Chinese Whispers/Telephone Game for English Pronunciation

Before doing this group activity, you should have explained a specific sound that you’d like your students to pronounce better. I often do this activity to practice the /l/ and /r/ sounds, or the /th/ sounds.

For an overview of how to conduct a pronunciation lesson, visit this page.

Chinese whispers game for pronunciation

A Twist: Chinese Whispers for English Pronunciation

Chinese Whispers is essentially a telephone relay game where players sit in a row/circle and whisper a phrase into each other’s ears. As the phrase gets passed along, it’ll change due to mispronunciation or memory problems. At the end, the student announces what phrase they heard, which often has changed, and everyone laughs.

For English class, you can use this concept in the following manner.

Activity Preparation

First write down a few sentences in your notebook that test the target sounds you introduced earlier. The sentences should not be too long, and ideally they are still grammatical if students make a pronunciation mistake. For example:

  • Larry rarely reads. (testing /r/ or /l/ . This sentence is good because if they mispronounce it “Larry really leads”, it still makes grammatical sense)
  • She sits on the sheet.  (testing /s/ or /sh/)
  • The lamb had rice on his belly. (testing /r/ or /l/ again – The ram had lice on his berry?)

You get the idea.

Activity Execution

  1. Put the students in groups of four or five.
  2. Have them sit in a row.
  3. Make sure the last student has a piece of paper and a pencil. Tell him/her that they will have to write down a sentence.
  4. Take the first students from each group outside of the class and say a sentence to them (e.g.”The fly flew into the van.”)
  5. The first student should then tell the sentence to the second student who will relay it to the third student, and so on until it reaches the writer, who writes it down.
  6. Repeat the activity with new sentences and have the students switch roles as need be so everyone gets a chance to write.
  7. Afterwards, check the sentences. Award points for the closest answers.

This activity is great fun because the students always make mistakes. Start with simple sentences so as to not overwhelm them.

Enjoy your English classes.

— Matthew Barton / Creator of ESL website

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