Tongue twisters are a fun way to start the class or to give students a mental break during the lesson. They are silly by nature and usually don’t make any sense at all which allows you to use them to practice pronunciation while having a good laugh!
Tips for Selecting and Using Tongue Twisters
Select tongue twisters that target sounds your students are struggling with and that are appropriate for their level. Since they exist in varying levels of difficulty, make sure to choose one that is realistically achievable for your learners. This is especially important at the beginning when you first start introducing tongue twisters to your students so that they gain confidence. With confidence, they will be more willing to tackle difficult tongue twisters in the future.
Identify the phoneme that repeats itself throughout the tongue twister and think of the physical position of your mouth whilst producing that sound. Knowing the proper anatomical placement to produce the sound is an important step to teaching students how to produce the sound correctly. Good resources to look at are The University of Iowa’s website and the Sound of Speech APP (available for iOS and Android).
Provide a visual of the tongue twister. Students should not have to rely only on hearing the tongue twister to repeat it. Tongue twisters are quite long so seeing them visually and breaking them into parts can help students master them.
Focus on the sounds not the meaning. The meaning of a tongue twister is irrelevant and often nonsensical. That said, they are sometimes useful as a tool to expand students vocabulary by introducing unfamiliar words. If it contains words or expressions that your students would benefit from learning, spend some time focusing on their meaning.
Practice makes perfect. Make sure to practice the tongue twister before the lesson. Allow for sufficient time for individual practice and whole group repetition after presenting the tongue twister.
Have fun! Use tongue twisters as a fun way to start a class or break the routine when students are losing focus. Once students have learned several tongue twisters, you can play games with them. With more advanced students, you can even create games where they must match the tongue twister to the phonemic symbol of the sound that is repeated. Other ideas include using them to play telephone/ Chinese whispers or acting them out in a game of Charades.