Pronunciation drills are fun, engaging and useful for teacher and student alike.

One of the key areas pronunciation teaching differs from ‘General English’ teaching is the use of drills. Since improving pronunciation is mostly a gradual increase in accuracy rather than a wrong or right answer, drills are essential for students to gain confidence from class to class.

Below are 5 top tips for using useful, student-focussed drills in your classes:

1. Start on the right foot.

When drilling a group, always ensure the group repeat together from the first drill. Even if you need to repeat the first word or sound 15 times, do not move on to the next drill until the whole class is together. Why? If you allow one or two students not to repeat from the beginning, by the end of the drill it will be a mess – some people joining in, others not. What follows is not rewarding for teacher or student.

2. Mix it up.

Drilling is energetic and fun, provided it isn’t the same every time. Here are the most useful types of drill:

i) Group – everyone repeats together at the same time.
ii) Individual in Order – each student repeats individually moving in one direction round the class.
iii) Individual in Random Order – teacher selects students at random to repeat.
There are other drills, but these are the basic ones to begin with.

Use all three drills throughout to keep students on their toes. The more challenging the sound, the more individual drilling will be required.

3. Hands are your control.

Use your hands as if you were conducting the class. When you want the class or person to repeat, gesture your hand (without pointing) towards them. Two hands is the group, one hand is an individual. Remember not to move your hands while you model the sound (a reflex for some), only when you want the students to speak. Once this is established, a class is very easy to manage.

4. Don’t under-do it.

Teachers often feel they have done too much repetition and are scared of boring the students. Students, however, often feel entirely the opposite – they want exercise and drills. Provided the drills suit the level and are challenging, students will not become bored, instead they will find the class exciting and useful. After a pronunciation class, students should feel that they have done exercise.

5. Use material wisely.

Just about anything can be drilled, but unless it is challenging, it will be a wasted opportunity. Generally it is best to start with single sounds, then move on to words, then possibly sentences depending on the level of the students. Remember also that progress is gradual for most students, so there is merit in repeating drills from one class to the next.