Stress, Reduce, Merge Part 1 – Sentence Stress


1. T or SS write 3 or 4 sentences on the board. There should be space between them so there is room to write above and below each one. They could be from the SS’s work or from a real text. All SS copy them into their notebooks.

2. If the sentences are by SS, T could quickly elicit corrections to errors and improvements (as in Mode 1 Stage 2.3, p.46). T models each sentence and SS repeat – as a group and individually.

3. T elicits from the group the meaning of ‘content words’ and ‘function words’:

content words (main verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, numbers, etc.) have stress and provide the meaning in a sentence

function words (articles, prepositions, pronouns, auxiliary verbs, etc.) are not usually stressed and are often reduced in spoken English; they provide the grammar in a sentence

4. T asks one SS to come to the board. T elicits from the group content words in the first sentence. The SS has to underline them.

5. T elicits from the group the stressed syllable in each content word. The SS has to mark them with a slash above each one: / . T models the sentence and SS repeat – as a group and individually.

6. T elicits from the group the vowel sound on each stressed syllable. The SS has to write them, using Clear Alphabet. (See also: Clear Alphabet Chart on p.107 and Clear Alphabet Dictionary.) T models the sequence of stressed vowel sounds and SS repeat – as a group and individually. T explains that the SS have identified the ‘Sound Spine’ in the sentence – the sequence of stressed vowel sounds, which are the most important sounds in the sentence. They have to be pronounced correctly for the meaning to be clear.

7. SS repeat the process in their groups with the remaining sentences. T monitors, checks and corrects. Group feedback at the end. T elicits the main pronunciation point (the ‘Sound Spine’): “So what have we learned from this…?”


  • SS will need to be able to read and write individual sounds of English phonetically with Clear Alphabet. This could be covered during an input lesson before running this session.
  • For further information about the Stress, Reduce, Merge process, see Talk a Lot Foundation Course and Stress, Reduce, Merge.