Teaching Tuesdays

Teacher Tuesday – Minimal Pairs

Well let’s just change that to Teacher Tuesday on a Wednesday Morning.   Sorry, I just had a headache yesterday.

However, I was pondering the word of the day Minimal and came up with very little to write about.  Ha ha..but true.    While seeking inspiration, I happened upon the definition for minimal pairs  which are words that differ by only one sound.  These pairs of words can cause pronunciation problems for our ELL students as well as others.

True story:  I did not learn/hear the difference between sit and set until my first year teaching.  Imagine my embarrassment when a whole study hall asked “Do you mean sit down?”  after I had asked them to set down.

It turns out I have a problem hearing/pronouncing the difference in minimal pairs.  I still struggle to pronounce the long e sound in words.  For example,  deal is pronounced dill,  feel is pronounced fill, etc.

And there was the time I was wrote about perspective teachers throughout one of my Master’s papers.  Yup, another embarrassment.  I still struggle with pre, pro, and por…and rely on spell check heavily to help me with this.

I always thought one had a sick sense…and people believe in old wise tales.

So it turns out that these pairs play a not so minimal part in my life.  But I am surprised I am just now learning about them.  (Keep in mind, I am a math major though…so that likely explains it.)

I have not had time to explore this further, but I will be checking out minimal pairs pronunciation activities and thinking about ways to incorporate them into my teaching and learning.    I also want to explore the connections to this morning’s late-start meeting where we discussed language development.   (Related side note:  Today was the first time I realized {yes, I pronounce this rilizedlistening is a component of language.)  My favorite quote from today’s meeting.

Language is a tool we use to ACT in the world.

I want to act fully in the world and I want my students to act fully as well.  I would hate to think that minimal pairs limit students’ or my own participation in the action, but I have a hunch that sometimes it might.

Please share if you know of strategies that work.


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