Dear Parents,


Do you wish for your child to become a fluent English speaker? As a non-native English-speaking adult do you find it difficult to help your son or daughter practice English?


Because you may feel self-conscience about your own English abilities, you may feel stressed and pressured when it comes to correcting your child. Here are a variety of games, activities, and exercises you can use to help your child practice some of the most commonly made English errors.




It is very difficult for non-native English speakers to pronounce r, l, th, and sh or s sounds. Instead of trying to force the pronunciation of sounds through repeated speaking drills, expose your child to as many listening materials as you can to help him or her develop an inner ear, or in other words an ability to hear the correct way to pronounce a word.


They can experiment with speaking these sounds in their own timing. Here are some ideas:


Cartoons: If, for example, th’s are hard to pronounce, ask your child to identify th words throughout a television episode. Shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Dora the Explorer require the viewer to respond to characters on the screen.


Tongue Twisters: Create a phrase or sentence in which each word begins with the same letter and then repeat it as fast as possible. For example, “she sells seashells, sandals, and sandwiches by the seashore.”


Word Stress


When children form sentences, they often stress incorrect word syllables. This may cause the meaning of a phrase to change, causing English speakers to misinterpret the statement.


Remember; every word has one stress point. Vowels, not consonants, will always be stressed. Remember these four important rules:


Rule # 1: Most two-syllable nouns and adjectives stress the first syllable

Examples: Student, Disney, Susan, happy, yellow, friendly


Rule #2: Most two-syllable verbs stress the second syllable

Examples: Decide, begin, present


Rule #3: Words that end in -ic, -sion, or -tion usually stress the second to last syllable

Examples: Photographic, tribulation


Rule #4: Words ending in -cy, -ty, -phy, -gy, and -al generally stress the third to last syllable

Examples: Activity, photography, technology, animal


Sing a song: Sing along with your child to his or her favorite American song, which instantly helps to correct word stress errors. Try classics like A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Baa Baa Black Sheep, I’m A Little Teapot, Old MacDonald, This Old Man, Yankee Doodle.


Poems: Create a poem orally or by reading an existing poem to practice speaking with a fluent rhythm or meter using nursery rhymes like Jack and Jill or Humpty Dumpty.


Singular, Plural and Tense


Singular and Plural Nouns: Many nouns do not require a change to the ending when changing from singular to plural, because the singular form already acts as the plural form.


Here are a few nouns that are both singular and plural:


  • sheep
  • elk
  • moose
  • fish
  • deer




  • I cooked one fish, but she cooked two fish.


Non-Countable Nouns: There is no need to change the ending of non-countable nouns to make them plural, because they cannot be counted and therefore do not have a plural form.


Can you count these nouns? No, I didn’t think so.


Here are a few non-countable nouns:


  • water
  • milk
  • wine
  • beer
  • ice
  • plastic
  • wood
  • metal
  • dust
  • air
  • hair
  • flour
  • cheese
  • rice
  • meat
  • weather
  • cereal





  • The baby has a lot of hair on her head.
  • The boy likes to eat many bowls of rice for dinner.
  • There were many particles of dust in the air after the fire.


Past Tense Verbs: When making a verb past tense, be aware that several verbs will not change to an -ed ending.


Here are some examples:


  • “to teach” becomes “taught” (not “teached”)
  • “to catch” becomes “caught” (not “catched”)
  • “to buy” becomes “bought” (not “buyed”)
  • “to choose” becomes “chose” (“not choosed”)
  • “to lose” becomes “lost” (not “losed”)


Examples of correct sentences:


  • They boy caught a ball during the baseball game on holiday.
  • My mother taught me how to cook last week.
  • The child bought a new bike yesterday.


Try these methods for practicing tense:


Reading: Examine the tense used within a children’s storybook. Identify past tense verbs that do not use -ed endings. How many non-countable nouns can you find? Make a list.


Skits and Plays: Grab a camera, phone, or tablet to record your child on video. Let your child act out a scene for you to get him or her talking. When you play back the scene, be sure to help your child identify tenses he or she used correctly. Try asking friends to go play outside, or have a tea party using stuffed animals and toys as props.  




Children often mix up the usage of the following words:


  • there (a place or position)
  • their (belonging to or associated with one or more other people)
  • they’re (contraction of “they are”)




  • They’re very studious students! Their homework has been placed over there.


Children also frequently have trouble with the following words:


  • your (belonging to or associated with someone [you])
  • you’re (contraction of “you are”)




  • You’re a very great friend! Your parents are waiting for you at the stop sign.


You can try improving usage of these words with the following instructional exercises:  


Sentence Drills: Ask your child to create a sentence using each of the words listed above. Sign up for an English lesson with an italki tutor. Ask the teacher to correct your child’s sentences and provide you with some helpful grammar tips and advice.


Sentence Gap Filling: Younger children find it much easier to fill in a blank with a list of words rather than producing a sentence from scratch. As a parent, try creating your own sentences for your child to fill in.




  • ______ homework is sitting on the counter (Answer: Their).
  • The book is sitting over ______ (Answer: there).


Attention Span


Children often lose interest in learning when they are not active participants in it. Brainstorm and create your own games to incorporate these commonly made English errors into your practice sessions. Be sure you adjust the games and activities according to the age and level of your child.


Here are a few game ideas you can use to keep your children interested:


I Spy: Count how many objects you can find in the room you are sitting beginning with the letter of your choice.


For example, in order to practice pronouncing r sounds, ask your child to identify the names of objects he/she sees beginning with r: rug, red, rocking chair, etc.


Twenty Questions: Ask and answer yes or no questions to practice word stress. You have twenty chances to guess the object the other person is thinking of.


The earlier you expose your child to English, the easier it will be for him or her to naturally grasp language concepts that aren’t necessarily taught directly from a textbook.


Engage and motivate your child by challenging him or her with these games and activities to aid in the correction of commonly made English errors. Remember to be positive and praise your son or daughter when he or she exhibits improvement.


Make English learning as fun as possible!


Image Sources


Hero Image by Dana (CC BY-ND 2.0)