Pronunciation activities: hear/say

Photo from: https://flic.kr/p/7J5PTA
Photo from: https://flic.kr/p/7J5PTA

In this post I wanted to share an idea for e very low-prep pronunciation activity called ‘Hear/Say’. I haven’t invented it, and I imagine it’s been around for quite some time. I wish I could give credit where it’s due, but after so many years of using it, I unfortunately can’t remember who showed it to me. So if you’re reading this, and it was you, please reveal yourself in the comments section.

I like the activity, because it addresses both the recognition and the production aspects of pronunciation. It’s also very quick and quite easy to prepare. As a result, it can be easily re-used in class as a revision, warmer or filler. Students usually have a lot of fun with it as they get mixed up and can’t get to the FINISH line.

Admittedly, the activity focuses on isolated items taken out of context. Therefore, some more meaningful pronunciation and speaking practice should follow.

Aims:

  • practice hearing and pronouncing the difference between two similar sounds

Time:

  • around 5mins

Level:

  • any

Instructions:

  • select two similar sounds your students find hard to differentiate between
  • prepare a list of minimal pairs, i.e. pairs of two words that in pronunciation only differ by one sound, e.g. walk and work
  • fold the worksheet in the middle, so that each student can only see half of it
  • sit a pair of students in front of each other
  • the start arrow indicates which student starts
  • when the next student hears a word, they have to locate it in the HEAR column and say the word next to it in the SAY column
  • the students will only get to the finish button if they are able to correctly pronounce the words and identify the words their partner is pronouncing
  • at the end give class feedback and revise any words that were tricky
  • if appropriate, repeat in a different pairing

Below are two example Hear/Say worksheets. The first one is for /l/ and /r/, which are two sounds many Asian students find tricky. The second one focuses on /æ/ and /ʌ/ and uses phonetic script. If your students are unfamiliar with it, you might want to change it to the normal script.

Example 1: /l/ vs. /r/

hear say l and rExample 2:  /æ/ vs. /ʌ/

hearsay ashAdditional ideas:

  1. Get students to prepare their own tables with words and sounds they find difficult. This saves you time, shifts the responsibility for learning and progress onto them and makes the activity more personalised.
  2. Do it as a race and award points to the students that finish first. Change pairs a couple of times and repeat the activity. Whoever get most points wins.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

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