10 fun activities for consonant clusters

Alex Case
Stimulating presentation and practice activities for consonant blends like “bl” and “nds”

Consonant clusters like “spr-” and “-nts” are one of the most difficult aspects of English for ESL students to pronounce and even hear properly, so they are well worth specific classroom practice. This article gives ten entertaining ways in which to do so.

Consonant clusters odd-one-out

Students listen to lists of words connected to consonant clusters and race to spot the odd-one-out, for example listening to a list that is mainly animals with consonant clusters in their names until they spot one that isn’t an animal or doesn’t have a consonant cluster in it. This also works for:

  • only one having a consonant cluster
  • only one having a different consonant cluster
  • one having a different number of syllables (due to something to do with consonant clusters)

Consonant clusters word building challenges

Make a list of at least ten examples of words with consonant clusters which can be built sound by sound from a more basic word, such as “rain, train, strain, strained”. These can be used with several different activities:

  • One student chooses a list they think that they can pronounce and gets one point each time that they successfully a sound, stopping when the pronounce something incorrectly or get to the longest word in that list (e.g. “strains”).
  • One student chooses a list they think that they can pronounce and gets one point for each sound that they add successfully, but loses all those points if they make a mistake before they reach the longest word at the end of the list
  • One student chooses a list, pronounces as many words in it as they can, then stops whenever they think they can’t pronounce the next one correctly (because otherwise they would lose all those points).
  • The teacher chooses a list and students or teams bid for how much they can build the base word up correctly, e.g. one team bidding “two extra letters” but the next team outbidding them with “three extra letters”. The team with the highest bid tries to build the word up that far, then gets or loses points depending on if they can do it successfully or not.
  • Students are given just the shortest examples (“rain”) and get one point each time they can build the word they choose up to a different (real) word (pronounced correctly) by just adding one sound, stopping whenever they say something that isn’t in the dictionary or add more than one sound at one time.

Consonant clusters brainstorming races

Students choose or are given a consonant cluster such as “bl-” or “-ands” and have five minutes to write as many words with those sounds as they can, with points for any which exist and that they can pronounce correctly (but no points off for imaginary words or words they don’t know the meaning of).

Consonant clusters storytelling

Give students cards with just consonant clusters on (not full words, just “-mp” etc) and tell them to use as many of them as they can as they make up a story together, perhaps starting or ending with a line on the worksheet like “Jane woke up late”.

Split consonant clusters

Make or find typical longer phrases for words with consonant clusters such as “He’s on the scrap heap”, split them at the consonant cluster (“The S + py Who Came in from the Cold”), and mix them up. Students get one point for each one they can put together and pronounce correctly.

Written by Alex Case for EnglishClub.com
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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