Correct pronunciation can be a real struggle when starting to learn the English language for the first time. Some nationalities find it more difficult than others purely because their tongue is not trained to create certain sounds. How can we improve it? Here are some ideas to employ tongue twisters in the classroom. The most effective way is practice! Let’s try:
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
What is a tongue twister and how do you employ tongue twister exercises in a classroom?
A tongue twister is a phrase that is meant to be difficult to pronounce properly and can be used as a type of spoken word game. Some tongue twisters produce very funny results when they are mispronounced, while others simply rely on the confusion and mistakes of the speaker for their amusement value. Hence tongue twisters gain a great popularity within groups of young students during their language courses in school or summer camps.
Children find it much easier to learn if activity causes a good laugh and makes the task more two-way and interactive. Some adult students tend to approach the task given in a professional and rather serious manner and it can then become slightly more difficult to involve them in certain activities or apply such techniques of learning a new language.
Susan sang a song at the seaside on the 6th of September because she saw some sunshine.
A sequence of words combined often does not make much sense within the sentence itself but our tongue muscles being trained repeatedly to eventually pick up on the correct sounds and words.
Different tongue twisters are employed depending on the aims. For example, the student can contrast the consonants: Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry where the teacher indicates how quickly or slowly to say it repeatedly by moving his hand from right to left if each side represents Red and Yellow Lorries. Another type is to practise the sounds of vowels or to contrast the vowel sounds like e, is, es, ei or ie: Fresh fried fish, fish fresh fried, fried fish fresh, fish fried fresh.
It is important that students are able to identify the other examples of the sound in the tongue twisters, for example Red Lorry.
There are several ways of getting the class to practise the pronunciation through this method.
Students could start from doing it in a group, for example repeat after the teacher to start with. Could write it on the board or distribute around the class room written on the paper. Very slowly at first then try and do it faster and faster each time. Once they feel more confident, they could try doing it in pairs, using different tongue twisters. Get the students to count how many times they could say it correctly without mistakes. Naturally if they are international students, they should have the meaning of each word explained first so it is easier to attempt and memorize.
Another way is to get the students to create their own sentences. This activity is similar to the game called ‘Consequences’. The teacher should write on the board the following questions:
- Your first name
- What did she/he do?
In small groups students can answer the first question then pass it onto the colleague on the right (or left!) so the second question is answered by them and then pass it again but to another student! Carry on until all questions are answered and so the sentences are created in full – they often might not make much sense, but students like to create rhymes as it is easier to remember! Get students to read them aloud three times in a row then try without looking at the paper. Make sure that the teacher also has to attempt what the students have created. Providing examples to students will help them to understand the concept a bit clearer.
This fun task should be run at the beginning of the lesson to help students relax and familiarize with each other or at the end of the lessons to finish it off with laughter – either way it will make for a great interactive session. Engaging the entire class to work as individuals and in groups will help international students to feel more confident and comfortable in the classroom and it’s a great way for the teacher to get to know each of them. It could be turned into a mini competition or let them vote for the champion of tongue twisters during their stay, which always seems to be a good motivational trick.