Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Minimal Pairs and Free Worksheets

This tutor tip comes from Literacy Network Tutor Allison Phillips. Let it be known, therefore, that Allison has hereby earned the distinction of Brian's Favorite Tutor of the Week. Read her note below:

This is Allison Phillips and I was recently paired up with Olga R— I am sending her debate questions by e-mail during the week to help her with communicating larger ideas and we are doing online grammar tutorials. These are great web resources, by the way: has classroom exercises that can be used for one on one lessons and great tutorials.

Also, at the end of this page there are lists of minimal pairs: Any questions, let me know and I will be in touch if I have any myself! Thanks!


The first site Allison mentions has terrific “tutorials” and easy-to-use worksheets to work on things like verb tenses, prepositions and phrasal verbs (such as “get up”). A great way to get lesson material in a hurry.

Here is a screen shot of the minimal pairs grid from the second site. I thought you might like a little explanation with it. Below the grid is a key to the phonetic symbols it uses. Take courage—it’s not as confusing as it looks!

So, this chart lets you differentiate between two different vowel sounds when you do minimal pairs. If you click on the first square, the one numbered 471, you will get minimal pairs to teach the difference between short ‘i’ and short ‘e.’ The next square gives you minimal pairs to discriminate between short ‘i’ and short ‘a’ sounds. For those confusing symbols I have placed below a chart to help decode.

ɪ short ‘i’ as in ink
e short ‘e’ as in elk
æ short ‘a’ as in bat or amp
ɑ ‘ar’ as in arm or barn
ɒ short ‘o’ as in bottle
ɔ short ‘o’ as in fog or law
ʊ short ‘u’ sound as in put or rook
u long ‘u’ sound as in ooze or tutor
ʌ short ‘u’ sound, as in uncle or slump
3 ‘ur’ sound, as in curl, earth, bird
ə schwa, the unstressed vowel that like the first sound in appall or the vowel in the
eɪ long ‘a’ sound in baker, play
aɪ long ‘i’ sound as in ion, lye, pie, right
ɔɪ ‘oi’ sound, as in oil, alloy
əʊ long ‘o’ sound, as in croak, dome, over
aʊ ‘ow’ sound, as in oust, loud,
ɪə long ‘e’ sound, as in ear, beetle
eə long ‘a’ sound, as in care, bear
ʊə long ‘u’ sound, as in allure, boor— sounds like two syllables

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