ESL Pronunciation Games for Teaching Kids, Teens, and Adults

April 20, 2021
ESL icebreakers

Helping your students master clear and correct pronunciation will help them become better communicators and gain confidence when speaking English both in and out of class. These ESL pronunciation games offer ways to integrate plenty of phonics practice into your online or classroom-based lessons with young learners, teens, and adults.

If you’re new to teaching, you’ll want to get initial training and qualification with a TEFL certificate. You can explore our online TEFL courses to get started!

ESL pronunciation activities for young learners

Kids tend to be enthusiastic learners who aren’t afraid to try out new sounds or mimic language, or they love the opportunity to get up and move around during class activities.

ESL song sing-along

ESL songs work well to practice pronunciation with young learners. The students can move and dance with phonics songs, which allow a total physical response and, therefore, better retention of the material. A sing-along is a simple activity for young learners and can be adapted for use with older students as well.

By learning a song in English, and practicing it over and over, students become familiar with the sounds of English and imitate the singer, practicing correct pronunciation in a fun and interactive way.

Pronunciation bingo

One effective game for teaching ESL phonics is “Pronunciation Bingo.” To play, prepare Bingo sheets with sample words for each of the phonemes (individual sounds) you want to review. Take a sound flashcard from a bag and say the sound, such as /e/, while showing students the card. Students must find the word on their Bingo sheet that matches that sound (such as “bet”) in order to cross it out. This game can be played individually or in pairs.

If this is too advanced for your students’ level, you can modify the activity by saying the sound and then giving them a sample word: /e/ – let. Students must then find a word with the same sound: step.

Discover more ESL games and activities for kids and teens.

Rhyming activities

You can include some rhythmic rhyming activities in your lessons in which your students can repeat after you. In the rhythm you choose, you can move and say connected rhyming pairs, such as boy/toy, toy/joy, and joy/soy. You can then switch to a new rhyming pattern.

The Bridge Teaching English to Young Learners Specialized TEFL/TESOL course provides more games and activities for teaching children.

Filipina ESL teacher Juicy Mae teaching a kid online

Filipina ESL teacher Juicy Mae teaching a kid online

ESL pronunciation activities for teenagers and young adults

Teenagers and young adults are often quite self-conscious and shy, so preparing some fun but appropriate ESL phonics games, as well as some ESL pronunciation worksheets, is a good idea.

Rhyming pair memory game

After some repetition drills on the target words and sounds, you can try a “Rhyming Pair Memory Game.” Make cards with words that rhyme, like man/can, bit/sit, fame/came, and so on, and place them face down. Students take turns turning over the cards to find the pairs that rhyme.

Get tips for planning online ESL games for teens.

Correct the teacher

If you are teaching your students stress and intonation, you can try “Correct the Teacher.” You say a sentence in a natural or unnatural rhythm and your students have to decide if you said it right or wrong. If they say that you were wrong, they have to say the sentence with the correct intonation.

Minimal pairs games

ESL phonics worksheets on minimal pairs are a good way to fill some minutes at the end of a lesson or are good to give as homework, while a “Minimal Pairs Slap Game” can keep your students engaged in a group game for the main part of the lesson. Hand out sets of flashcards to each group and tell your students to spread them out on the table. You say one word of a minimal pair, such as ‘cat.’ The students have to find and slap the card that shows the minimal pair partner, for example, ‘cap.’ You can extend this game to exercises on stress and intonation, and you can also let your students take turns being the person who says the word or sentence.

Looking to learn more about teaching this age group? Earn a Specialized Certification in Teaching English to Teenagers.

ESL pronunciation games for adult students and professionals

ESL pronunciation games for adults are a great way to liven up the classroom and help your older students target specific sounds and common pronunciation errors. It’s always a good idea to use authentic materials and language from your students’ field of expertise or study in order to create relevant context. For example, if you are teaching a class for students in the hospitality industry, teaching them how to pronounce flavors, the items on their menu, or explaining today’s special with the correct stress, are all great learning contexts.

Rhyming poetry

For both live and online lessons, you can have your students write a simple rhyming poem and read it out loud in class. This works for beginner to advanced levels of all ages, but the results will be quite different. This is a free, creative task that allows students to express themselves on a new level.

Find out more about using games when teaching adults English online.

Sound chain

Let your students line up or make a circle, or decide an order for an online class. Give the key sound and have each student come up with a new word with the same sound.

You can vary this ESL pronunciation game, for example, by letting the next student repeat the previous words in the right order before adding their own, or by having your class tell a story with the words they came up with during the sound chain game, in groups or as a whole class.

This is a great way to increase student talking time. They can then write the story down with their own words as homework or in class.

Tongue twisters

There are heaps of tongue twisters out there, for all levels and ages, that you can use in your classes. Tongue twisters for ESL students can create a very lively and fun atmosphere, as everybody tries to do their best but eventually gets caught up in their own words and speed. This ESL pronunciation activity is good for team building and for students who are comfortable with each other and with you.

Get more games for your classroom: Low-Prep ESL Games for Teaching English Online.