Minimal Pair Craft – Holiday Paper Chains

Minimal Pair Holiday Paper Chain Craft

minimal pair: a pair of words that differ in sound by one phoneme (EX: cat/bat, sit/sip, hit/hat)

Are your students reviewing Three-Letter Words with Sprout English’s featured phonics pack? Have you introduced the concept of minimal pairs? Here is a fun holiday-themed craft that you can do to practice three-letter minimal pairs in December. Adjust the difficulty based on your students.

You will need
* lots of red, green, and white strips of paper about 5″ long by 1″ wide  (or use wrapping paper)
* felt markers (black or something that shows up well on colored paper)
* staplers or tape (a few shared around the classroom)

Minimal Pairs Activity
1. Review the concept of three-letter minimal pairs. Show lots of examples on the board, and get students to give you examples. Use Sprout English’s phonics pages for ideas.

2. Erase the board and have students put papers away.

3. Put students into pairs (or small groups).

4. Assign pairs or groups a few three-letter words that have obvious minimal pairs. Make sure that some pairs/groups have the same words. If your students are more advanced, allow them to pick their own three-letter words that have minimal pairs.

Example words to assign
hot
cat
fun
bit
big

5. Have students write their assigned three-letter words on colored strips of paper (one word per strip).

6. Tell students to think of a word that would make a minimal pair with the word they were assigned. They should write the new word on a different colored strip and connect the strips to form a ring. (The words should go on the outside, so that they can be read easily.) Students should repeat this step for each assigned word. (The connected rings might say “cat/fat” or “hot/hat”.) Tell them not to connect the paired rings yet!

7. After each pair or group has made a few pairs of rings, tell your students to go around the room with their minimal pair rings to find others groups who have used the same words or pairs. When they find a match, they can connect their rings together. (Challenge them to find a third word that rhymes with the pairs rather than breaking their chains to attach them.) You may need to help your students think of additional words that work as minimal pairs. (EX: hot, hit, hat, hut OR hot, got, lot, pot, not)

8. Review the words together as a class to see if there are any shorter chains that can be added together. Help your students find creative ways to join chains together. (For example cat, mat, rat could be added to rap, nap, sap.)

9. Hang your holiday chains around the classroom as decorations.

Useful questions to put on the board
Are you done with the tape?
Can I use the stapler?
Are these words minimal pairs?
Is there a word that makes a minimal pair with the word “hat”?
What pairs did you make?
How can we make this chain longer?

Tara Benwell

Tara Benwell is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in materials and articles for the ELT industry. She is the media director and head writer for ESL-Library, and a contributor to its sister site Sprout English. Tara is the author of an iPad storybook series for kids called Happy Campers Books. Her debut novel, The Proper Order of Things is available on Amazon and in the iBookstore.

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