As a novice EFL teacher, you must adapt a strategy that will help the student to pronounce words correctly: thereby instilling in the student the confidence to engage in conversation and to understand the spoken word. Generally speaking, depending on what part of the USA you come from will also determine your accent; however, irrespective of this – you should attempt to conduct your lessons using the General American accent: this is the accent that is used by many American newscasters. Below, are a few suggestions about what you can do in the classroom to improve your students’ pronunciation.
The use of consonant clusters and vowel combinations is a very profitable way of teaching pronunciation: this can be done very effectively by using a PowerPoint presentation. Each slide should have a group of about 10 to 20 words that correspond to a particular consonant cluster or vowel combination. For example, for the initial consonant clusters ‘st’, the slide could have a selection of words such as the following: store, stone, stem, stand, etc. As a suggestion, avoid using words that contain vowel combinations or other consonant clusters that should be deal with separately, for instance: ‘steam’, ‘straight’, ‘style’, etc. A similar procedure can also be used for vowel combinations.
Unfortunately, vowel combinations are more difficult to deal with than consonant combinations. For example, the long i sound that is produced by ‘ie’ in words like ‘die’ and ‘science’ is also produced by ‘igh’ in words like ‘high’, and ‘night’. In such cases, you should try to group such words together for the purpose of pronunciation. As a word of encouragement, a quick search of the internet will reveal lists of such words – so you need not worry too much about having to spend hours writing out long lists of words.
You should also pay special emphasis to words that have no relationship between their spelling and pronunciation. For example, ‘sure’ and ‘ocean’ have a ‘sh’ sound.
Finally, reading texts aloud is also an ideal way of improving not only pronunciation but also rhythm and intonation: this also gives other students the opportunity to hear their fellow students reading, and the opportunity to self-assess their own quality of pronunciation.
Follow these simple suggestions and you will find that with your genuine encouragement your students’ pronunciation will greatly improve. Don’t forget – don’t laugh or smile cynically if your students pronounce their words wrongly!