Rubber Bands for Pronunciation Practice

rubber band ball

Purpose: The role of stress in pronouncing English is different than most other languages.  This activity can be used to both demonstrate and practice this key aspect of pronunciation.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Materials: one rubber band for demonstrating; a class set of rubber bands for practice; a list of vocabulary words or valuable sentences that fit with the lesson topic

Prep: Create the list of words or sentences to practice and ensure that you know how they are stressed when pronounced. If necessary, look up words in a dictionary to learn typical stress patterns.

Background Information about the Role of Stress in Pronunciation:
What is stress (in English)? Why does it matter?
A stressed syllable in English is both louder and longer than the other syllables.  More specifically, the vowel sound in that syllable is longer than the other vowel sounds. Many language learners put equal stress on all syllables, making them more difficult to understand. There is a meaningful difference between the words REcord (noun) and reCORD (verb). Putting emphasis on the wrong syllable is confusing to the listener. Sentence stress is used to let the listener know which information is important and new.  There is a meaningful difference between these two statements: My BROther lives in Maryland; My brother lives in MARyland. 

1. When introducing some new vocabulary, or when practicing useful statements that students will say frequently (i.e. I am learning English), hold up your hands, palms outwards and place a rubber band on your thumbs. 
2. Say the target word or sentence. Every time you say a syllable stretch the rubber band a little. When saying a stressed syllable, stretch the rubber band noticeably farther. 
3. Repeat with another word. Students will see that the stressed syllables are longer.
4. Students repeat after you and stress the correct syllable(s).
5. If desired, give each student a rubber band to practice saying the correct stress patterns.
6. Call on a few individual students to check their pronunciation and model again if needed.

1. Old rubber bands may snap. You may wish to test them before giving them to students.
2. This activity works well with number words such as fifty/fifteen, sixty/sixteen, etc. The teen words are stressed on the second syllable.

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