Home Forums iTDi TESOL Certificate Highlighting word stress Highlighting word stress

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    • #8334


      Think of three English words which your students often say with the wrong stress.
      For each one, think about:

      • why they get it wrong
      • which of the techniques in this lesson might help.

      Reply below with your ideas and comment on other teachers’ ideas.

    • #8411

      Steven Herder

      Three words that come to mind are:

      photography – because the stress is different from photograph

      weekend – because they are trying to stress the word in the sentence but misplace the stress

      necessary – because they often incorrectly enunciate ry as ly and inadvertently put stress on it to try to make it clear

      I would use visual cues
      I would use vocal cues
      I would make sure to use the words in real sentences

    • #8499

      Barbara Bujtás

      comfortable: because they may see the word ‘table’ in it

      information: because we use a very similar word in Hungarian and they transfer the stress pattern from their native language

      interesting: I don’t really know why…

      In each case, I would exaggerate the stressed syllable and signal it in writing (underlining, capitalization)

      • #8510

        Some sounds within words are not voiced. First, I say the word and ask students to count the number of sounds/syllables they hear me say, e.g. comfortable = 3 (not 4), interesting = 3 again (not 4)

        Then I mark the syllables with circles about the word, and a larger circle above the stressed sound(s):

        O        o  o        O o     o
        comfortable     interesting

        Bold or underlining can work, too, as you’ve shown, might not so easily distinguish the number of syllables and/or main and secondary stress in longer words. It’s worth noting, however, that some languages (including Japanese) already use circles in their writing system, in which case squares might be more appropriate!

        I use ( ) to mark this on an example, and get students to do this for other words, e.g comf(or)table, int(e)resting.

    • #8514

      Rhett Burton

      I am going to be honest here – I just don’t know.
      I have been working with children. I have never taught this directly. Also, my students get quite good a using my patterns.
      Korean is a syllable based language. They stress the syllables and do so very monotonous. I do stress sounds but I have always only stressed the vowel sounds or blends that I want them to pay attention to.
      I kind of feel bad because I can’t really answer this question… and if I can… It is challenging.
      I am going to talk to a friend about this.

      • #8590

        With young learners, they may be more able to pick up new sounds than most adults or teens. The Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) has had a longstanding debate, however, over what age determines when it becomes biologically more difficult to acquire language.

        For example, 0-5 years is considered the most important time for learners to recognise phonological differences so (comprehensible) input with interaction are invaluable during this period. Similarly, learning sign language is considered easier up to the age of 6.  (I think Krashen considered the end fo CPH to be 5 years old and Pinker said 6 years old, whilst others have estimated up to 12 or 15 years old, notably for grammatical and syntactic differences.

    • #10543

      Masatoshi Shoji

      eventually, absolutely, incredibly
      Show stress in producing sounds and show stress in the words on the board
      Use them in real conversation.

      • #10547

        Good choice of words and demonstrating orally then marking stress on the board is important. If students find it difficult to spontaneously use these words in conversation, what can you do to help them or what alternative practice can you offer?

    • #11611

      Jessica Sohn

      comfortable – they somehow read it as comfor-table. I feel the kids tend to break down unfamiliar words and get the wrong stress.
      Rhinoceros – same here. unfamiliar-long-word.
      collect – Most of the Koreans read it with the long O sound. collect. they are somehow not familiar with the short o sound.

      I would use gestures or clapping to help them get the right stress + practice it in chorus
      And then would write it on the board to help them see the stress point.
      Go over syllables (with higher level kids) if not I would just do the vocals.

      • #11619

        For rhinoceros, I don’t worry so much and point out they only really need to recognise it when they see/hear it since most people just seem to say rhino, anyway.

        I like your approaches for helping your students. In addition, for the other words, the issues may be due to schwa /ə/ and students lack of awareness. Since it’s so common, it’s usually worth teaching about this ‘unvoiced’ feature of English, particularly in American English.

        Incidentally, I just learned that he schwa is rarely used in Korean phonology but can be viewed as an alternative form of ʌ. For example, 호떡 (hotteok) [ho.t͈ək̚]. Is this correct?

      • #11630

        scott gray

        Sounds like you got good plans Jessica. I think the physical side is a great way to go on getting better at pronunciation and rhythm.
        Your kids seem really good and was wondering if you have thought writing the words up on the board and then having them put dots for syllables and a mark for stress and then take away the words and have them say it just looking at the dots and marks?

    • #11629

      scott gray

      ago, not ego, I tend to just make the joking connection of point to my chin and blurring the Japanese Ago into a long time ago while throwing my head back to indicate in the past.

      I have a pen. I tend to introduce the schwa early and I usually do it when I introduce syllables and spelling by writing on the board, a, on, one, four, Scott, backed. Then two column headings, syllables and letters. Then I say the word and ask them to tell me how many letters there are and how many syllables there are. So I do mention we do say I have A pen but that way means something else. So I incorporate it into the differences between Japanese and English more than pronunciation.

      you into ya in reduced form. I usually wrote it on the board with dots, marks, or other indication but I think I really want to use gestures more. I also want to try to use a rubber band to show the stress in words and sentences by having the kids start with for example, banana and they pull the band while stretching the sound that gets the main stress.

      • #11636

        Good stuff, Scott. Can you bring and elastic band to demonstrate what you mean in our next tutorial? Thanks!

        Just a note for non-Japanese speakers, AGO means ‘chin’.

    • #11632

      Rhett Burton

      One challenge I have is that many of my readers are looking at the words one letter at a time. So, when reading, they often don’t decipher/decode the words a whole. This seems to be more challenging when reading and not so much for speaking because child have had more exposure to audiolingual- style interactions in class. One word that has been challenging for my students is “mistake.” They stress it correctly when following me but will make all sorts of errors when doing it alone.


      • #11637

        Decoding words one letter at a time is a natural stage of early reading. If they’re having trouble with whole words, it seems to indicate that they need more reading practice to develop fluency and read at the word level.

        When struggling with sounding out words, my kids enjoy using letter flashcards to play various phonics/spelling games. There are more and more apps, too, that help them to do this by themselves, for example with options to read with audio whilst letters/words are highlighted and/or read alone.

        One example is Khan Kids from Khan Academy:

        Please share any others that your students have liked and done well with.

      • #11640

        scott gray

        You might also just pick the words they are having trouble with and make some flashcards with the words split by syllable and have them put together the words while making the sounds. Like crazy sentences exercise but with words and working on pronunciation. mis- take, com-mun-i-cation, or such. Just an idea and think that way you will build up over time the words kids will need the most work on from their L1 interference/difficulty learning. Just an idea.

    • #14562

      Naoko Amano

      For Japanese Ss, they don’t really think of the word stress, because the Japanese language is flat. They don’t notice stress. Their English reading is very flat and sometimes sounds like a robot.

      So, for this exercise, I don’t immediately think of example words as I was able to with vowel sounds.

      For some tests they must solve the questions by identifying the word stress, but, actually, they don’t learn this and therefore it is difficult.

      Ss hesitate to make stress when they read English in class, possibly because they feel embarrassed or even shameful. In order to address this lack of confidence, I use chants or short songs to practice word stress in a fun, non-threatening way.

    • #14800

      Great points, Naoko, and consideration for affective factors (e.g. shyness/embarrassment), which can be lowered songs and chant that are also very natural ways to emphasise rhythm and stress. Poems and some storybooks written in verse (e.g. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – Dr Seuss) are great, too.

    • #16568

      Rhett Burton

      In my level 1 and 2 programs, I have students read with the intention of memorizing a lot of our text. I try to connect what they have heard with the text on the page. I want my materials to offer high support between what I say and what we read.

      However, in my level 3 and up courses, students are required to rely on my skills to learn new texts and words. I do include some rules but I try not to beyond their known Target Language to discuss words and reasons for stress/reduced stress. I anchor more to metacognition skills for thinking about how to think about the content instead of dialing down on the rules of linguist components.

      One strategy that my students are comfortable with is shadowing. To make shadowing more enjoyable, we use songs, poems and texts that are well-known in the classroom.


    • #16573

      That’s a good point about controlling your language usage and avoiding linguistic explanations or terminology that overcomplicate matters and/or confuses students.

      Good to use showing. What kind of shadowing technique(s) do you use? We can review, discuss, and practice these in our next tutorial. For further reference, some techniques are outlined here, together with supporting research: https://readingmatrix.com/files/14-p655a617.pdf

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