Minimal Pairs

Pairs of words that differ by only one sound are called minimal pairs. When students are learning a foreign language, some sounds don’t exist in their native languages, and these sounds can be difficult to say and hear. It’s a good idea to study some of the tricky words side-by-side. This helps students realize that the words don’t sound the same, and with some practice, they’ll learn proper pronunciation.

Here are eight sets of pairs. Each set has five pairs, for a total of ten words. The files are designed to be displayed with a big-screen TV or projector. When repeating after the teacher, the teacher should typically say both words, to expose the contrasting sounds.

For a quick quiz, the teacher says a word, and students raise their right or left hand to indicate which word they (think they) heard. Or, students can say right or left out loud. Then the teacher indicates the answer. After a few minutes of teacher-led practice, make pairs and ask students to quiz each other, in the same style as before. When students are quizzing each other, there’s a chance that the speaker will mispronounce a word, leading to general confusion, so close the topic by repeating after the teacher.

Set A

  1. bath / bus
  2. fly / fry
  3. hat / hot
  4. ball / bell
  5. lock / rock

Set B

  1. sheep / ship
  2. fan / van
  3. mouse / mouth
  4. cap / cup
  5. light / right

Set C

  1. cat / cut
  2. flute / fruit
  3. pen / pin
  4. play / pray
  5. race / rice

Set D

  1. glass / grass
  2. hair / her
  3. map / mop
  4. horse / hose
  5. sink / think

Set E

  1. man / men
  2. base / vase
  3. wash / watch
  4. bees / peas
  5. heat / hit

Set F

  1. slow / throw
  2. cart / cat
  3. bag / bug
  4. box / fox
  5. heel / hill

Set G

  1. dock / duck
  2. clown / crown
  3. sleep / slip
  4. warm / worm
  5. list / wrist

Set H

  1. ear / year
  2. walk / work
  3. peach / pitch
  4. girl / gull
  5. fast / first

lock rock

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Noun Cards

Here are six sets of noun cards.  Each set has twenty-five cards.  The cards are made to be printed on A4 paper, though you could resize them if you like.  Each card has a picture on the front and the word on the back.  If the picture shows a plural of something, the word on the back is in plural form.

Although the pictures were chosen to be clear and obvious, it is often possible to come up several words that might match it.  If there are multiple matching words—if the picture is a pair of sneakers, for example, both shoes and sneakers are legit—then teach both words.

Set A Set B Set C
1. ant 1. airplane 1. bee
2. apple 2. bicycle 2. bread
3. bear 3. blackboard 3. cereal
4. bed 4. bus 4. butterfly
5. book 5. clock 5. cap
6. car 6. coffee 6. CD
7. cat 7. elephant 7. chicken
8. chair 8. fish 8. chopsticks
9. cherries 9. forest 9. cup
10. computer 10. fork 10. eggs
11. desks 11. glasses 11. fox
12. dog 12. helicopter 12. gloves
13. eraser 13. knife 13. grapes
14. flowers 14. lake 14. guitar
15. friends 15. light 15. pears
16. hamburger 16. lion 16. rabbit
17. juice 17. newspaper 17. recorder
18. mouse 18. orange 18. shirt
19. pencil 19. sandals 19. the Moon
20. piano 20. shoes 20. the Sun
21. strawberry 21. snake 21. toast
22. telephone 22. spoon 22. train
23. tomato 23. tea 23. truck
24. tree 24. trash can 24. TV
25. water 25. watch 25. violin
Set D Set E Set F
1. belt 1. beetle 1. bamboo
2. deer 2. broccoli 2. bench
3. grasshopper 3. buffalo 3. broom
4. hat 4. cellphone 4. camera
5. headphones 5. classroom 5. canoe
6. horse 6. cookie 6. cicada
7. hot dog 7. cupcake 7. colored pencils
8. lettuce 8. dragonfly 8. doughnut
9. money 9. frog 9. duck
10. mosquito 10. key 10. fire station
11. motorcycle 11. kiwi 11. fries
12. park 12. laptop 12. highlighters
13. pillow 13. lock 13. hospital
14. pizza 14. mountains 14. muffin
15. rain 15. onion 15. potato chips
16. restroom 16. potato 16. raspberries
17. rice balls 17. projector 17. rose
18. sea 18. pumpkin 18. sailboat
19. snow 19. rainbow 19. salt and pepper
20. sofa 20. ruler 20. scissors
21. table 21. sky 21. sheep
22. tiger 22. spaghetti 22. sneakers
23. town 23. stapler 23. spider
24. umbrella 24. sunflower 24. video game
25. zebra 25. window 25. wallet

tea

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Frog Actions Boards

There are some wonderful pictures of frogs doing various things created by Alexas Fotos on Pixabay that make good practice for present continuous sentences. I put some of these together to create two Bingo boards, each with twelve pictures.

  • Frog Actions Board A: ODT & PDF.
  • Frog Actions Board B: ODT & PDF.
  • Frog Actions List: ODT & PDF.
Board A Board B
A. The frog is cooking. A. The frog is carrying bags.
B. The frog is sitting on a sofa. B. The frog is pulling a suitcase.
C. The frog is playing golf. C. The frog is brushing his teeth.
D. The frogs are stretching. D. The frog is playing tennis.
E. The frog is sitting on a bench. E. The frogs are sitting on chairs.
F. The frog is drinking wine. F. The frogs are pulling suitcases.
G. The frog is sleeping. G. The frog is sitting on a chair.
H. The frog is stretching. H. The frog is taking a bath.
I. The frogs are playing sports. I. The frog is carrying books.
J. The frog is taking a picture. J. The frog is taking a train.
K. The frogs are sitting on a bench. K. The frog is riding a bike.
L. The frogs are drinking wine. L. The frog is playing soccer.

Use the boards for listening and speaking activities.

For a listening activity, make pairs, give each pair a board, and give each student Bingo chips such that each pair has two different colors. The teacher says a sentence describing one picture, and students race to put their Bingo chip on that square. Both students can put the chip on the space, but the person who got there first should have theirs on the bottom.

For a speaking activity, everyone in the class stands up. The teacher says a letter, and students say a sentence describing that picture in order to sit down. For many cards there are multiple acceptable answers, so accept them.

frogs

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Math Cards

Basic English arithmetic is good practice for junior and senior high school students.  If we aim for math that students learned in elementary school, then the challenging thing is saying the expressions in English.  In particular, large numbers are difficult to say in foreign languages, because it takes a great deal of practice that students rarely get.

Here are three sets of arithmetic flashcards.  The operators used are +, , ×, and ÷.  The flashcards are A4-size.

Set A Set B Set C
1. 1+1 1. 5×5 1. 10×2
2. 4+5 2. 3×12 2. 7×4
3. 10+2 3. 19+3 3. 12−9
4. 15−2 4. 20+40 4. 15÷3
5. 7−1 5. 11−10 5. 24÷4
6. 16−8 6. 30−4 6. 18÷2
7. 3×5 7. 90+30 7. 80+20
8. 10×5 8. 100+1 8. 100+90
9. 34×1 9. 300+33 9. 20×20
10. 18+6 10. 11×11 10. 300×2
11. 98×0 11. 12×12 11. 111+1
12. 33+7 12. 13+2 12. 700+7
13. 12×2 13. 0×19 13. 200×4
14. 6×6 14. 501−1 14. 999+1
15. 9−9 15. 501−2 15. 1000×2
16. 15−4 16. 48−2 16. 400×3
17. 21−2 17. 77−77 17. 1000÷2
18. 70+5 18. 70×2 18. 1000÷5
19. 8×8 19. 49×1 19. 700÷2
20. 99+1 20. 333×3 20. 9000×0

math

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Lies

There’s a foreign language type of activity or game called lies, where the teacher says a sentence that’s false, and students change it into a true one.  You can do the activity where students speak alone or in pairs, and you can adjust the sentences to fit a target topic or grammar point.  Thinking of false sentences on the fly is difficult, so here is a list for classroom use.

Simple Colors 1 Simple Colors 2
1. Bananas are blue. 31. Rice is blue.
2. Apples are purple. 32. Corn is black.
3. Grapes are white. 33. Snow is orange.
4. Carrots are pink. 34. Lettuce is green.
5. Rabbits are green. 35. Butter is pink.
6. Elephants are yellow. 36. Apple juice is purple.
7. Zebras are red. 37. Fire is gray.
8. Oranges are brown. 38. The moon is red.
9. Lemons are silver. 39. The sun is white.
10. CDs are yellow. 40. The sea is blue.
Simple Verbs Eating & Drinking
11. Fish walk. 41. Babies drink wine.
12. Babies talk. 42. Cows eat sushi.
13. Horses skate. 43. Rabbits eat cheese.
14. Frogs cook. 44. Mice eat fish.
15. Snakes sing. 45. Horses drink orange juice.
16. Cats fly. 46. Monkeys eat pizza.
17. Boys and girls drive. 47. Bears eat cheese.
18. Birds read. 48. Lions eat meat.
19. Koalas work. 49. Giraffes eat chicken.
20. Airplanes swim. 50. Dogs eat cat food.
Simple Adjectives Animal Sounds
21. Elephants are small. 51. Cats say “bow wow”.
22. Cheetahs are slow. 52. Dogs say “hiss”.
23. Clouds are purple. 53. Chickens say “moo”.
24. Trains are short. 54. Ducks say “oink”.
25. Oranges are pink. 55. Cows say “meow”.
26. Turtles are fast. 56. Snakes say “quack quack”.
27. Baths are cold. 57. Pigs say “cluck cluck”.
28. Beetles are big. 58. Frogs say “neigh”.
29. Lettuce is black. 59. Sheep say “ribbit ribbit”.
30. Bats are large. 60. Horses say “baah”.

An exchange might go as follows…

Teacher: Frogs are blue.
Student 1: No, frogs are green.
Teacher: Very nice.  Anyone else?
Student 2: No, dolphins are blue.
Teacher: That’s true.

This game is a good chance to reinforce the notion of multiple acceptable answers. In the above example, students can fix the sentence by changing frogs, blue, or even are.

Grab the ODT or PDF for a 2-page list of useful lies.

audio-15604_640

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Where Is the Ball?

In seventh grade, my students study locations and prepositions like in, on, by, and under. In eighth grade, they learn the patterns There is … and There are … The obvious natural topic is things in the classroom. Start off by talking about the TV or things near the door, and then use these flashcards to clarify the phrases.

The slideshow here (in ODP or PDF) has eighteen slides.

  1. The ball is by the box.
  2. The ball is in the box.
  3. The ball is on the box.
  4. The ball is by the table.
  5. The ball is under the table.
  6. The ball is on the table.
  7. The ball is in the basket.
  8. The ball is by the basket.
  9. The ball is under the desk.
  10. The ball is on the sofa.
  11. The ball is under the sofa.
  12. The ball is in the trash can.
  13. The ball is behind the chair.
  14. The ball is in front of the chair.
  15. The ball is between the books.
  16. The ball is in front of the computer.
  17. The ball is behind the computer.
  18. The ball is between the chairs.

As usual, sentences that are true but different from the above sentences are entirely acceptable. Instead of by, one might say next to or near. Instead of sofa, one might say couch. For seventh graders, trash can might be new vocabulary, and one might also say trash or garbage or garbage can. It’s good for students to learn that a single question might have many correct answers.

under-the-desk-svg

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Alphabet Cards

In seventh grade English, we review the alphabet. Students in Japan studied the ABCs in the third grade of elementary school, but they may have forgotten, and writing practice is typically desirable.

Here are three A4-size flashcard sets.

The default font is TeX Gyre Adventor and the fallback is Century Gothic. The former is commonly available on Linux machines, and the latter is part of the default Windows install. For students learning to write the alphabet, choosing a font that mirrors the way they write is important. Most computer fonts display the lowercase “a” differently from the way we write, and serif fonts attach small lines to the end of strokes, so all of these fonts are poor choices. For the teacher’s convenience, we want to use fonts that are available by default on various operating systems, and that is why I use the fonts mentioned above. You might also want to use Comic Sans MS, but because some of the letters are slanted, it doesn’t provide a great example for students to copy.

alphabet-1219546_640

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