Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pronunciation Resources

When I was getting ready for the 34th ELT Blog Carnival on the topic of pronunciation, I went to LinkedIn and Facebook and started asking teachers to submit their blogs if they thought they were relevant. In addition to the awesome carnival you will see soon, I also had a lot of teachers who gave me other sites that they found helpful related to pronunciation. This blog is a accumulation of those.

Note: I haven't used all of these in my classes, but I have looked over their sites. Really though, I am just presenting them as options that other teachers have suggested.
  1. This site gives a quick introduction to the different terms we are likely to encounter (Phonic, Phonetics, Phonemics, etc.) Then it breaks down the differences between British and American pronunciation as well as many of the rules the languages has (spelling, pronunciation etc.) The site has audio and is completely free to use. 
  2. This site pronunciation guidelines. It includes many sets of minimal pairs, vowel help, speaking naturally,etc. Specifically there is an entire section on testing pronunciation. Something some teachers may feel unsure how to do.   
  3.  is part of onestopenglish's site that focuses on pronunciation. OneStopEnglish does have a subscription option, however you can access the interactive IPA chart, an article on why to teach pronunciation, two different pronunciation activities and articles on how to use pronunciation in your class, and some pronunciation exercises from beginning students through advanced students. There is more available if you are a subscriber.
  4. has an article that walks a teacher step through step of the dos and don'ts of how to teach pronunciation. She also has a book for sale for about $23USD filled with games. If you buy it and find out you don't like it you can always return it. It has a 100% money back guarantee for up to 60 days after purchase!
  5. is a site with a bunch of videos I've seen teacher recommend in the past.  I think they seem to be geared for a younger age set, but your older students may enjoy it too. The videos are all free to view. He also has two apps to help learners practice for about $1.00 a piece!
  6. This site has a set up with many different printable worksheets to help teachers teach different aspects of phonics (phonemes, syllables, etc.) The site appears to be completely free and I've been told is quite popular in India.
  7. this site is an online course which sells directly to schools. It lets you record and gives you instant feedback.They only sells directly to schools, so you'll need to talk to an administrator, but you can find out more about them from looking at the site.
  8. is a great site chock full of information. The pronunciation section includes, English's background, sounds that students usually struggle with, minimal pair practice, diphthongs, consonant cluster practice, assimilation practice and some IPA assistance
  9. is a site designed to help you learn lots of different languages. You can see screenshots of the different activities it offers here. It isn't for free if you want to use it on your own, then it is $20/month. Be sure to check if your school or library has it before paying for it yourself.  
  10. is a pretty cool site about Cognitive Phonetics. There's even a free handbook you can download. 

So there we are, a list of ten resources from teachers who think they may be helpful to those of us teaching pronunciation.

Thank you so much to those of you who gave a resource and if anyone knows of any others please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Catenation with Jokes!

I like to protect my iPhone:
Justin case

 I love connected speech. I love making English easier to hear (and pronounce naturally) and I think that connected speech is a big part of that. This blog won’t really discuss the whys of connected speech, rather it will cover one type of connected speech and give jokes that show it off. 

Catenation is something I talked about briefly in a different blog post on elision and jokes. This is essentially when the last consonant of the first word is joined to the first vowel of the next word. I took a little liberty with this definition when selecting my jokes; to be honest most of these are examples of other areas of blended speech. However, I think you'll see the main idea is there. This is very very common in English, and can be very confusing for students when listening. For example when saying, "Just in case" some speakers may hear, "Justin case."

I think that we can show catenation in two different ways. First by showing examples of jokes where we see that words have blended together
Who's there?
This work by Phillip Martin is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Ketchup. Ketchup who? Ketchup and I’ll tell you
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Issabelle. Isabelle who? Is a bell working?
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Haden. Haden who? Haden seek isn’t fair when you lock the door!
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Seymour. Seymour who? Seymour of me if you just opened the door.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Gopher. Gopher who? Gopher help! Your house is under attack.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Europe. Europe who? Europe to no good with all these questions.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Eileen. Eileen who? Eileen down bang my head on your door and all you do is ask, “Who’s there.”
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Icy. Icy who? Icy you through the crack; let me in!
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Isabelle. Isabelle who? Isabelle not needed on your door?
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Doris. Doris who? Doris stuck –let me in.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Albie. Albie who? Albie back I forgot something.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Phillip. Phillip who? Phillip my candy bag or I’ll never stop trick or treating here.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Leena. Leena who? Leena little forward and you can see me in the peephole.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Mikey. Mikey who? Mikey is not working can you let me in?
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Watson. Watson who? Watson your TV right now that prevents you from opening the door?
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Albie. Albie who? Albie explaining later.
If you have an aversion to knock knock jokes don't worry! Lots of other jokes work too:
Mr. & Mrs. Hippie!
  • What’s the difference between a piano and a fish? You can’t tuna fish.
  • What do you call a hippie’s wife? Mississippi.
  • Why did everyone like the mushroom? He was a fungi.
  • What did the mother buffalo say when her son left? Bison.
  • Why did the chef stop making spaghetti? He pasta way.  
We can also have longer jokes if you want to use the joke to introduce new vocabulary or work on verb tenses
  • A magazine published that Cleopatra used to have a milk bath every day. to prevent the effects of aging. She quickly paid a visit to her local dairy and asked for enough milk to fill up a bathtub. The man was used to all sorts of requests so he just asked, “Do you want it pasteurized” and she replied, “No, just to my chest I think I can splash my face.”

The other way I think we can show catenation is by using jokes that take a word usually is one word but dividing it into two or more different words. This shows that even when we try to pronounce two words separately they often end up sounding like one word. For example:
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Ben. Ben who? Ben dover so I can kick you for making me wait in the cold.   
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Norma Lee. Norma Lee who? Norma Lee I don’t make a habit of knocking on doors, but I really need to see you.
  • Why won’t you starve in the desert? Because of all the sand which is there. 
  • What do ghosts serve for dessert? Ice Cream 
  • Where did Noah store the fish with wheels? In the carp ark.
  • What makes the three eared alien similar to star trek? It has the left ear, the right ear, and the final front ear.
  • Two peanuts walked into a bar. One was a salted.   
  • A termite walks into a bar and asks, “Is the bar tender here.”   
  • What do you call a camel with a flat back? Hump free!   
  • Who made the best prehistoric clothes? A dino sewer.
As with the last category this one can also have longer jokes. These two were both originally "Walks into a bar" jokes. I changed one so it could be used without the bar (not appropriate for all cultures) For example:
*If you are the owner of this graphic please let me know
so I can attribute it or remove it per your request.
  • A young boy comes to school every day with a lizard on his shoulder. Everyday the students point and stare but no one ever asks him about it. Finally one girl walks up and asks him, "What's your lizards name." He responds, "Tiny." The girl stands in silence before pushing the topic further, "Why do you call him Tiny?" The boy smiles and proudly responds, "Because he's my newt."
  • A string walks into a bar. The bartender says, “I’m sorry but we don't serve strings here.” He goes outside, messes with his hair and tangles his body into a knot. He walks back into the bar and the bartender looks at him, “Hey aren’t you the string I just kicked out of here?” The string responds, “No, I am a frayed not.”

Even if you thought these jokes were lame, I am willing to bet that you cracked a smile at least once! I highly suggest you find a way to work jokes into your lesson. You can always adapt them to fit your topic, use them as an ice breaker, let students find new ones online etc. If you ever use any of these in class (or have a few more you think fit this category) let me know!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Elision with Jokes

I love bringing some humor into the classroom. Too often do students equate English with boring grammar they only use in the classroom. Jokes have a way of making things more fun and these jokes help them sound more natural when they speak (a great plus for many students)

You can use any sort of jokes when teaching. Some prefer longer jokes so they can interact with more text (verbs, vocabulary, etc.).

Since this blog is for the 34th ELT Blog Carnival it will focus on using blog posts for pronunciation. With pronunciation I prefer using shorter jokes so the students don't need to understand or follow a longer sequence. They can hear the unexpected answer and react almost instantly. This instant satisfaction makes learning jokes (or puns) fun.

I think jokes can be used for many many different things, but this post will point out specific jokes we can use to highlight elision in English language speakers. 

Elision- happens often in English speech. In short, this is when we lose a sound to make it easier for us to talk. I think (and this has no merit at all) one of the most common elisions is when we drop the H.

  • So, let's check out these examples where we drop the H  
  • I suppose that is what an elephino would look like
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Ada. Ada Who? Ada bad dream last night. (HAD a bad dream.) 
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Adder. Adder who? Adder lot for lunch, so I am not hungry now. (HAD a lot. In this case we also see a shwa ə make an appearance)Knock Knock. Who’s there? Ooze. Ooze who? Ooze in charge around here? (WHO’s in Charge?)
    • How does the moon cut his hair? Eclipse it. (HE clips it)
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Betty. Betty who? Betty has friends who don’t make him stand outside! (Bet HE has friends.)
  • It's OK if you hate knock knock jokes, we can use other ones too!
    • What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino? Elephino. (HELL if I know)
    • How do fleas travel? They itch-hike. (HITCH-hike)
Even though I favor examples of dropping the H sound, there are a lot of jokes that drop other sounds.
  • We drop A
    • What did one ball say to the other hand? Nothing he just looked round. (around)
  • We drop D
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Stand. Stan who? Stan away from the door I’m kicking it open. (Stand)
  • We drop T
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Juana. Juana who? Juana go to the mall with me?
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Iris. Iris who? Iris my case; I just can’t explain any more.
    • Who do vampires tend to fall in love with? The girl necks door.
  • We drop the Y
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Canoe. Canoe who? Canoe lend me some money I missed the bus and need to take a taxi. 
You can use jokes to teach more than one pronunciation concept as well. I'll be doing another post soon about catenation and jokes, but for now just know that catenaton is when one word merges with another word. These are jokes that have Catenation and Elision at once:
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Alison. Alison who? Alison to all sorts of music, and you?
    • We drop the /t/ in I listen and combine the two words.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Thermos. Thermos who? Thermos be a better punch line than this!
    • We drop the /t/ in must and combine There and must.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Howl. Howl who? Howl you know unless you let me in?
    • We drop the vowel in "will" and combine How and l.
  • When does a horse talk? Whinny wants to.
    • Here we drop the /h/ in he and combine Whenn and e together to make whinny. (Note: This is one of those jokes where you may want to pre-teach the vocabulary first (that a whinny is a sound a horse makes) otherwise your students probably won't find it so funny.) 
So the next time you roll your eyes at a silly pun or knock knock joke. Stop. Think about what it is manipulating in the English language and how you could use that with your students.

I'd love to know if you've ever used jokes in your class to work on pronunciation, or what your favorite joke is! Just drop a note in the comments :-)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

GUEST BLOG Tongue Teasers from Danielle

Do your students look like this wihen they pronounce TH?
I am lucky enough to have Danielle contribute to this blog with a guest post she lovingly authored. You're sure to see this mentioned again at the 34th ELT Blog Carnival!
When I started to teach more adults, I realised that most learners wanted (or more precisely needed) to develop their pronunciation and find fun ways to practice (not like parrot learning).

So, inspired by my Creative language sessions with the kids, I developed a pronunciation activity that all my adult learners adore and said how helpful it has been/is for them.
The most common pronunciation demand or need is the digraph ‘th’ which most foreign learners have difficulty with.

So, I’ve listed down a list of common words with the 2 sound variations of ‘th.’
Step 1: To listen how it is pronounced, either with your teacher or on an audio online dictionary or pronunciation website.

Step 2: Pronounce loud & slowly the digraph ‘th’ words, then gradually (after getting used with each word) speed up the pace to train your brain and tongue do the connection of the sounds/graphic(letters).

Step 3: Do the same with the digraph ‘th’ words.

Step 4: Now that you are used with both digraphs, play with both columns alternatively: this, thumb, then, thin, with, three…etc.
Go slowly first, then gradually speed up the pace.

Ø  Both digraphs are pronounced with the tongue slightly pressed in between the teeth.
Ø  It’s very important to take the time to pronounce at the beginning. Just because your mind don’t recognize those sounds yet (as it may not exist in your mother tongue). Giving time to your mind sending the message to your mouth, how to position your mouth/tongue and teeth to produce the sound/s.
Ø  Another fun tip which proved to be working well is to do it in front of a mirror, for building up confidence in the language and also making the learning fun. As if you are acting out for a performance.
 About the Author
Danielle is from Mauritius Island (the forever Green Island found in the Indian Ocean) and a specialist Early Childhood Educator and certified TESOL Teacher, from INTESOL Worldwide Ltd, UK. For the last 19 years she has been exposed to teaching children, adolescents and adults from different countries: Mauritius, Maldives, India, France, Latvia, Russia, Italy and South Africa. She is the creator and owner of a Creative English Language School for kids which uses Jolly Phonics to introduce, practice and use English. If you'd like to see more activities like this from Danielle do stop by her website: or e-mail her at

Friday, August 23, 2013

ELT Research Blog Carnival- Bottoms up!

I wasn't going to participate in the ELT Research Blog Carnival website this month, as I didn't think I would have time, but Monday I came across this link on bottom up processing in listening by Joseph and Aki Siegel. Given my current interest in using jokes and connected speech I started reading and thought, "I'll make time."

In short, the article spoke about how there are two ways of processing listening. Top down processing (deductive) and bottom up processing (inductive).

Top down is when we look at the big picture first. When I travel and someone asks me, "________ _______ _________?" in a language I  don't understand, I am pretty good at reading the nonverbal and contextual clues to answer, even though I have no idea what is being said. Similarly, with top-down processing students can tap into their own experiences to better comprehend a situation. Tasks used in class are often predictive and take place before listening. If we were going to listen to a talk about sweatshops first I may show pictures of sweatshops and have students describe what they see. Where would they imagine this place is? etc.

Top down is very fashionable right now and I understand why; whenever students can use critical thinking and relate an item to themselves, it makes learning better.

Bottom up on the other hand is when we look at the little pieces and then get to the big picture. We focus on individual sounds in the listening activity. We pick up on each word. These tend to be more specific tasks. This paper focused on how bottom up processing (which has fallen out of vogue lately) can be used to help students listening.

Bottom up, like translation in teaching, has fallen out of fashion. This study hoped to answer two questions:

"1. Do direct BUP activities help students with perception and parsing as demonstrated on dictation tests?
2. What are student perceptions of direct BUP activities?"
What did they mean by bottom up tasks? In this case there were different activities (each taking less than 8 minutes) that were inserted into a normal 90 minute class. There were 6 different activities, but I'll just touch on three of them:
  • Highlighting connected speech (Yay knock knock jokes :-D)
  • Listening and filling in the blanks (I am not a huge fan of clozes when they are overused, but sometimes they can be a great tool.)
  • Short transcriptions (I prefer dictoglosses, which start with a short transcription).
Now, I understand why these activities sometimes get a bad reputation...but let's look at connected speech. Honestly I think teaching connecting speech can be fun! Clozes aren't great every day either (as they tend to get boring fast) but every once in a while can be fun. Dictation exercises can be dull if we just  do them, but when we combine them with other activities (running dictations, dictoglosses etc.) students really get a chance to use all their skills.

By far my favorite part of the study: Most students reported that their confidence rose in listening. This makes sense to me. When students are able to comprehend all the pieces, it stands to reason that they feel more confident. Confident students are more likely to use their skill meaning they will improve!
Clearly top down and bottom up both are used when communicating. If one of them fails, then communication is often strained. Take a look at the clipping to the left. The reporter was writing about a flood which caused pigs to end up in the river. Cute story right? Using our top down skills we can tell this is newsworthy because it doesn't normally happen. When it is reported that 30,000 pigs are floating we know that number seems big, but we also know that this is newsworthy so it makes sense.

If we had used more of our "top down" skills we would have known that a female pig is a sow. If we had used out "bottom up" skills we would have remembered that the th and s sounds are sometimes confused. Using either of these skills we could have avoided the "30,000 pigs" instead of "30 sows and pigs" error, but using both of them would have increased our chances of catching it!

In the end I think that they said it best when they said that BOTH top down and bottom up should be used in class. In teaching I think we too easily stop using methods when we pick up a new one. Using students prior knowledge is amazing, and should not be ignored, but neither should letting students really breakdown a listening and understand each part (as well as the whole).

So the next time you are planning a listening activity do ask students to use their prior knowledge. Do as them to predict. Do have them apply the concepts to their own life. However, don't be afraid to fall back on some of the older techniques bottom up processing is just as key.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mixed Metaphors and Horses

I was reading Shanthi's blog when it talked about horse idioms and it immediately reminded me of this clip from a movie I watched last week:

The idioms used are, "put the cart before the horse," and "get back on that horse."  Mixed metaphors always make me laugh :-)

There are two other horse idioms I say quite a bit; here's a sample conversation using both of them.

FRANK: I think I am going to ask Susie to marry me.
BOB: Hold your horses, didn't you just start dating last week?
FRANK: Well yes, but you and your wife got engaged the week after you met!
BOB: That's a horse of a different color. We had been dating online for years!

If you haven't figured out what these idioms mean yet, here are some quick definitions:

Put the cart before the horse: To do things in the wrong order (worry about something before you've gotten to that point).
Get back on the horse: Get back to doing something (normally after a failure)
Hold your horses: Slow down!
Horse of a different color: A completely different thing than the one previously discussed. Normally used to

Fun video for Business idioms

We are doing business idioms today and I found this great video!

The actual cartoon starts at the 5 second mark. I used it as an attention getter. We watched the video and then went over what the idioms meant figuratively versus literally. We talked about different ways to express the same idea as the idiom. Then we went into our lesson. The students really enjoyed the video!

Since once of the idioms used was, "It's curtains for you," I also mentioned Dr. Horrible. Some students recognized the reference and laughed. The rest just thought I was crazy.

You can grab a simple free worksheet (which includes the transcript) here at TPT. If you don't have an account it is free to create one; just register here!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Business Idioms & Phrasal Verbs

Today we had the start of a MOOC for teaching idioms in a business class. The class didn't work because of technological issues, but it reminded me of this e-mail I received ages ago. So I looked it up and I found it!
I believe in the power of humor in a class, and I think that this is pretty funny. In fact I made a quick worksheet to use with my University students in a business English class in the hopes that they will crack a smile too.  Though the class is teaching business English they are required to take the TOEFL to pass the course.

The intent is to get them to tell me a word's definition and then read the text. Hopefully they'll see that in the TOEFL they can't just guess what a word means without reading the text.

The worksheet is pretty basic but can be downloaded for free at Teachers Pay Teachers

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

British Council Blog for July


The British Council's facebook page has shortlisted one of my July Blogs for their TeachingEnglish blog award for July.

In this blog I link to a lot of different ideas for using TPR in your EFL class and why you may want to consider doing it. There's also an YouTube video that shows authentic English songs that have lyrics which support TPR. As the British Council puts it, "Carissa looks at the reasons why TPR is an effective technique to use in language learning/teaching and comes up with loads of suggestions for games, activities and songs that will get your students up on their feet and moving."

If you like it too, give it a "like" here (or click on the picture). Voting has closed. Thank you for your support.

If you haven't checked out the post yet you can find it


Confession - The 5 English words I ALWAYS double check

Now where can I get a working lightbulb from...?
Why can't it work this way in real life!!!
The beginning of the year is coming and I am about to be inundated with students whose brains went on vacation in the summer. They are often energetic about school (having rested) but not really ready to be back.

One way that I forge a bond is to tell them up front I am imperfect. In fact I have five words that I used to  always look up because otherwise I don't spell them correctly. I have found solutions for four of them but the first one still eludes me. These words aren't typos. They are just words which, for some reason or another eluded me.

Calender- I don't say, "Cal-en-dar" I say, "Cal-en-der" so this was always a hard one for me. How do I remember? I cheat! I use Spanish. I remember that a calendar "gives" me the date. The word for give in Spanish is dar. If you don't speak Spanish you can remember that a Calendar is a sandwich. It goes, a-e-a.   

Excersize- I worked at a gym throughout high school and college, yet I still manage to write Excersize way more often than I'd like to admit, and I write it a lot in worksheets: Exercise 1. I think I start to write Excel, and then add on a size... I am not sure but that one is embarrassing. The worst part is, I butcher it so badly that spell check can never fix it! "Did you mean excessive?" or "Did you mean exorcism?" This is the one I've never found a way to fix in my brain.If you have any advice please let me know!

Expereince- It has been argued that one of the only spelling rules people know is, "I before E except after C or when sounded like A as in neighbor or weigh." It does have exceptions, but overall this rule is pretty good. Nonetheless it does not work for me with experience. Every time I would type experience my brain would switch the e and i. Other people have problems with experience because they tend to end it in ance instead of ence. My little trick (which helps both) to remember proper spelling was to pick a word I never spell wrong: patience. Now whenever I go to type I try to remember, to have patIENCE to spell experIENCE.
Its / It's- I teach English and I am really good at your vs you're and they're vs their, but this one was hard for me! Is it it's or its. I know people have always said, "Well it's is a contraction and its isn't." That's great, but it didn''t help me. Because then I ended up sitting there going, "So wait... is it's the contraction or its?" Regardless I finally found a way to stop this bad habit. The only thing that helps me is by thinking of a sentence like "They're in their book." Then I think to myself, "Right so their doesn't have an apostrophe when it is possessive so neither does its." It works great because none of the possessive adjectives have apostrophes.

Pronunciation- I blame this on being an English teacher. Whenever I start to write Pron... my fingers go straight to pronoun and then I add a -ciation. Luckily there's a memogram for this! Memograms are anagrams created by Peter Spenser which are meant to help you remember how to spell a word. So, with proper pronunciation you will "ruin no caption" when reading aloud. There's only there's only two Os so I have to leave my extra O behind. If you have a word you can never remember you may want to consider making an anagram to help you. The book is available to download for free if you click here or on the book's cover to the right.

What about you? Are there any words that you used to spell incorrectly, but finally found a way to remember them? Or are there any words you still struggle with?
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