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Phonology and Articulation Auditory discrimination of minimal pairs  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


Listen for the difference between words which are minimal pairs (are different by just one sound) for example "key" and "tea".

Phonology/Articulation:Phonological Awareness
Section:Early Years (0-5yrs) info; Primary (5-11yrs) info
Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
Main instructions

Pictures of minimal pair words (e.g. key/tea) - photocopy them on to card (e.g. 6 of each word) so that the child can't see through the card.

1. Put one of each picture (e.g. key and tea) on the table, face up.

2. Mix up the rest of the pictures and put them in a pile face down.

3. Take one picture from the pile, don't let the child see it!

4. Say what is on the picture (e.g. key).

5. Make sure you present the pictures in a random order so that the child can't predict what's coming next.

6. The child has to point to the appropriate picture on the table.

7. If it is right, the child can have a shot at one of the following games below.

These are the main instructions for the activities. Use this with the games below.

Posting Game

2 boxes with holes cut out, to look like a post box

1. Stick one of the minimal pair cards on each of the post boxes.

2. When the child identifies the right picture, he/she can post it in the corresponding post box.

Alternatively you could have animals' faces on the boxes, with holes cut out for mouths.

Racing Game

2 racing tracks of equal length (you can draw these on some paper)

2 toy cars

1. Put one of each minimal pair picture at the start of each track.

2. Put a car at the start of each track.

3. When the child identifies one of the words (e.g. key), he/she is allowed to move the car one square along on the corresponding track.

To make sure the racing tracks are the same length, divide each one up into separate squares for the cars to move along.

Colouring Game

Pictures to colour in


When the child identifies the correct word, he/she can colour part of the picture.


Building bricks (one-inch cubes work best)

1. Put two pictures on the table.

2. Each time you say a word, give the child one brick.

3. The child has to put the brick on the correct picture. The aim is to build a tower on each picture. How high can it be before it falls over?

Bean bowls

4 bowls


2 pictures for one pair of words (see comments for which pictures to use).

Put a picture in each bowl. Give the child some beans and keep some yourself.

Tell the child which of his bowls to throw a bean into.

Put a bean into the correct bowl in your set.

Check and see if he put it in the right bowl. At the end, if he has the same number of beans in each bowl as you do, he wins.

You could also take it in turns to say which bowl to throw the beans into, or you could play with another child/children

Use pairs of words. For example one word will have 's' in it and one will have 'd', the way the child pronounces it. The word with 'd' in it can be a monster/alien/object from outer space/ different language.

Possible words, e.g. using:

's'/'d' at the beginning:

sail, dale

sip, dip

sock, dock

's'/'d' in the middle:

bossy, body

racing, raiding

's'/'d' at the end

kiss, kid

race, raid

rice, ride

sauce, sword

Lotto game

Lotto boards (4 pictures to a board. Use pairs of words from the list above, but do not put both words of a pair on the same board)

Corresponding picture cards

Play this in a pair or small group of children.

Give the children a lotto board each. Explain that they need to listen carefully to what you are going to call.

Shuffle the picture cards and keep them face down. Take one card at a time, and say what picture is on it. The child who has that picture must ask for it.

The first child to fill their board wins.

See example list of words above.

Dragon's Treasure

Use the lotto boards and picture cards described in the lotto activity.

'Precious' objects e.g. cup, casket etc.

blutac or sticky tape


Play this with a pair of children or a small group.

Fix the picture cards onto the objects. These are the 'treasure'. One child is the 'dragon'. The dragon must sleep until the timer goes off.

You choose one of the lotto boards, and use it as a list of 'treasure' that you must acquire. However, you are allergic to dragons and cannot go near them. The other child is your helper.

You tell him what treasure to collect from the dragon, one item at a time. (Call the items by the name of the picture card stuck on them). If he gets the wrong one, he must take it back.

Try and get as much treasure as possible before the dragon wakes up!

Have the children take turns being the dragon and the 'helper' (or 'hobbit' if they are familiar with the story).

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