Pronunciation: recording your own voice – for EFL / ESOL and IELTS


It’s very hard to listen to your own voice when you are speaking. So why not use your mobile phone to record yourself speaking in English? Here is a sample task for you to improve your pronunciation.

You’ll need something that will record your voice. Use the ‘audio recorder’ on your mobile phone.

Read the text below three or four times. Then, read it again and record yourself on your mobile phone.

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity Kitai. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice. We are all telling ourselves a story and that day mine changed.”

Now listen to it again. Are you happy with your pronunciation? What things did you say wrong? Could you have said any of the words better?

Now listen to the same speech by Will Smith here.

Compare your pronunciation with the ‘correct’ version.


  • You DON’T HAVE TO sound  EXACTLY THE SAME as the recording!
  • There are many different accents and sounds in English and they are all ‘correct’.

Try this again with any other speech in English that you like!

Using Spotify with your English class – Great Tunes…

Spotify is a free music service (unless you go premium) that lets you listen to thousands and thousands of albums and song by thousands and thousands of artists over the widest possible range of genres. I’ve spent a long time on it – listening to songs I used to love and have long since lost, in fact I have spent whole evenings with friends saying ‘listen to this one’ and ‘do you remember this one?’. If you like music and haven’t tried it, then you owe it to yourself to have a browse .

But…how can you use it with your students? Playing music in class is nothing new and you’ll even find songs amongs the pages of Headway. What is new is the how much access we have to it now – we can choose from almost every mainstream song ever recorded. No doubt you will have your own favourite songs and will want to use these but, here are a list of my suggestions as to how to use Spotify with your English language learners. You’ll need to sign up for a Spotify account,  download their player and a computer or laptop to play the music to your students…

Any topic you are currently studying…

Just about any topic or theme you class is covered by a song somewhere. Type the title of your topic and you’ll probably find a tune about it.  Play the song for the students and get them to write down as many words linked to your topic as they can.

Money and Banks – Pink Floyd – Money

Shopping – The Clash – Lost in the Supermarket

Food and eating – Food Glorious food  – The Cast of Oliver

Grammar Practice

There are loads of good songs that you can use to practise and examine grammar points, here’s my short list.

Present Simple/continuous – She is leaving Home – The Beatles It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls Singing in the Rain

Past Simple – Summer Loving – Grease Soundtrack Candle in the Wind – Elton John Dido – Best Day

Present Perfect – I’ve had the time of my life – B.Medley and J. Warne

Future Tense-  I Will Always Love you – Whitney Houston/ My Heart Will go on – Celine Dion

Conditionals –  If I was a Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani / If I had a Million Dollars – Barenaked Ladies

Superlatives –  Simply the Best – Tina Turner

Story Songs

Traditional folk music is just one of the genres that uses songs to tell stories. Play students the story song and ask them questions about what happened. Here’s a list of my favourite story songs.

A boy named Sue – Jonny Cash (Brilliant story and song that everyone will love…)

One Piece at a Time – Jonny Cash (a man steals a whole car by taking one piece of it at a time from the factory where he works)

She’s Leaving Home – The Beatles (you might have to use a cover version as The Beatles are not on Spotify)

Barenaked Ladies – Bank Job (lovely story about a heist gone wrong)

Waltzing Matilda – The Pogues

Chill out music

Music and easy listening is really good to settle students down and chill them out while they get on with some work quietly. I’ve met teachers who swear that ambient music is the corner stone of their teaching method – I need to use it more. Here are some  tunes I’d play to students to make them feel calm…

Heartbeats – Jose Gonzales

Cannonball – Damien Rice

Play a song as a prize

I sometimes do this with videos as well. After a game or a test, allow the winning student or team to pick a song that they can play to the rest of the class. People always enjoy making others listen to something they like.


Got a few minutes to kill, play one of these tunes and ask students to say what they think.

White Trash Wedding – Dixie Chicks (super fast banjo and funny)

Or just play something current.

Further reading

Check out Larry Lynch’s ideas

Also Kevin Schoepp’s paper on using song is here


Complete Lessons using PowerPoint for IELTS / EFL / ESOL – Valentine’s Day and Relationships

Here’s the second edition of my complete lessons using only PowerPoint slides. Can’t be bothered to read the post? Get the lesson here

I think this lesson on relationships fits in really nicely with Valentine’s Day, especially since the audio features a lady dumping her boyfriend. It’s for pre-intermediate learners and should take about an hour. You only need the PowerPoint show above and working speakers to play the audio, students only need a pen and some paper.

Slide 2

Elicit different types of relationship from the class before you show the slide – mother, father etc. Now show the slide, students have to write their own explanation for each word.

Slide 3

Students match the phrasal verbs to the meaning.

Slide 4

Ask and annswer the pre-listening questions as a class before listening to the girl dumping her boyfriend. Students answer the gist question.

Slide 5

Now students listen again and answer the more detailed questions

Slide 6

Students ask and answer these questions in pairs or small groups. You can monitor and give feedback at the end.

Here’s the PowerPoint lesson again

You can find more lessons like this at

Low Level English – Flash Games for ESOL

…just discovered a wonderful site for low level ESOL and ESL learners, you need an Interactive Whiteboard or a projector.

Loads of different vocabulary games and presentations aimed at low level learners.

Complete Lessons Using PowerPoint for ESOL /ESL/ IELTS – Part 1 – technology

Can’t be bothered to read the blog – get this lesson here

In the past I’ve blogged about how simple to use and effective PowerPoint is for teaching English. I’ve even devoted a whole section of my website to it.

If you have an interactive whiteboard or a projector and some speakers then you’re in luck. I’ve come up with a series of lessons that do not require any other material, no worksheets, CDs or books. The only material students need are paper, a pen or a pencil and their voices.

Teacher’s Notes.

This is a pre- intermediate lesson for ESOL / ESL. It takes about an hour.

Slide 1 – introduction

Ask students ‘ What technogy have you used today?’

‘What technogy do you use everyday?’

Slide 2- Vocab builder

Ask students to write down the machines on the screen – they complete the table b writing the function of each piece of technogy. Monitor students while they do this offering help and suggestions. When they have finished, reveal the answers one by one. There are of course many answers to each one – mine are only suggestions.

Slide 3- Pre Listening

As soon as you get to this screen the audio will start. Click on it to stop it – you don’t need it right away.

Discuss the questions with the class eliciting answers.

Now ask the students to listen to the laptop repair man and answer the two questions. Play the audio and let students answer the questions.

Slide 4 – Listening for detail.

Again you’ll have to stop the  audio as it will start as soon as the screen comes up. As students to look at the questions and then prepare to listen again and answer them. Play the audio once more and then elicit the answers from the students, reavealing the answers as you go.

Slide 5 – Discussion

Tell students they are going to discuss some questions in pairs. Reveal the first question and allow students to chat together about the subject when it seems most groups have finished reveal the next, and so on. Each question should only take a couple of minutes.

While students are chatting listen to what they are saying and make notes on any general errors you hear them making.

Finally you could feedback the mistakes you hear the students making and/or you could pick up some of the interesting points students made by briefly discussing the questions as a class.

For more of the same – the Milenium Falcon of English Language websites

Mobile Phones in Class

Last week I had the regular yearly inspection with a well meaning, rule following inspector. I had a class of around twelve adult learners from many different parts of the world studying intermediate English. Everything was going fine, students were engaged in various tasks at their level, they were working together and the classroom was a peaceful buzz. Then, one of my students get a call on their mobile, and, as always, I asked them to take the call outside the classroom.

...taking a call in class

...taking a call in class

In my feedback with same well meaning inspector I was told that students should be reminded to turn their phones off before class and should not use them. I was struck at how much of a point was made. I have never banned the use of mobiles in class, or asked anyone to turn them off. I simply ask that students take the call outside. Of course if a student persistently takes calls then I will ask them not to bring their phone or talk to them individually about if they really want to be in class. Most people, especialy adult learners, tend to be very polite in any case.

I know that some teachers are vehemently against the use of mobiles in their classes, but I don’t see it as too much of a problem in the modern world, where students have more to worry about than just being in class.

How do you deal with mobile/cell phones going off in your class? What do you do? Leave us a comment.