Practically Free Low-Tech Tools for Pronunciation

Teachers of pronunciation can use these simple, inexpensive and effective tools when teaching.


Kazoo – One of the easiest tools to use when teaching rhythm and melody is the kazoo.  Do not blow into the kazoo.  The kazoo’s job is to amplify humming. By learning humming patterns and melodies, ESL students learn to make their rhythm closer to English rhythm. I got 72 kazoos for $6 at Oriental Trading Company, about $0.08 each.

Square of paper – Cut a small square of paper, about 2 inches x 2 inches.  Hold the paper square in front of your mouth to demonstrate the breath of air needed on sounds like TH, P, T and K, etc.  When said correctly, the paper will move away and down from your mouth then pop back up after the sound is made. Now students can “see” what previously was unseen.  Practically free, snipped from a piece of paper I had.

Rubber band – Use a size 64 rubberband stretched between the 2 thumbs.  Stretching the rubberband is a physical reminder to hold out the sound longer, or to go slower.  A thick rubber band is best so the student can’t stretch it too easily. A quarter-pound bag of size 64 rubber bands (about 70) at an office supply store is $2.79, or $0.05 each.

Hand Mirrors – Some students benefit from seeing what their mouths are doing when pronouncing English.  Cosmetic mirrors are compact and portable. Or buy at a drugstore for $3 – $5 each.

Hand to throat – Help your student understand voicing by having them touch their hand to the front of their neck.  Start saying “S” and change to a “Z” without breaking or stopping.  Your students will feel the vibration of their vocal chords. This sensory feedback can be very helpful.  Voicing is important when teaching -ed and -s endings. Free.

Whisper phone – A simple “phone” can be made from pvc pipe using two 3/4″ (inch) pvc elbows, and a 3 1/2 ”  (inch) straight pvc pipe section.  Students use the phone when they speak or read outloud.  It increases the sound of their voice in their ear (quiet voice or whispering is all they need) and students can hear small differences more easily (like the difference between “seat” and “sit”).  $5  at a hardware store for the parts to make 5 phones.

Click here for a free printable on Practically Free Low-Tech Tools for Pronunciation.

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