12 Pronunciation Games & Exercises For ESL Students


ESL pronunciation is often overlooked by teachers who place more emphasis on grammar lessons and vocabulary activities. However, pronunciation is no less important that the grammar and vocabulary. 

Pronunciation learning might come more naturally to students already living in an English-speaking country or those who spend a lot of time in an English-speaking environment. Teaching pronunciation involves not only the correction of mistakes, but also the use of special methods. As a result, students can better remember how to pronounce certain words once and for all.

Some sounds of the English language may be confusing and challenging for some ESL learners, because there are no such sounds in their mother tongues. For example, Asian students sometimes struggle with the “r” and/or “l” sounds as they’re learning English. Therefore, the students should be able to hear the difference between the incorrect and correct sound, learn how to produce the correct sound, and be aware when and how to produce the correct sound.

In this article, we are going to outline some pronunciation games that are both fun and informative.

ESL Pronunciation Games

Minimal pairs bingo

Minimal pairs are pairs of words that sound almost the same, but with differ by only one letter sound, for example, the short “i” and long “ee” in “ship” and “sheep”. Another example is the words “rip” and “dip”. The teacher demonstrates the differences between the words. Students then put each word in a random square of their bingo card. Students  take turns pulling the words from a hat and pronouncing them. As a word is said, the other students mark the square occupying that word. The game moves on like this until someone gets bingo.

Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters are another efficient type of ESL pronunciation exercises. You can find a wide variety of them on the internet and use them during your classes, for example, as pre-class warm up activities. Write a tongue twister on the board and have the class read it aloud. Then wipe out some words and have the class read the twister again, remembering the wiped-out words. After that, you can wipe out more words, and so on. You can also encourage the students to make their own tongue twisters based on the sounds that are most difficult for them to remember. This exercise is easily applicable to one-on-one ESL tutors or online English teachers.

Odd One Out

Organize similar sounding words into groups, but also include one word  with a different, yet similar pronunciation, and tell the learners to identify this odd word. For example: meat, seat, sit. The learners can both hear and read the words.

Total Physical Response

This ESL pronunciation practice is especially fun for younger students, but the older ones can enjoy it as well. “Assign” certain movements – such as jumping, hands clapping, stomping, etc. – to certain sounds and encourage your students to make those movements when they hear the corresponding sound.

Picture Dictation

The class or student gets a series of pictures that contain items representing minimal pairs. The learners should mark the pictures of their minimal pair words or even draw some extra items.

Pairing Up

Each student gets a flashcard with a minimal pair word. Then they have to walk around the classroom and find other students with the same word or sound.

Rolling The Dice

Create a paper or cardboard dice with certain sounds on each side. The learners should roll the dice and pronounce words containing the sounds that appear on each die.

Sound Stations

Mark each wall in the classroom with a specific sound. When you a word that contains any of those sounds, the students should run to the wall marked with this sound. If someone runs to the wrong wall, they are out.

Pronunciation Maze

In this ESL pronunciation game, you should draw 10×6 a table and fill the random cells with words having the pronunciation sound that you want to practice. Then fill the rest of the cells with words that do not have this sound and encourage the students to connect the words with each other. The winner is the student who reaches the end of the maze first.

Rhyming Pairs

Make cards with words that rhyme, such as pea – bee, cat – rat, tail – nail, etc. Place them face down. The learners should turn over the cards to find the rhyming pairs.

Read My Lips

The students try to guess the word or sentence that the teacher or a student is “pronouncing” silently.

Sound Crossword

Create a crossword containing only words with a particular sound that you want to practice with your class, such as “ch” or “th”.

To sum it up, ESL pronunciation activities should be an integral part of any ESL lesson plan, together with grammar, vocabulary, and other important aspects of the language.