How To Teach Pronunciation To Grade 1
ESL | ESL | Grade 1 | Grammar | Teaching English

How To Teach Pronunciation To Grade 1

Fluency in producing sounds and speaking easily and smoothly is most important for children to learn at a young age to accurately pronounce words in the English language.  Although accents and dialects will all affect how individuals pronounce English, there are some tasks and activities that give all students the best chance to be understood.

The key question is how we start to teach pronunciation, but how do you focus and teach pronunciation to Grade 1 students? the earlier the better is the key to pretty much all language Teaching.

Teach pronunciation to Grade 1 students through phonics; learning phonemes; syllable stress; voiced/voiceless consonants; silent letters, and /silent e/ at the end.  Fun activities and repetitive exercises will help to cement these lessons to memory. Making more difficult pronunciation tasks easier in later years.

Teaching pronunciation to young learners is time-consuming as the lessons consist of many repetitive exercises and lots of practice sessions.  This article discusses several methods, techniques, and activities to teach pronunciation.

Teaching Pronunciation To Grade 1 Learners

Young children absorb sounds and words around them and learn to imitate them accurately.  The time in a child’s life, from young babies to 12-14 years, is critical for language acquisition. 

It is important to teach pronunciation as the same word can have different meanings depending on how we say them.  Below are the methods to teach pronunciation to Grade 1 students:

The key here is to encourage younger learners to repeat some of those more common sounds in ENglish. This has to be done in a fun, engaging and motivating way. Utilizing games, songs, Tongue Twisters can all be used to keep the vocabulary flowing and to activate childrens long term memory.

We have a link to over 100 tongue twisters designed to help teach pronunciation below. We also have hundreds of worksheets, games and activities on the site as well.

Phonetic Exercises

The most conventional method for teaching pronunciation is through phonics.  The focus is on learning the individual sound of a letter in vowels and consonants when learning to read.  

Learning to pronounce words through visual phonics is a new method of teaching pronunciation with animated texts, videos, and songs.  It is a fun and creative way of learning pronunciation.

Start With Phonemes

Phonemes are distinct units of sound in a specific language that distinguishes one word from another (p/b/d – pad/pat/bed/bat).  In the first pronunciation lesson, children should listen carefully and not sound out any words.

Introduce Phonemes in contrasting pairs like t/d.  Repeat the words and ask the learners to identify them.  Using diagrams showing the placement of the tongue and lips will help learners visualize the difference they are attempting to recognize or you could do the following activity:

  • Face the students and make sure they are looking at you so they can see your lips move as you sound out letters, e.g., the /f/ and the soft /th/, they can see the different position of the mouth, the /f/ is the teeth on the bottom of the lip, and the /th/ sound is made with the tongue sticking out.

Divide the class into groups of two and give each student a turn to say the letters out loud to their partner, and they are to take note of the different movements of the mouth.

  • Use a small hand mirror so children can see the correct position of their lips and tongue when they sound out letters. 

Syllable Stress and Pronunciation

Most words have at least one syllable (the beat of a spoken word) in length and many words have more than one syllable.  The easiest way to teach syllable stress is with physical movements, such as tapping a finger on the table with a beat for each syllable.  Children can clap out or tap with drum sticks as they say the word, e.g., spi-der (2 syllables), lake (1 syllable), pa-per.

Begin teaching young learners how to count the number of syllables (mouthful of a word) in a word.  Say the word, then repeat and allow young children to act out the syllables with hand actions.  Ask children to hold up the correct amount of syllables on their fingers, or they can represent the number by holding up pencils, stickers, or other objects.

Voiced And Voiceless Consonants

When sounding out, voiced consonants (b/g/j) have a vibration in the vocal cords.  Ask the child to feel the vibration when sounding out the letters.  Voiceless consonants do not have a vibration on the vocal cords.  Knowing the difference will help children when they first learn letter sounds to pronounce the letters correctly.

If children only watch the movement of lips when the speaker is saying out the word, e.g. ‘bill,’ they might think the word is spelled ‘p-i-l-l’ because when the lips move, the p and b sound looks familiar.  But, if the child puts the finger on their vocal cord when saying the word ‘bill’ out loud, they will feel the vibration when the b is pronounced.

Silent Letters

Letters that are written but not pronounced are one of the trickiest points for young learners to grasp.  For a single word, e.g., knit, the young learner needs to know that the /k/ is not pronounced when saying the word but is used when writing it.

One method of teaching silent letters is writing the words on a flashcard and inserting a bracket around the silent letter, e.g. (k)nit.  Present the flashcards to the students and let them practice saying the words out loud using the correct pronunciation.  Here is an activity to include in the lesson:

  • Write words with silent letters on a worksheet, include pictures to describe the words, and hand a worksheet to each student.  The class reads the word aloud, and then the student selects the silent letter by putting a bracket around it. 

This method is a good exercise for students to practice the correct pronunciation of the letters and recognize the silent letters.

Words With A ‘Silent E’ At The End

Teaching students the /silent e/ word is the most difficult of all the silent words.  Many young children leave off the /e/ at the end of these words when spelling.  Some children will pronounce the first vowel as a short vowel and the /e/ as a long vowel, e.g., ‘cape’; they might say ‘cap-ee’. Teaching the /silent e/ rule is vital for reading education. 

Below are some activities to teach the /silent e/:

  • Make the lesson fun, e.g., by referring to the /silent e/ as a ‘bossy e’ that bosses around the other vowels, which will create a fun image for young students.  If they are entertained, they are more likely to remember the rule.
  • Practice pronouncing the vowel before and after adding the /silent e/ will illustrate the difference in the meaning of the two words (can/cane).  Including pictures in the lesson will allow visual meaning, e.g., the short vowel ‘cap’ include a picture of a baseball cap; and for the long vowel ‘cape,’ select a picture of a superhero.

We have both online games and games and worksheets to help teach the magic / silent e to young learners.

How to teach pronunciation to grade 1

Exercises To Help With Pronunciation

You could use these 2 exercises when teaching young learners pronunciation:

1. Listen And Repeat

The most conventional way to teach student pronunciation is by ‘listening and repeating.’ Still, it is important that the students understand and focus on what they hear to produce the sounds accurately.   Here is a good tip for an engaging listening and repetition exercise:

At the beginning of the lesson, do not let the students repeat after you but rather let them pay attention to how you articulate the sounds; how the lips, tongue, and jaw move when pronouncing a word.  Repeat the word a few times, allowing the students just to listen.  Then ask the students to repeat the letters or words.

Allowing the students time to process the sounds first before repeating them will help them recognize the sound and create a sound memory.

2. Record And Replay

Students record themselves sounding out the word, and they can replay and listen to how they sound when they pronounce the word. this can be then played in class ( if students are ok with this) You could also record yourself with 2 incorrect and one correct and see if they can tell the difference or which one is correct.

3. Pick a Paper Pronunciation

You can print of the tongue twisters we have highlighted above ( we have downloads if easier too) and as a little but of fun you can have students come to pick one to try to say, his can be at any time during lessons but perhaps after tasks or activities and allow a few students to try.

If you are focussing on pronouncing a particular sound you could also just have a selection of those in the hat or box.

4. Rhyming Stations

Teacher or parents put up two words onto the board and say one. Two students have to run and slap the correct word that they hear. You can do this with rhyming words or any vocabulary words. Can also be played as a team pronunciation game.

5 . Silent Words Pronunciation

Have a list of vocabulary items, or sounds you are working on in a bag on a desk at the front of the classroom. Students come to the front and have to pick a word or sound. They then have to mouth the word, or say it silently to their team. This is great for practicing the mouth shapes in English. I often introduce it by saying english is something you can see as well as hear.


Learning to sound out letters correctly by learning voiced and voiceless consonants, silent letters, syllable stress, and /silent e/ at the end of words will help Grade 1 learners to master the pronunciation of the English language.

However be aware when you teach pronunciation to grade 1 that it will not be mastered over night. It takes both time and patience to be able to learn any language and pronunciation is part of that.


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