The Benefits of Working on Contractions with Your Students

Apr 18, 2023

As an ESL teacher or accent coach, you know that part of our job is to provide shortcuts that can make speaking easier for our students.

One of those shortcuts is learning to use contractions when speaking.  Understanding how to use contractions correctly will help our students sound more natural and increase fluency in English.

Contractions are shortened forms of two words that we put together to make a new word.  To form a contraction, we drop one or more letters and replace the missing letters with an apostrophe.

For example:

"do not" becomes "don't"

"she is" becomes "she’s"

“he would” becomes “he’d”

"I am" becomes "I'm"

"you will" becomes "you'll"

"we are" becomes "we’re"

“they have” becomes “they’ve”


Let’s talk about why contractions are so helpful for our students. 

Why Use Contractions?

  1. It sounds more natural: Native speakers use contractions all the time!   Contractions allow speech to flow more naturally and fluently. When we use contractions, we sound more like people actually sound in everyday conversations.  American speakers use contractions because they fit the rhythm of English better than using the full words that contractions represent. 
  2. It conveys tone and attitude: Contractions give an informal tone to your speech which helps you sound friendly and conversational. Using or NOT using contractions will help convey your tone, attitude, and intentions during a conversation. 
  3. Listeners expect them: When our speech doesn’t match what the listener expects, communication breaks down and we are not easily understood.
  4. It saves time and effort: When we use contractions, we can communicate the same message in fewer words, and we can convey information more efficiently.
  5. It enhances listening skills: When you work on contractions with your students, they learn to identify and comprehend the shortened version of two words fused together. This skill will enhance their listening abilities and help them understand spoken English more effectively.
  6. It improves comprehension of cultural references: Contractions are common in everyday conversation and are often used in cultural references such as movies, tv shows, and music. By understanding contractions, your students can better comprehend these cultural references, making them feel more integrated into English-speaking environments.
  7. It’s a good way to review other sounds/concepts while still learning something new: For example, I can review the vowel /OH/ and the stopped /T/ in the word “don’t”, I can review syllable stress and rhythm in the phrase “I’m ready”, etc.

Working on contractions with your students can enhance their English language skills in lots of different ways. It will improve their comprehension, pronunciation, intonation, rhythm, knowledge of cultural references, and overall communication effectiveness.

As a teacher or accent coach, you can include activities, exercises, or projects that target contractions in your lesson plans, making learning more enjoyable and effective.  For ESL students, understanding and utilizing these tools can be a great way to boost confidence and sound more natural in conversations.

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