Minimal pairs listening activities.
Here are some interesting activities for students to practice listening and identifying minimal pairs. Minimal pairs are just 2 words that differ by 1 sound and are useful for language students of all ages.
In the first 2 activities above and below, students must listen to 3 words and circle which words they hear. As the teacher, you can read any three words you like. It is best to print one extra sheet for yourself and circle the words you say as you go.
The sheets contain mixed sets of minimal pairs and pictures to help students with any new vocabulary. Worksheet 1 has the minimal pars of – ball/bowl, ship/sheep, pen/pan, sink/think, hill/hell, tree/three, mop/map, and lock/luck.
Minimal pairs listening activity 2
Activity 2 is the same as activity one except that it has different minimal pairs. The pairs on this worksheet are – bee/pea, ring/wing, wash/watch, gold/cold, sit/seat, peel/pill, peach/beach, and jail/gel.
If you want to make the listening activity more difficult, cover your mouth with your hand or a piece of paper when reading the words out. This way students must rely solely on their hearing and can’t see your mouth make the sound shapes.
These activities can also be speaking exercises. You can ask students to come to the front and read 3 or more words to the rest of the class. You can also get your students to sit opposite each other and read 4 sets each and make it a pair work activity.
Minimal pairs listening activity 3
Activity 3 is also known around the ESL world as a pronunciation journey. Here it is slightly different in that the destinations are animals.
Students are to listen to 4 words (minimal pairs) and decide to go left or right. Their final destination is one of the 16 animals. If they identify the correct words they will be at the correct animal.
To set up this minimal pairs listening activity, first, write 4 sets of minimal pairs in 2 columns on the board. Above the left column write left and above the right column write right. Explain to students that when they come to a crossroads on their worksheet they must choose to go left or right, depending on which word they hear.
For example, if the first pair is ship and sheep, they go left if they hear ship, or right if they hear sheep. This continues for 3 more words until they arrive at an animal. Hopefully, they identify the correct words and arrive at the same animal as you. If not, you can repeat the minimal pairs again and find out which sounds are causing them problems.
The activity is a lot of fun and you can also get your class to do it in small groups or pairs. This way they also get to practice speaking. Below is a short teacher’s sheet with some minimal pairs you cand use and some examples.