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Word and Sentence Stress in TEFL: A Comprehensive Guide

In the world of English Language Teaching (ELT), the importance of word and sentence stress cannot be overstated. This article is inspired by the practical workshop “Take the Stress out of Stress” by Susie Bridges, a CELTA Trainer and Former Academic Manager at the British Council who also produced many webinars for GTEFL, which you can find here.

Understanding Word and Sentence Stress

Word stress refers to the emphasis placed on a particular syllable within a word, while sentence stress pertains to the emphasis on certain words within a sentence. Both forms of stress play a crucial role in conveying meaning and enhancing comprehension.

The Impact of Stress on Meaning

Stress can significantly impact the meaning of a sentence. For instance, the sentence “I didn’t say he stole the money” can have seven different meanings depending on which word is stressed. This highlights the importance of teaching stress patterns to students, as it equips them with the tools to both understand and convey nuanced meanings.

Teaching Strategies for Word and Sentence Stress

Visual Representation

One effective way to teach stress is through visual representation. Teachers can use the board to mark stress patterns, helping students to see and understand the rhythm of English. This can be particularly useful when dealing with word families or different parts of speech.

Classroom Activities

Engaging students in activities that allow them to hear and recognise different stress patterns can significantly enhance their understanding. Activities could include stress bingo, where students identify stress patterns in words, or rhythm drills, where students practice common stress patterns in a fun and engaging manner.

Connected Speech

Connected speech refers to how we naturally link words when we speak. Introducing concepts such as elision (omission of sounds), linking (joining words together), and stress in connected speech can help students understand and produce more natural English. Focusing on everyday expressions and useful language can make this learning more relevant and practical.

Conclusion

Teaching word and sentence stress is a vital aspect of ELT. It enhances students’ comprehension and empowers them to express nuanced meanings. For those interested in exploring this topic further, we invite you to watch the workshop that Susie Bridges has produced for GTEFL on Word and Sentence Stress.

Susie Bridges started her career in ELT with two decades of dedicated service in Education & Training. She boasts a rich professional background encompassing renowned TEFL franchises such as IH & EF, intimate private language schools, esteemed UK and International Universities, The British Council, and an FE College. Functioning as a versatile freelance Teacher Trainer, she revels in the diverse roles she assumes.

We hope this article has provided you with a deeper understanding of word and sentence stress and its potential to transform ELT. As we continue to explore and implement this approach, we look forward to seeing how it will shape the future of language teaching and learning.

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