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What did you say?

本文作者: 21ST
编写教案是每一位教师备课时的重要工作。本报特邀请TESOL协会专家Sarah Sahr博士开辟专栏, 每期与读者分享一篇精彩教案,以期引起英语教师的思考和启发,改进课堂教学。

I’m sure we have all come across those moments of, “Excuse me. What was that? Could you say that again?” These types of questions not only come from the teachers, they also come from students not understanding their teachers! The activities below are designed to help students see the potential problems. Maybe, if we can see where mouths, teeth, and tongue are getting tangled, we can fix it. So, warm up your articulators!

Mirror Mirror

Materials: small hand-held mirrors, one for each student

Often, as teachers, we resort to hearing when it comes to helping students pronounce different phonemes. When, sometimes, it helps to simply look at the structure of the mouth, teeth, and tongue. This simple exercise might help students see the physical differences between certain sounds.

Make sure each student has his or her own mirror. The teacher needs to model different phoneme physical structure. It is important to be overly obvious. Here are some samples of what pairs you can model:

■ /m/ and /l/ ■ /s/ and /ʃ/

■ /v/ and /b/ ■ /t/ and /θ/

It’s nice to let them practice while facing a wall. That way, they won’t be embarrassed about staring at their mouths or self-conscious about forming the sounds.

Paper Puff

Materials: small strips of notebook paper, 2 centimeters wide and 5 centimeters long

Students should be given a list of words. Many students struggle finding the difference with /p/ & /b/, /t/ & /d/ and /k/ & /g/. This activity is designed to help students understand the difference in the amount of air needed to produce these sounds.

Using their index finger, students will hold one end of the paper to their chins while the other end of the paper is situated in front of their mouths. Students should say the words from the lists below while documenting the movement of the paper. They should notice that the words with /p/, /t/ and /k/ move the paper much further than the words that start with /b/, /d/ and /g/.


Materials: students’ hands

Similar to the activity above, give students a list of words (see samples below). Students should place their hand on their throats and say the words from the lists. As they say the words, hopefully they start to notice a difference in their vocal cords.

/f/ /v/ /s/ /z/

Fan Van Sue Zoo

Face Vase Sip Zip

Fault Vault Sink Zinc

Tricky Vowels

Materials: Rubber bands (enough for each student)

With long vowels, mouths tend to be tight; whereas with short vowels, our mouths are more relaxed. This exercise could be done with the mirrors, or you could try something different.

When enunciating a word with a long vowel, have students stretch the rubber band to its longest length (mimicking a mouth) using their fingers. When enunciating a word with a short vowel, the rubber band doesn’t need the same tightness. It should stay relaxed. Try this with the list of words below.

Column 1: tense vowel Column 2: lax vowel

/i/ /ɪ/

leave live

peach pitch

meal mill

Number Cards


·Sets of three number cards: one card should have “1” written on it, another has “2” written on it, and last “3” (enough sets for half of your students)

·Word lists (enough sets for half of your students)

Pair students up so that one person has the set of three cards and the other has the word list. The student with the list should clearly read the words from the list below, making sure his or her partner does not see the list. The student with the cards should hold up the number card of the word that is different. So, if the student who is reading says “boot, book, boot”, the listening student should hold up the card with the number 2 on it to indicate which word was not the same.




If they are able, students can be allowed to make up word pairs of their own.
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