with teams and players taking it in turns to describe and guess words. The team with the highest score at the end of the game are the winners.

NOTE: Make sure you don’t use all the words on the presentation below. You will need at least 4 for a variation od the Taboo Game you can do at the end of the game to practise questions.

Taboo

FREE PRACTICE

Once each team has had their turn, I have put them in groups of 4 and given them paper cards to continue playing. This time, Player A describes the word to their Team. One player from Team B is allowed to see the card to make sure none of the words on the card are used. You can get plenty of Taboo cards on IslCollective. Bear in mind, you will need to register to download content.

You can also download the traditional Taboo Cards here (B1-B2)  and here (A1-A2)

THE TWIST: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

To wrap up the activity, ask a representative from Team A and Team B to come to the front of the class. Ask them to face their team and away from the board.  Display a word. The team will have to ask questions so that Student A guesses the word; again, they cannot use any of the Taboo words in their questions.

Remember our example?TEACHER? This could go like this…

Team A to Student A

  • Who helps you learn English?  Who is standing right next to you? Who writes your school report?

I hope you have enjoyed the activity! Have fun teaching, have fun learning!

Oh! English Pronunciation! Let’s pronounce words ending in -ture!

On this blog post, we are going to address a very common pronunciation mistake among my students, and maybe among yours too.



Let’s start

Write on the board the word CULTURE and ask your students to try to pronounce it. It could be tried in pairs or just shouted. You’ll be surprised at the variety of different pronunciations your students will come up with.


Time to explain a bit of phonetics.

Your students might not be familiar with the international phonetic alphabet, but don’t let this discourage you.

Let’s break the sound up:

Write the symbol /tʃ/ on the board and model pronunciation. It should be quite easy as this sound exists in many languages. If it helps, ask them to find words in their language that have the same sound.

Got it? Now, write the vowel /ə/. You’ll probably want to explain this is the famous schwa, resist the temptation, or maybe not but, really, there is no need to add to their burden.

To get the sound right, just ask your students to relax and punch (slightly, you don’t want them to pass out) their stomachs. Ask: What sound did you get?  Exactly, this is the schwa.

Now that we have the two sounds, put them together and there you have it. Tada!!! /tʃə/


Competition Game

Let’s go back now to our word CULTURE. Again, write it down on the board and, again, ask students to pronounce it. Better? Much better, I’m sure!

Competition: Ask students to work in pairs and tell them they have one minute to write down words ending in –ture. Needless to say, the winner is the pair with more correct –ture ending words.

Write their words on the board. If you feel there are some important ones left, write them on the board. Drill pronunciation.This is my selection of words:


Writing. More fun coming

Once all the words ending in -ture are on the board, ask students to work in pairs and write a sentence containing at least three words ending in- ture.  Give students slips of paper ( I normally fold a regular sheet of paper in two, horizontally) and ask them to write (nice and legible) their small tongue twister there. Ask them to pass it to the pair sitting next to them. In pairs, they practise reading the sentence. Repeat procedure as many times as you deem appropriate.

Example:

The texture of the creature in the picture in the literature classroom was just amazing.


Spoiling the fun

This is English. One of the most unpredictable languages as regards pronunciation.

You might want to point out that in some cases, the ending -ture is not always pronounced /tʃə/, as in the word “mature”. Fortunately, this happens in only very few cases.

 

Five Different Ways to Practise your Listening Skills.

I won’t spend much time introducing this post, mainly because today is one of these days when the muse has decided to leave me.

Perhaps you’re wondering what else you can do to pass your listening test with  flying colours apart from doing every single listening comprehension exercise in your student’s book and all the ones in the workbook. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but here are a few things you might want to try.

1.Read a few tips and put them into practice. Students often complain that despite grasping the main information content of the recorded material, they sometimes seem to be unable to provide the right answer and this leads to frustration.

Getting a high mark in a listening comprehension exercise requires practice, lots, and also knowing a few tips. The most common types of listening exercises are Blank Filling and Multiple Choice and there are a few handy hints on how best to deal with them that you might want to read. The tips below aim at teaching students to listen effectively to enable them to select the information they require from what they hear.

 2.The obvious. Find a good listening site with plenty of listening exercises to choose from.

One of the sites I have been recommending my students lately to practise Listening is Ingles en Aviles, a fantastic blog aimed at B2 (upper-intermediate) and C1 (advanced students) where you’ll find lots of listening comprehension exercises to choose from.

Can I also suggest my own Listening section? 

3. Listening to Vaughan radio

Vaughan Radio is a live radio station broadcasting from Madrid, Spain that provides listeners the chance to improve English language skills. So while you’re at home, maybe cleaning or ironing and bored to death, you might want to give it a try. From time to time you’ll hear some Spanish words to help Spanish listeners, but most of the time the show is in English and really worth listening to.

Here’s the link to listen on the computer. Alternatively, you can download the app on your smart phone. Type Radio Vaughan in the search box to download the app. My favourite programme? “The show with no name”.

4. Watching series.

Here, I would recommend ororo.tv. What can ororo.tv do to help you improve your English? What will you find on this website? An amazing number of TV shows and films in their original versions and with subtitles in English. Right now, I am hooked on the Big Bang Theory, an American sitcom about four young scientists, but surely you’ll find attractive alternatives here to suit every taste and mood.

5. A new web tool: Youglish.

A very interesting tool to help you with your pronunciation and your listening is Youglish.  In the search box, type the word or expression you want to hear in context. Youglish provides you with videos, from You Tube, where the word/expression is spoken by real people and in context.


In case you’re wondering, this is not a sponsored post. It’s just a few recommendations from a humble teacher trying to help students by sharing some useful links.

Thanks for reading!

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Two Superb Sites to Practise Pronunciation by Reading Along

In this post, I want to share with you two superb sites that can help you improve pronunciation by reading along.

Aim:

By asking students to repeatedly read a selected text or story while simultaneously listening to a text or a story, you can help them

  • improve reading fluency
  • improve pronunciation
  • improve automatic word recognition

1. The first site Listen A Minute.com is one I have been using for years. Here you can find alphabetically-listed topic- based activities  from  Airports and Harry Potter to Zoos.You don’t even need to register. It’s completely free!! Choose a topic and read along. One minute a day… that’s all they are asking and in return… you’ll be passing your listening/speaking tests with flying colours.

2. The second site I want to share with you is a youtube channel called Learn English Through Story ,where short stories at various levels are read at a slow pace to further improve reading and listening skills in English. There are 7 levels. Choose the one that fits your level best. Visit youtube and write  Learn English through Story on the search box.

Procedure:

  • Pick a topic or a story
  • Set a  timer for one minute, and read the article/ story aloud until the timer goes off.
  • Read aloud the same passage  three times or until you feel confident.
  • Remember that the aim is to read along, not just to listen.
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