Consonant Sounds: Introductory Lesson

Introductory Lesson

Here is a lesson to introduce the idea of phonology, IPA symbols, voicing, and the place & mode of articulation to your students.  The lesson is both informative and communicative, which will raise your students’ awareness of phonology and give them some practice speaking for fluency & pronouncing the words correctly within a functional context. This lesson uses a TBL (Task-Based Learning) format – following the task paradigm provided by Jane Willis in her book A Framework for Task-Based Learning (1996) – which is an excellent research tool for those looking to make their ESL classroom interactive and student-focused. The paradigm is based on the following stages:

  • Pre-task (teach the pronunciation of the /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/ as in (shut, vision, chat, and judge), have them sort food item words based on the sounds, and then give students a listening activity)
  • Task (students practice ordering food in a restaurant from menus that have food items that have the /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/ sounds in them)
  • Planning (students plan out a role play of them ordering food in a restaurant with more of a focus on accuracy of language)
  • Reporting (groups of students preform their presentation of their role play in front of the class)

Overview: Lesson Plan

Time Stage & Aim Procedure Materials:
10 min Stage 1


Set context of the lesson & give students practice speaking for fluency

Sound Introduction: Introduce the four often problematic palatal sounds of English (/ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/)

T  Discusses last restaurant experience (an interesting one if possible)

Students discuss an interesting restaurant experience that they have had

Feedback: A couple of students share an interesting restaurant experience that they have had.



/s/ and /z/

Palatal Sounds:

/ʃ/ and /ʒ/

Fricative vs. Plosive:

/t/ and /d/ vs. /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, and /ʒ/

Affricative Sounds:

/t/ is combined with the /ʃ/ = /tʃ/

/d/ is combined with /ʒ/ = /dʒ/

White Board

5-10 min Stage 2: Sound Identification/Pre-teaching Vocabulary

Students identify sounds corresponding to their spelling in different words. Also, clarify (most clarification will be student to student during the activity) any of the vocabulary words students don’t understand.

Students organize TL vocab under the categories of each sound: /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, and /ʤ/

Whole Class Feedback: Have students organize the words on the whiteboard under the corresponding sound. Model & drill vocabulary and clarify any of the words that students have questions about.

Sorting Vocab Items
5-10 min Stage 3: Listening Activity Setting the Context Question:

“Have you ever been to a restaurant that didn’t have prices listed on the menu? What would you do if you went to an expensive restaurant and there were no prices on the menu?”

Students discuss question in pairs.

General Listening Question:

“What problem does the customer have?”

A: There are no prices on the menu and she does not have a lot of money.

Play Listening Clip

  • Students listen & answer individually
  • Pair Check
  • Feedback

Detail Questions:

“What does the customer order?”

Play listening clip again

  • Students listen & answer individually
  • Pair Check
  • Feedback
Tape Audio Script
3-5 Min Stage 4: Setting the Task Give directions for task:

The customers only have $40 each to spend, and their task is to place an order within their budget.

Choral Drill Functional Language

Ocean’s Treasures Functional Language
5-10 Min  Stage 5: Performing Task

Fluency Focus

Task: SS act role-play in a restaurant ordering food; customers get menu without prices and the waiter gets one with prices.

Customers: Need to place an order within their budget

Waiters: Need to take their customers orders

Waiter’s Menu

Ocean´s Treasure Menu

5 Min Stage 6: Planning

Accuracy and Language Complexity Focus

Now SS take notes and plan out their role-play

T monitors and feeds students needed language.


3 min

Stage 7: Reporting

Fluency, Accuracy, and Language Complexity Focus

One group of students performs the task in front of the class one at a time. The other students listen and fill out observation task notes.


  • Content: What did the SS order? Did you notice any errors?
  • Language: Correct errors.

Continue to cycle through each group of SS.

Ocean’s Treasure Observation Task

Lesson Plan Notes:


Stage 1: Lead-in & Sound Introduction (10 min)

First set the context of the lesson with sharing an interesting restaurant experience and then having the SS discuss a restaurant experience that they have had. Go over a couple interesting experiences of the students for whole classroom feedback.

In this stage, you first introduce the sounds of /s/ and /z/. Direct the students to hold the pronunciation of each sound and elicit from them what’s the difference between them (vibration).  Also, indicate to the students that there is more air being released when you pronounce the /s/ sound.  After that, introduce the sounds of /ʃ/ and /ʒ/.  You can write two examples of words that represent the sounds e.g. Ship & Vision so they have an idea of what the symbols represent. Then again have the students pronounce both of the sounds and hold them. Elicit from them what’s the difference between the two sounds (vibration).  Also bring to the students’ attention that when they hold the /ʃ/ sound it resembles the sound of air flowing i.e. from an oxygen tank or an air conditioner.  Indicate to the students this the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds (vibration).

Now ask them what is the difference between the /s/ & /z/ and the /ʃ/ & /ʒ/ sounds.  Elicit from them that the tongue moves back a bit on the mouth, to the palatal region. Now switch to the sounds of /t/ and /d/.  Ask the students to ‘hold’ these sounds when the pronounce them. Well, the trick is they can’t because they are plosive or stop sounds that can not be held whereas the /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, and /ʒ/ sounds are fricative, where there is no ‘stop’ needed to pronounce them. Ask students what type of sound will be produced when the /t/ is combined with the /ʃ/ equaling a /tʃ/.  Have them play with the sound for a moment until you write an example word on the board i.e. Chair.  Now do the same process with the sound of /d/ combining with the /ʒ/ sound.  Mention to the students that these sounds represent the ‘affricative’ sounds in English, a mix between stop/plosive sounds (ones that require a stop or a mini explosion) and fricative sounds which can be held uninterrupted.

After this explanation is done you have successfully taught the students four of the seven symbols that are not from the Roman alphabet and therefore most likely unknown to them as well as a bit about the three features of pronouncing consonant sounds (voicing, place of articulation, and mode of articulation).  Now on to a pre-learning activity that provides some additional practice and sets the stage for more communicative activities to follow.

Stage 2: Pre-teaching vocabulary (5-10 min)

Pre-learning activities include pre-teaching vocabulary and activating background knowledge of the subject matter before getting into other activities involving speaking, listening, writing, and reading.  Pre-learning activities essentially prepare your learners to learn (Vaughn, 2014).  By activating their background knowledge and interests you engage the learners, and pre-teaching vocabulary helps lighten the cognitive burden.

This activity will be conducted by keeping the four sounds on the board of /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, and /ʤ/ and numbering them 1-4.  Then put the students into pairs or groups, I prefer groups of around 3 or 4.  Once there, hand the students pieces of paper with the following words on them:

Peach, Check, Pitcher, Cheese, Cheddar, Cherry, Jam, Geez, Jumbo, Monterrey Jack, Huge, Orange, Large, Juice, Fish, Dish, Special, Ocean, Shrimp, Treasure, Pleasure.

Tell the students to look through the pieces of paper and decide which sound each of the words has e.g. ‘special’ would go under the /ʃ/ sound symbol. In this stage, you should clarify meaning and pronunciation of any words that the students are unclear about.

Stage 3: Listening Activity (5-10 min)

The listening activity is aim is to give the students a demonstration of the task that they are to do at a later time.  It also provides students with added listening practice which is essential because pronunciation and listening comprehension go hand in hand.

Discussion Question: “Have you ever been to a restaurant that didn’t have prices listed on the menu? What would you do if you went to an expensive restaurant and there were no prices on the menu?”

I usually like to assign discussion questions to pairs and then reconvene as a class to discuss them together.  Pair work gives ample opportunity for speaking practice as opposed to a whole class discussion where only a few students participate.  This question probably will only stimulate about 1 minute worth of speaking in pairs.

General Listening Question: Below is a copy of a transcript that can be recorded on a device such as an i-pad, cell phone, or what have you.  If you do not have time to record the audio you can always ask two students to read the transcript out loud (or one high-level student to read with you).  Before playing or reading the transcript out loud, ask the general listening question: “What’s the problem for the customer?” A: There are no prices on the menu and she does not have a lot of money.

Detail Question: Before playing the listening clip a second time ask the students, “What does the customer order?”.  Then have the students listen again for the exact details of her order.

(You can combine the general and detail questions together into one if you would like to save time if think that your students would be able to handle both at once)

Tape Audio Script

Stage 4: Setting the Task (3-5 min)

Put students into groups of 3-5.  Of each group, a few of the students are customers and one of them is a waiter.  The customers only have $50 each to spend, and their task is to place an order within their budget.  They can share items by ordering as a group (e.g. giant plates, pitchers of juice etc.) but also individually.  The waiter’s task is to take the customers order on a piece of paper. Having a small notebook or clipboard handy for the waiters would come in hand. Before having the students complete the task, you can feed them functional language that can help them perform the task.  However, this language should involve no teaching, just choral drilling for time concerns. I had a copy of the following words that I simply taped up against the WB before having the students chorally drill it.

Ocean’s Treasures Functional Language

I underlined the parts that had palatal sounds including in connected speech i.e. ‘what would you like’


Stage 5: Performing the Task (5-10 min)

The task stage is where you let the students practice at will, in this case, ordering and taking orders in a restaurant.  The customers are handed Ocean´s Treasure Menu that lists all the different food and drink options without the prices listed. The waiter is given a similar one; however, with prices listed Waiter’s Menu.  This will create the need to communicate.

During this stage, there is minimal teacher intervention and you let the students practice the language in a free flowing uninterrupted manner.  The teacher’s role is simply to make sure everyone is performing the task.


Stage 6: Preparing to Present (5 min)

In this stage you let the students jot down notes and plan out a more accurately said version of their role-play in front of the class.  Here the role of the teacher will be to monitor, clarify, and feed the students language that they were searching for during the task portion of the lesson.


Stage 7: Presenting (around 5 min each group, and 3-5 minutes feedback for each group) 

In this stage, you choose one of the groups to perform the task (that they had pre-planned) in front of the classroom. The other students are told to take notes with a scaffolding handout concerning each one of the customer orders, and also to jot down any grammatical, pronunciation, or other errors that they hear the students make.  After one group of students has finished presenting their restaurant role-play, the teacher is to give feedback by asking the class what each member ordered (content) and to correct any errors that were committed during the presentation (language). It’s an important language teaching principal to always provide feedback both in terms of content and language for freer activities that focus on fluency development. Scaffolding items (structured handouts) like this note-taking one make performing the task easier for the students Ocean’s Treasure Observation Task.

Further Notes:

This lesson was constructed for Spanish-speaking students in Argentina who have particular problems with pronouncing the /ʤ/ and /h/ sounds. However, I have also done this lesson with multi-national classrooms in an ESL environment in the United States. Palatal sounds are difficult for a number of students of various ESL backgrounds and a central purpose of the lesson is to teach phonological awareness (i.e. voicing & the IPA alphabet). This lesson paves the way for additional phonological lessons regarding voicing and palatalization (the process when sounds combined to form a palatal sound i.e. the /d and t/ and the /y/ sounds as in ‘would you’ (wooja) or ‘got you’ (gotcha). In addition, throughout the lesson; the students are being fed vocabulary, functional language, and language skill practice that goes beyond simply teaching pronouncing particular sounds.

It can also be modified to meet any of the particular consonant pronouncing issues of your students by making new audio scripts and menus.  For example, here are the materials of a lesson I did in Saudi Arabia teaching the difference between the /b/ & /p/ and the /f/ & /v/ sounds (in Arabic they do not have the /p/ nor the /v/ sounds) for a lower-intermediate classroom. Peter Piper Lesson Materials

1 Comment

  1. Hosting Deutschland

    Students will learn to pronounce the correct consonant sound when seeing the letter associated with that sound.

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