Chinese tones pronunciation


China on the tip of your tongue (Open University)

Chinese Pronunciation guide (Harvard Edu)

tones lesson (learn NC)

Mandarin tone pairs drill  (created by Sinosplice-

BBC Chinese tones game



Activity 1- tone identification

Record yourself saying words in the different tones, or use tones practice ( if you want to link in an online classroom ; students have to correctly identify which tone.

Extension: students practice amongst themselves, to see if they can reproduce the tone.

Extension: students record themselves saying the different tones at home, and upload to the online classroom.


Activity 2- tone identification

Create sheets with each tone on , either enough for one per table, or one per student, depending on how you want to play.

Teacher says a word- students have to hold up the correct tone (NB, the student doesn’t have to understand the word, they are just listening for the tone, so you need to exaggerate it a little to begin with).

Alternative: teacher holds up the tone, students have to say a (pre-chosen or not) word with that tone- either as a whole group, or individuals.


Activity 3- tone production

Either in small groups or class, go around saying the tones in correct order. If a student gets the tone wrong, they are out. (variant of duck-duck goose).


Activity 4- tone contrast (listening)

(Use the pinyin activity sheet from Chinese Pronunciation guide (Harvard Edu) resource, or create your own)

Give each student a red and green card. Tell them are going to hear two words that are written the same in pinyin, but have different tones and meaning. If you are contrasting first and third tones, tell them to hold up red if they think they hear first tone, green if they hear third tone. (If you think they will cheat, ask them to close their eyes, tell them this improves listening 😉 )


Activity 5- Initials

(Initials resource from Harvard )

Ask students to listen to the initials sounds. Choose two difficult sounds (e.g. zhi and chi) and either repeat a variant of activity 4, or use the pronunciation journey template.