Free EFL/ESL Lesson Plan: Teaching Word Stress Using President Obama’s Speeches


Teaching EFL/ESL in Thailand,  I have noticed most of my EFL/ESL students have problems wtih word stress. Even the high-level students are not sure where the correct stress should be on words and, especially when giving presentations, their delivery is flat and lifeless.

So, I decided to show them an example of a good speaker — one who stresses the correct words and has a lot of energy. One of the best examples around, of course, is President Obama.


If you too need some way to teach your students about correct word stress, follow this free easy EFL/ESL lesson plan. Your students will have fun and you’ll begin to notice a difference in their speaking skills.

Expected Outcomes – EFL/ESL students will be able to vary word stress after completing this lesson. They will understand which words and phrases they can stress and which words they should not.

Materials and Resources: – Whiteboard markers, whiteboard, video camera (if you want to videotape), handout of Obama speech transcript, MP3 file of an Obama speech, and handout of example ‘stress’ text.

Teaching Procedures:

Step One: Talk to your students about word stress how, when many EFL/ESL students learn English, they do not stress correctly like a native speaker would. Read something to them to give them an example of a flat tone, so they can hear what they need to change.

Step Two: Go over the rules of word stress with your students: ie: there are 2 different types of words a) Content Words (verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, negative auxiliary verbs, question words and demonstratives). and b) Function Words (pronouns, articles, adjectives, conjunctions, and auxiliary verbs).

Step Three: Handout anything you can use to show correct word stress. I use a copy of a one page presentation (very short!) that my company uses. It has 4 short paragraphs on it.

I read the first paragraph aloud, telling them which words should be stressed to make the content sound interesting. Then I ask my students to go through the other 3 paragraphs and tell me which words they think should be stressed.

Step Four: Give them a handout of one of the transcripts of Barack Obama speeches from American Rhetoric. (You can use speeches by other people, there are thousands on the website, but I like the Barack Obama speeches as he has high energy and is extremely eloquent).

Just using the first page of the speech, assign a paragraph or two to each student and ask them to spend 5 minutes underlining the words they think should be stressed and then to practice, in their heads, how they think it should sound.

Each student in turn now reads their portion of the speech to the rest of the class stressing the words that they think should be stressed. As each student finishes reading, don’t forget to praise the things they did correctly and comment constructively on the word stress that could use improvement. Continue to do this with each student until at least the first page of the transcript has been read.

Step Five: Play the MP3 or video file for the Barack Obama speech you chose (also on American Rhetoric, and ask students to listen carefully to see a) if they stressed the words the same way Obama did and b) was there anything they thought he could have stressed differently. (My students usually have interesting comments about Obama’s delivery and it’s then that I explain political speeches, especially in America, are all about inspiring and creating emotion).

Step Six: Explain to your EFL/ESL students that you will be using the word stress lesson plan in class for the next two or three weeks with other projects and make sure, for homework, they practice stressing words correctly.

Evaluation and Assessment:

1. participation in class, 2. students’ understanding of vword stress and classroom material (handouts, discussion etc) 3. behavior and attention in class, 4. reading ability.

This free EFL/ESL lesson plan is perfect to teach students how use word stress in English correctly. You can also adapt it to make it easier for lower levels and more difficult for advanced levels