Monthly Archives: February 2013

ESL Lesson Plan for Intonation

Lesson plan – Intonation (30 minutes)

I teach this lesson to my ESL students in my Oral Communications class. I usually start my class with a pronunciation tip, such as this one, because my students find it helpful and fun, and it loosens them up for the rest of the class session. I like to arrange the desks so that they form a “U”. This arrangement is helpful for both pair and large group work.

INSTRUCTION (5-10 minutes)

I start the lesson by explaining what Intonation is and why it’s so important:

Intonation is the rise and fall of the voice in speech and is necessary in communication. Correct use of intonation helps to effectively convey your message, but incorrect use of intonation may confuse the listener, causing the message to be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

I then show how intonation is used correctly:

Intonation should fall at the end of declarative statements. Falling intonation communicates certainty and completion.


  • That’s my house.
  • I like apples.

Intonation should rise at the end of questions or statements expressing doubt. Rising intonation communicates uncertainty and doubt.


  • You’re moving?
  • You didn’t sleep last night?
  • Are you coming?
  • Is it snowing?

IN-CLASS EXERCISES (20-25 minutes)

After the instructional part of the lesson, I then give my students time in class to practice what they just learned. I like to give them exercises to do in pairs, and also as a large group. I’ve found that variety helps keep them interested.

In pairs

For the following exercise, I would put my students in pairs and have them take turns reading statements with falling intonation and rising intonation.

One of them would be Student A, and the other would be Student B. After reading all 4 statements, they would then switch.

As the instructor, I would walk around and listen to each pair to ensure that their intonation was correct. If I heard them struggling or using incorrect intonation, I would model the correct intonation for them and have them repeat after me until they got it correct.

Student A: You ran fifty miles.
Student B: You ran fifty miles?

Student A: He drank all of the wine.
Student B: He drank all of the wine?

Student A: She won the competition.
Student B: She won the competition?

Student A: They have 25 children.
Student B: They have 25 children?

As a class

For this exercise, I would divide the class in half. The right half would first ask the questions, and the left half would answer them.

After doing all 5 questions and responses, they would then switch so that everyone has practice using both rising and falling intonation.

  1. Can you hear me? Yes I can.
  2. Are we staying? No, we’re going.
  3. Can I help you? Yes, please.
  4. Is he your brother? No, he’s my friend.
  5. Have they left yet? Yes, they’ll be here soon.

For homework, I would assign Speechpeek lesson that reinforces the lesson above and allows me to review each individual students’ progress.  Students love Speechpeek, because they can practice without classroom embarrassment, and I can provide personalized feedback to each of my students.

Sample SpeechPeek Lesson

1a. We need a better library!
1b. We need a better library?

2a. I’m going to get an A in this class?
2b. I’m going to get an A in this class!

3a. I deserve a raise?
3b. I deserve a raise!

4a. I’m a good student!
4b. I’m a good student?

5a. I worked hard on the project?
5b. I worked hard on the project!

6a. Sujin is my best friend?
6b. Sujin is my best friend!

7a. Hans doesn’t like pizza!
7b. Hans doesn’t like pizza?

8a. We saw Jorge’s new car?
8b. We saw Jorge’s new car!