Level: Elementary / Intermediate.

Skills: Listening.

Target Language: Pairs of phonemes (sounds) that are easily confused.

Activity Goal: Improve ability to distinguish like sounds.

Summary: This listening worksheet generator creates a listening tree exercise from 4 sets of minimal pairs. At each juncture the teacher speaks one word from the pair, and the students follow the path, listening at each juncture, to arrive at the correct number at the bottom of the tree. The exercise can be repeated multiple times using the same worksheet.

Example Usage:

  1. Distribute worksheets.
  2. Model the minimal pairs featured on your tree. Give time for the students to listen to the differences in the pairs. Tell them to watch your mouth as you speak – this will help them enormously in distinguishing the sounds.
  3. Start the activity by speaking one of the words of the first minimal pair. Students should listen, and follow the path with their finger. Continue by speaking one of the words of the next minimal pair, and students should attempt to follow the path you are taking. When you reach the bottom of the tree, students should have arrived at the same number as you have.
  4. Check answers by asking students to vote (by raising their hands) on which number they think was correct. Alternatively, with the ‘answer box’ option, you can ask students to write the answer in the box. There are 4 answer boxes provided, so you can do the activity 4 times (choosing a different path each time) before checking the students’ answers.

Notes and Ideas:

  • Once students are able to distinguish easily, try a round while covering your mouth with a piece of paper so that students are forced to distinguish by ear only. This simulates real-life situations such as telephone conversations where students can’t see the speaker’s mouth.
  • If your students have a common language other than that you are teaching, the minimal pairs that they have difficulty in distinguishing will probably be the same. Find out what sounds exist in the language you are teaching but don’t exist in the students’ native tongue. For example, for Japanese learners of English difficult minimal pairs include: R / L; th~ / sh~; b / v.

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Make Minimal Pair Tree Worksheet

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