Olha Madylus gives advice on how to get your young learners practising pronunciation, using techniques including choral repetition, songs and tongue twisters.
Students must hear correct models of the target vocabulary in order to copy the pronunciation and to recognise the words later. They should also have plenty of practice of saying the words in order to get the pronunciation right and also to help memorisation.
Choral repetition of words is useful but can become meaningless. To keep choral repetition focussed on meaning, try it like this:
First, draw four faces on the board, like the ones below. The first face represents being happy, the second sad, the third angry and the fourth in love.
When children repeat the words, they have to do so conveying these emotions. Try it with the word chocolate. The first time they must say the word chocolate as if they were happy. Then they must repeat the word as if they were sad, then as if they were angry and finally as if they were in love. Children enjoy doing this, and they do the activity meaningfully.
Chants and songs
Chants and songs are another good way to get students repeating vocabulary, and by adding actions the focus on meaning is not lost. For example, get students moving their arms wide apart when they say big and close their arms together when they say little to indicate meaning.
The other good thing about songs and chants is that the words are part of connected speech at a reasonably fast speed, so that weak forms and sound linking occur naturally. E.g. In the well-known song Heads, shoulders, knees and toes, ‘knees and toes’ if said at the speed of the song should have a natural link of the ‘s’ in knees and the ‘a’ in and. Also the ‘a’ in and becomes a schwa and not a long sound.
Another fun way of getting children’s tongues around English sounds are tongue twisters, for example:
Many more tongue twisters – short and long – can be found by doing a simple Google search, depending on what letter/sound you want to focus on.
Start by saying the tongue twister yourself, slowly, then have the students repeat it back to you. Repeat, getting faster each time.
How to teach skills
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Beginning vocabulary: Pronunciation and drilling