Word Stress and Sentence Stress Activities
1. Stress Changes - words that act as both nouns and verbs
a) Teacher: Tell me when the stress changes… 'record, 'record, 'record, re'cord,
Students: indicate by shouting out/showing hands/holding up relevant
b) The words are placed in different sentences e.g. Why don't you buy the 'record?
Why don't you re'cord it?
2. Back to the class - words that act as both nouns and verbs
a) Write each word of a minimal pair on the board, with a number by the side.
Teacher says words with the same stress pattern at random, ideally with their
face turned away from the class so that they can’t see lip movement, and
students shout out which number it goes with.
b) Make it progressively harder by inserting words into sentences, etc.
c) Eventually, you say the numbers and they have to say the words.
3. Corners - identifying stress patterns
a) Put different stress patterns on large pieces of paper in the corners/around the
Oo Ooo oOoo
You say words and students have to move to the relevant corner and say the
word when they arrive.
b) Later you can put the words into sentences.
c) Variations on this could be you giving the definition of a word and the students
have to produce it and go to the relevant corner.
4. Stand up, sit down - identifying stress patterns
a) You identify one stress pattern as a ‘stand up pattern’ and another as a ‘sit down
You say words and the students have to react accordingly.
b) Variations involve putting hands up, using coloured cards, standing in a line and
stepping forward or backwards, to the left or to the right, etc.
c) Students eventually become the callers.
5. Which box? - Identifying Stress Patterns
a) This activity can be found in most course books and supplementary books.
Students have to write words with varying syllable length and therefore stress
patterns into the correct box.
Oo Ooo oOoo ooOoo ooOo
b) A variation is to put the words on card and get students to stick them in the
correct column on the board and then they copy. This ensures that they all have
a correct record.
6. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 - raising awareness of stress pattern of English
a) Split students into 4 groups and assign a number 1-4. Ask them to clap in time
to a regular beat. Ask each group to say the following, ensuring that they
pronounce the numbers as they clap their hands and 'concertina' the words in
between, if appropriate:
Group 1 1 2 3 4
Group 2 1 and 2 and 3 and 4
Group 3 1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4
Group 4 1 and then a 2 and then a 3 and then a 4
7. Key Words - raising awareness of stress on key words
a) Students listen and write down the 'key' words in various sentences. With older
children you can ask them to identify which types of words are usually
stressed/unstressed in English.
b) A variation is to exploit any listening material that you are using in class. Try
and pick a sentence that the students initially have difficulty with and play it
repeatedly, focusing on key words first and then the rest, until they can build it
up onto the board. To help them indicate the number of words they need to find
by drawing lines e.g. ______
8. How Many Words? - sensitizing students to contractions
a) Students listen and write down different sentences and count the words
contained in each. Contractions count as 2 words. This is a common activity in
b) Good activity for revising structures such as present perfect and conditionals
e.g. I've got two dogs; If England had won, I'd have celebrated.
9. Shifting Stress
a) Using rods to demonstrate shifting stress in sentences
b) A variation is to write a sentence on the board. Allocate one word of the
sentence to each student. Ask students to stand up and form the sentence in
front of the board. Underline a word in the sentence. Ask students to say the
sentence aloud and if their word is underlined they should step forward, jump
up, sit down etc. to illustrate the relevant stress.
John: She's from America
Jane: No, he's from America but she's from Australia
John: She's from America but she lives in Australia