Speak an Adverb‏‎

Speak an Adverb is a way to have your students practice different kinds of intonation‏‎ and language register‏‎ in English and also to help them become aware of the importance they play in speaking‏‎.

A short amount of preparation is enough for different versions of the game and with right materials it can be used to practice intonation with many different ages and levels‏‎ of students.


Make up a list of cards‏‎ each of which has an adverb‏‎ style on it. For example:

  • happily
  • sadly
  • questioningly
  • angrily
  • lovingly
  • nervously
  • condescendingly

You can also include more situational types of adverb cards:

  • speaking to your boss; you’re worried he’s going to fire you
  • talking to a baby
  • talking to a customs official and your suitcase is full of smuggled goods
  • at a job interview
  • you know a terrible secret about the person you’re speaking to

and so on.

In Class

There are different ways to play this. For the first couple of examples, it is often best to show the class yourself. Then get a good student up to show them again, then the rest of the class.

First choose a good phrase that you’d like to practice with the class and write it up on the board. Make sure everyone understands what it means.

Now pick an adverb card at random from the pile and, without showing it to the class, read the phrase out in the style of the adverb. For example the phrase might be have a nice day! and you pick out the adverb grumpily.

The class then have to try and guess what’s on the card. Then of course you can bring different students to the front to play the game or have them in small groups doing this.

Variations on a Theme

Analysis. Depending on the class, you can take each adverb and examine it with the class, drawing diagrams and explaining how the intonation changes depending on the context.

Multiple Phrases. Instead of using just one phrase, have a list of phrases and the students each pick a different phrase before picking an adverb card. These phrases, of course, should be the right level for the class. You can include phrases you’ve recently worked on with the class on topics they are familiar with.

Taping. You might also like to introduce a tape recorder into the class to have the class listen to variations in intonation with the same phrase.

Competition. You can also divide the class into teams. A student from Team A comes up and has to speak the adverb to their team. If their team can’t guess, Team B tries to answer with points being awarded and so on.

Useful Links
Adverbs‏‎ – all about adverbs

Speaking‏‎ – a general look at speaking in ELT

Intonation‏‎ – an introduction to intonation

Language Register‏‎ – a look at language register and what it means

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Posted in Parts of Speech.

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