View Full Version : Tongue twisters

April 2nd, 2009, 11:36
New JTE came in this week. He wants me to make a list of tongue twisters to use as a warm up activity. two questions:

This seems like a good idea at first but the kids aren't going to be pronouncing an of the words right to begin with let alone in a tongue twister, is there really a point to doing this when they can't pronounce the words properly to begin with? Good activity, bad activity? What do you think?

In any case, I don't want to shoot down the new JTE's first idea so any have any good tongue twisters for this?

April 2nd, 2009, 11:40
I have done tongue twisters in me classes. Most students get a kick out of it.

How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood.

She sells seashells by the seashore.

Toy Boat.

April 2nd, 2009, 15:15
I wouldn't have them go at it willy nilly. Go through slowly, read and repeat and all that jazz, underlining the difficult parts. Where the students have trouble, remind them and demonstrate for them how to properly pronounce the sound. The good thing about tongue twisters is that you get to have the same sound over and over and over in the same sentence, so it's nicely condensed practice. I'd say this is best as a shorter activity, but you already said it was just a warm-up, so that's good. Maybe some of your classes will want to do it for longer, but it starts to feel a bit pedantic after a while. It's nice if you let them teach you some Japanese tongue twisters. I haven't tried it yet, but you could even get some brave students to volunteer to try English ones while you try a Japanese ones, then have the students vote on which of you does the best job.

Some of the tongue twisters I've used:
Of all the felt I ever felt,
I never felt a piece of felt
which felt as fine as that felt felt,
when I first felt that felt hat's felt.
(Good for "l" and terminal "t")

The better batter liked harder bitter butter better.
(Good for terminal "er")

Fresh fried fish,
Fish fresh fried,
Fried fish fresh
Fish fried fresh.
(terminal "sh," "d," and "fr")

Twelve twins twirled twelve twigs.
(this one is really difficult)

They thought that the things thought.
("th," obviously)

Vile villains arrive to dive into the river.

They also seem to like "Rubber baby buggy bumpers," and I'll second the "She sells seashells" one.

Good luck!

April 2nd, 2009, 15:33
I love doing tongue twisters. From my experience the students get more into it then having to sing a song in English.

It's also really fun if you have the students teach you some Japanese ones.

I like doing really simple ones and having them say it 3 times fast. Ones like:

Six Sick Sheep

Unique New York

Blue Bug's Blood

April 2nd, 2009, 16:10
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper,
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper,
Then wheres the peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked?

*or something to that effect.

A big black bug bit a big brown bear.

April 2nd, 2009, 22:31
I had an entire lecture at uni dedicated to the uselessness of tongue twisters.

Total waste of time especially on lower level students. Better to teach them how to produce the sounds then get them to use them in every day words.

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.

There is two words there that come up in everyday conversation.

Also it just frustrates the students and is bad for their confidence.

So in answer to your OP yes it is a bad idea for an activity but if your JTE wants you to do it then you have to I guess. Enjoy!

April 3rd, 2009, 06:06
Real weird rear wheels.

That is so hard to say 10x fast.

And I like the idea of tongue twisters if you make it a fun activity. My Japanese teacher a couple of years ago had us try it for a bit one day. It was fun even though I couldn't say any of it.

April 5th, 2009, 22:31
Try to say "Toy boat" several times in a row.

April 6th, 2009, 01:43
I'm going to have to second dombay on this. (But "There is two words . . . "?) Most tongue twisters are only difficult and interesting because they involve suprasegmental features of English pronunciation that your students are likely beyond their abilities or even awareness. Beyond that, the point of them is that they're difficult to pronounce properly. They'd only be good practice if the students can already pronounce all the necessary features in other circumstances. Can they? If not, activities that target specific problems are probably better.

I certainly understand not wanting to have to shoot down a new teacher's first idea, but is doing a worthless activity worth it?

April 6th, 2009, 12:14
I've only done a tongue-twister in class once. I wrote one on the board at the beginning of class, read it, and then the students tried to say it to themselves. Actually, I just did it on the fly because I didn't have anything better planned that day. They were laughing a lot, so I think they enjoyed hearing it. They like hearing me say goofy things. I think tongue-twisters are OK as a cultural interest point, even if I don't think they're very useful for teaching kids to speak.

I was surprised that one girl from ESS Club memorized a tongue-twister that was in some random activity day... well enough to repeat it to me months later. So I think some students like them.

Avoid tongue-twisters that the kids have no hope of understanding the intricacies of. For instance, "She sells seashells" is not good. The worse the student, the better they will appear to do at the tongue-twister (it will sound something like "shi-shiyeruzu-shi-shiyeruzu"). That's because they'll be able to do it quickly, not realizing they're saying it entirely wrong, and that's WHY they're able to rattle it off so quickly. Something like "Rubber baby buggy bumpers" is probably a better choice (it will sound like ra-ba-be-bi-ba-gi-bam-pa).

April 8th, 2009, 17:49
Truly rural.

The crow flew over the river with a lump of raw liver.

Freshly fried fresh flesh.

April 8th, 2009, 20:45
A big black bug bit a big brown bear.


"A biscuit, a boxed of mixed biscuits, and a biscuit mixer."
"You know New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York." <-- the one that gives me trouble sometimes
"I am a mother pheasant plucker. I am the most pleasant mother pheasant plucker that ever plucked a mother pheasant."
"Red leather, yellow leather, good blood, bad blood."

なまむぎ なまこめ なまたまご
もももすももももものうち (not really a tongue twister)

That said, I agree that this is a rather bad idea for the most part. You could throw it in as a really brief activity, but ... eh. It strikes me as counterproductive. I would suggest politely noting to the JTE that it might not help them out very much, and suggest a different pronunciation activity instead, like a minimal pair (or whatever it's called) exercise (perhaps reversed).

You might try a simple rhyme or song instead. Those can be really great. Or a snippet of a play (a bit of Shakespeare might be a confidence boost! Although it would be less useful). I remember my drama class used to use:

"To sit in solemn silence in a dull dark dock,
in a pestilential prison with a life-long lock,
awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
from a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!"
(from the Mikado)

and Puck's closing monologue from Midsummer's ("If we shadows have offended...")

For kids in a JHS English class, though, simpler options might be better. Like a nursery rhyme.

Anyway, this would probably sound like a tongue-twister to the JTE, and satisfy that requirement, but be a lot more useful.

April 8th, 2009, 21:05
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

April 9th, 2009, 13:39
Speaking of drama exercises...

What a to-do to die today, at a minute or two to two;
a thing distinctly hard to say, but harder still to do.
We'll beat a tattoo, at twenty to two
a rat-tat-tat- tat-tat-tat- tat-tat-tattoo
and the dragon will come when he hears the drum
at a minute or two to two today, at a minute or two to two.

April 9th, 2009, 14:55
I used tongue twisters a few times, and came to the same conclusion as Dombay's classes did. They are funny and interesting but frikken useless as a means of teaching English, at the level these kids are at anyway. They don't understand the words, their grasp of the pronunciation is not good enough that repeating difficult strings of words is nothing more than rote memorisation of sounds and could be any language and it wouldn't matter. That is IF they are even using the right pronounciation which you can garuntee they aren't unless you have a 1:1 teacher:student ratio.

My JTE loved them as well, and they were certainly fun. When I read out a really fast, long tongue twister they would go nuts. But, in terms of English, useless.

April 9th, 2009, 15:56
For "r" and "l":

Red lorry, yellow lorry (repeat)

I'd only teach tongue twisters to really high level students though - I don't think I've taught any at my senior high who would gain much from them.

April 12th, 2009, 14:49
I saw this on Lang-8 recently. They were presented not as tongue-twisters precisely but rather diction practice...the instructions were not to say them fast (like with tongue-twisters) but to say them slowly and clearly, with the emphasis on saying it correctly rather than seeing how fast you can do it.

Green tea ice cream is a treat to eat.

Amy aimed at the gate.

Ed said, "Get into bed."

This itchy sweater comes from Italy.

Old folks row slowly.

Tom was rather calm as he took the bomb from the box.

Go with the flow to stay in the know.

Juice makes the sauce more succulent.

Buffy's tough buddy has fallen in love.

The redhead fell at the sound of the bell.

Take a whiff of these cookies before you eat them with your friends.

Ask her if she wants to take on the task.

Mean men may cause harm.

Pay the mime a dime. His performance is sublime.

She lost her poise after hearing the noise.

Put the oily oysters on the doily.

Sheila gave Dave a shampoo and a shave.

I knew the crew in the blue canoe.

It's our duty to salute the new recruit.

The breeze made her sneeze as she walked through the trees.

There was a shortage of blood because of the flood.

Tell the truth to the rude recruit.

Veronica put the vivid violets in the Victorian vase.

The odd opera singer had a four-octave range.

Todd placed the pot on the rock.

The anchor signed off on the nightly news.

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

Throughout the night he thought things through.

Emily's enterprise enjoyed success."The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep is sick"

April 14th, 2009, 11:06
Total waste of time especially on lower level students.
can't disagree, but for just a warm up activity, it's not that bad. It's not more pointless than trying to get the kids to sing another Carpenters song.