12 July 2010

5 ESL/EFL Activities for Syllables/Rhythm

Learning English is not just about grammar and vocabulary. There are other useful skills that language teachers can introduce that will help our students to become more fluent and speak more naturally. One of the main things I have been teaching this term is English syllables and rhythm


I teach in Japan and often the students pronounce English words with a very strong Japanese rhythm. This is partly because of the many English loan-words that have been adopted into Japanese. I think it is perfectly acceptable to say "orenjiju-su" when speaking Japanese. (The same way we mispronounce déjà-vu when speaking English) however they need to learn to say “orange juice” when speaking English. Hopefully learning about English syllables will help the students recognise that pronunciation needs to be learned as well! One extra tip, the first lesson I do with syllables I don’t explain how syllables work, I save that for the next lesson. I don’t want the students to be caught up in the academic practice of counting vowel sounds before they have a chance to use their own ears!


5. Guess The Syllables
You need: a list of words/sentences, a set of numbers 1-10 for each team (per student if you teach small groups)
How to play: Divide the class into teams and give them each a set of numbers. Read out one of the words or sentences and give the students some time to think. Have the students hold up the number of syllables they think is in the word you said and award points. Tip: encourage the students to speak aloud and clap the rhythm during the thinking time.



4. Listening Pyramid
You need: worksheets, List of English words/sentences
How to play: Make a worksheet where the options build from the previous option. So the top row has "1   2" and the next row has "3   4   3" the next "5  4   5   4" etc.
From start the students have the option of 1 or 2. So you should say an English word that has either 1 or 2 syllables. The students listen and circle what they think is the answer. From their answer they now have the option of 3 or 4. Again you say a 3 or 4 syllable word or phrase. The students follow the path to discover which letter is the answer. The can only choose an answer from the previous answer.

3. Pyramid
You will need: triangular shaped construction paper, cut out sentences and words (one 1 syllable, one 2 syllable etc)
How to play: Give each student (or group if you have large classes) a pyramid paper and a set of English words and sentences. The students should place the papers on the triangle with one syllable at the top, building in sequence to 9 or 10 syllables at the bottom

2. Read ‘n’ Run
You will need: English words (from 1-6 syllables is a good number), answer papers with boxes labeled 1-6
How to Play: Pin up the words around the room. The students will work in pairs, one student sits at the desk and the other student will run to find all the English words. They must decide how many syllables are in each word and write it in the appropriate box.

1. Dice Challenge
You need: two dice per group, memo papers
How to Play: Give each group two dice and a memo paper for each student. The students write 2-12 on their papers. One student should throw the dice and the students should work together to think of a word or sentence for the number that was rolled. Each student writes the sentence on their own paper, then the next student throws the dice. They should try and get all the numbers from 2-12. Tip: If the higher numbers are too difficult let the students use a question and answer pattern.

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