Teaching English pronunciation with EBC’s Dr TEFL

Hi everyone! Dr TEFL here with some great ideas for teaching English pronunciation.

Traditionally, we get students to repeat vocabulary several times when introducing new words. Repetition is good but not sufficient. Most teachers experience that students mispronounce the same words shortly after a repetition exercise.

The reappearance of mispronunciation tells us that we:

  1. need to have drills of the vocabulary several times during a lesson,
  2. need to focus on specific difficulties and specific sounds from time to time, and
  3. should also encourage students to listen a lot, for example, to song lyrics simultaneously while reading the words.

teaching English pronunciation

Exercise for learning English idioms

 English level: A2 – B2 (CEFR scale)


Make your students focus on specific sounds in spoken English.

Activity 1: Minimal pairs

This material focuses on the phonetic sounds /eI/ as in “may” versus /aI/ like in “my”.

The following sentences are examples you can use. Feel free to make your own when you become more comfortable with the material.

The sentences refer to the Student worksheet, shown at the end of this section.

Minimal pairs sentences

  1. She thinks she is going today. (Student worksheet column A)
  2. I don’t want to pay. (Student worksheet column A)
  3. I’d like a try, please. (Student worksheet column B)
  4. My house is at the end of the lane. (Student worksheet column A)
  5. The workers were very unhappy in the mine. (Student worksheet column B)
  6. I didn’t like the wait. (Student worksheet column A)
  7. I wasn’t sure that it was time. (Student worksheet column B)
  8. It covers a big area, Lake Washington. (Student worksheet column A)

Minimal pairs activity instructions

You read the sentences aloud to your students, completing them with the words/phrases in either column A or B.

If possible, arrange for your students to work in pairs.

Using the worksheet shown below, ask the students to tick what they think you said that corresponds to the word or phrase in the Student worksheet column A or B.

For example, you read, “She thinks she is going today.” The students should tick “today” in column A on the worksheet.

When you have read out all the sentences, let them review their answers for a couple of minutes.

When time is up, check their answers.

In turn, ask each student to take your role and repeat the activity.

If you want to introduce your students to phonetics, the sounds in this exercise are written as

  • /eI/ as in “may”
  • /aI/ as in “my”

Minimal pairs student worksheet

Sentence A B
She thinks she is going ___________. today to die
I don’t want ___________. to pay a pie
I’d like a ___________, please. tray try
My house is at the end of the ___________. lane line
The workers were very unhappy in the ___________. main mine
I didn’t like the ___________. wait white
I wasn’t sure that it was ___________. tame time
It covers a big area, ___________ Washington. Lake like

Minimal pairs additional notes

Both words and expressions for each sentence shown in the student worksheet can make a correct sentence. However, this type of sentence construction means that your students can only base their answers on the sounds they hear.

To make the activity less difficult, you can change the words and expressions so only one of them would give a correct sentence. For example, “I do not like the colour ___________. A = wait and B = white.

learning English pronunciation

Activity 2: Long versus short vowel sounds

Write two columns on the board, one for long vowel sounds, for example

  1. the long /I:/ like in “beat”
  2. the short sound /I/ like in “bit”

Arrange the students in groups of two or more and ask them to think of words with the /I:/ and /I/ sounds to fill into the two columns, e.g. sheep, ship, been, bin, heat, hit, etc.

You could use another long and short sound, for example, cot and caught.

Activity 3. Voiced – unvoiced sounds

Write three columns on the board.

/S/ /Z/ /IZ/

Give the students these words.

  • washes
  • plates
  • forks
  • knives
  • eats
  • dishes
  • potatoes
  • talks
  • sits
  • chews

Ask them to put the words in the correct column.

When they have finished, discuss the rules about adding each end.

HINT: Look at how the words end in their base forms and think about voiced and unvoiced sounds.

Some rules for voiced and unvoiced sounds

  1. If a word ends in an unvoiced sound, it takes the /S/ ending. Example: forks.
  2. If a word ends in a voiced sound, it takes the /Z/ sound. Example: chews.
  3. Words take the /IZ/ ending if the ending creates a syllable. Example: washes.

learning how to pronounce English

Was your class a success?

If all has gone well, your students should be happy they improved their pronunciation to help them in everyday speech.

Now get them to try out what they learned. Finally, manage a round-the-class exercise where each student gets to practice their pronunciation using your material.

When everyone has finished speaking, you can all kick back and relax.

Versión en español: Pronunciación en inglés – Dr TEFL Guides