When I read Teresa Bestwick’s short post titled “Minimal Pairs Telephone” I immediately knew that a variation of this would be a hit in my classroom.
The fact that it is such a simple activity to prepare and that the activity is so easy for the students to understand makes it even more appealing.
In addition, it’s fun! Especially with the twist I added.
Teresa used minimal pairs. That’s out of the question when working with students who don’t hear well. The difference between words such as “fit” and “feet” is very hard to hear and to see on the lips. So I decided to practice the “Magic E”. The words with the magic E have longer sounds and are easier for the students to hear and see. And there is a nice rule one can use.
Since I teach in the format of a learning center, I could not do this activity on the board with the whole class, the way Teresa did it. I needed this activity to be up on the wall to be done individually or in small groups during the week. So I used 10 index cards, and attached them to an existing activity board (little pockets for flashcards).
Above each word there is a number, zero to nine.
First I asked each student what the difference is between the words that look mostly similar (hat /hate). They all noticed the letter “e ” at the end. I explained about the Magic E and its effect on pronunciation and said the words out loud. Then I informed them that I was going to say my phone number, but in words!
You may be surprised, but it isn’t so simple to think of a number and then say a word. I found myself wanting to point to each word and it goes slower than rattling off numbers. Try it!
Then it was the student’s turn. To make it more amusing, I asked the students to fold their arms and not point at all and just read off the words of their phone number. I pointed to each word I understood and they had to nod if I had understood them correctly. If they didn’t pronounce the word correctly they had to repeat my example.
The students loved it! I love it! It was great fun for them trying to meet the challenge of not pointing and not getting confused and they all tried hard to say the words correctly. I’ll see how many repetitions we can manage of this activity before moving on to the next one.
One student got a new phone with a different phone number just before school. He could not recall his new phone number. I told him to use his old phone number. The student came back to me later in the day and said he found his new number and asked to repeat the activity!
This year I only have three students who are profoundly Deaf from Deaf families and don’t usually use their voice very much. I had planned in advance that any student who wanted could opt out of a speaking activity and learn to sign the vocabulary items in ASL (American Sign Language) instead. They wanted to speak the words too and did create a difference between how they said the words! No one else would understand their speech, that’s for sure, but even for Deaf students speaking helps retention.