How you say something is often as important as what you say.

How to Teach English Intonation to Children

by Dana Tuffelmire

Consider the difference in your voice between telling your child "No" when he asks if it's still raining outside and "No!" when he's about to reach up and touch a hot burner on the stove. You said the same word, but with more passion and urgency the second time. You can teach your child intonation through everyday conversations and pointing out the different ways you emphasize words in different situations. Make intonation lessons into interactive games or activities to engage your child and hold his interest.

Say the same word or phrase as many different ways as possible, to make intonation practice into a game. Pick a short phrase, like "Good Morning," and ask your child to say it like he's angry, sad, excited, sleepy, sick or confused. Change roles by saying the word and asking your child to guess how you are feeling based on intonation. Make up stories to accompany each word or use examples from your child's life. Say, "When you got home from school yesterday, you were really hungry. How would you have asked for a snack? What if you were really tired? Cranky?"

Teach your child short poems and practice reciting them in different ways. Use poems about the seasons, holidays, days of the week or other concepts your child is interested in. Emphasize specific words in the poem, such as the rhyming words. Once your child knows the poem well, challenge him to put the emphasis on different words or to recite it in different ways. Ask him to pretend he's a robot, a mouse, a giant or a snake.

Make Bingo cards with one word in each square, to change plain old Bingo into intonation practice. Choose words you want your child to practice or make it more challenging with words that are similar (cow and call or sat and sap). Help your child read each word on her card before beginning the game. Call a word, ask your child to repeat the word for practice and place a counter on her card if she has the word. When your child calls, "Bingo!" ask her to read each word for further practice.

About the Author

Dana Tuffelmire has been writing for DMS for three years. She taught elementary school for seven years and earned a master’s of education degree with a specialization in literacy. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two sons. Her dream is to one day write a children's book.

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