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Lesson Plan #: AELP-LIN0200
Submitted by: George Maclean
Email: geomac@mac.email.ne.jp
School/University/Affiliation: St. Mary’s International School, Japan

May 31, 2001

Grade Level: Kindergarten, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Higher Education, Adult/Continuing Education


  • Foreign Language/Linguistics

Duration: 20-40 minutes

Description: Minimal pairs are pairs of words that differ in only one sound, with the sound occurring in the same position in each member of the pair, e.g. bat vs. bet. Certain combinations are known to be challenging for certain groups of foreign language learners, depending on their native language. For example, Japanese learners have trouble with l and r. Russian learners have trouble with short vowels, such as e and a. Placing such minimal pairs side-by-side in a game situation can raise learners’ consciousness of their pronunciation challenges, albeit in a non-threatening context.


  • To develop students’ phonological awareness.
  • To promote student-to-student negotiation.
  • To promote a more student-centered classroom.
  • Objectives:

  • Students will be able to identify the differences between minimal pair phonemes when spoken by others.
  • Students will practice and improve their pronunciation of minimal pair phonemes.
  • Materials:

    • pencils
    • erasers
    • chips (to cover Bingo sheets)
    • Bingo Sheets
    • Bingo Sheets in .pdf format; requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

      Click the icon to obtain the free Reader.

    Prepare a list of minimal pairs, based on your students’ pronunciation challenges. (For example, l and r for Japanese students; as in lip and rip.) Introduce the target phonemes to students and practice them. Divide the students into pairs. One student receives Bingo Sheet A, and the other student receives Bingo Sheet B. Let the students dictate their words to each other (taking turns) until they have completed 12 minimal pairs. Once they have written all of the words on their sheets, correct their answers as a group. Address any questions that students might have. (This is a good chance for supplementary instruction, too. As an alternative, the teacher could hand out an answer key and have students correct their answers with a partner.)

    Inform students that they will use their sheets to play a game of Bingo! Have students choose one word from each of 12 minimal pairs listed on their papers. Students fill in the blanks on the racetrack with the words they have selected. (It is important to make sure that students choose only one of each pair. This allows another chance to focus students’ attention on the difference between the minimal pairs when the words are read out loud.) Hand out chips which can be used to cover the words on students’ Bingo sheets. Let the races begin! (Play Bingo!) Read only one of each pair until all the pairs are exhausted. If there is still no winner, then continue with the second word from each pair. Have students evaluate their results. (Note: For a variation in the Bingo game, use rhyming words or normal vocabulary words instead of minimal pairs.) Assessment: Collect students’ Bingo sheets to check for accuracy. Note any words which are giving students difficulty, and focus on these words for the next class.

    Other Reference:
    Avery, P. & Ehrlich, S. (1992). Teaching American English Pronunciations