Let’s say you have students who often use a short i sound when they need a long e sound (and vice versa). Here’s what you do:
How to Create Listening Labyrinths:
Before you begin, create a list of as many minimal pairs with those two sounds as you can. What are minimal pairs? They are words that sound the same except for ONE sound. For example: is/ease. Sign up below and grab my free mini lists to get you started!
- Once you have your list of minimal pairs, scan it and find the LONGEST word you have. This will help you determine the size of your table. In whatever program you like, create a table. I find that 8 columns with 14 rows work well for me. You could increase the number of rows, but increasing the columns would require using a small size for your words, and who likes squinting?
- Put your longest word in one of the boxes and set it to the font and size you want. Does it fit? How small do you need to make the type? I generally set the whole table to the font and size that best suits my longest word, unless all the other words are much shorter. Then I just make that one word shorter than the rest.
- Okay, delete the word. It’s just in the way. We’re going to go a little backward and make the answer key FIRST because it’s easier that way.
- Choose a color and create a winding trail from the top to the bottom of the table. You can choose to make the boxes share a side, or you can include corners. Got it?
- Now, using your list of minimal words, fill in the boxes so that students must be able to hear the difference in each minimal pair to know where to go next. Be careful! Fill in the boxes with words that ensure there is only ONE correct choice to make to continue. Just follow your colored trail to the end. Then go back and randomly fill in the remaining boxes, still being careful not to provide an alternate route through.
- Finished? Yay! You have the answer key! Now highlight that whole table, copy it, and paste it onto another page. Highlight it again and delete the color background. Boom! You’ve got your student page!
How to Use a Listening Labyrinth
Have your students use a pencil (or marker, highlighter, or crayon if they are especially confident and daring) to mark the route from top to bottom as you say each word in turn. Yep, you’ll be reading from the answer key that you made.
By the way, make sure you cover your mouth (you can use the answer key for that as well) to direct your students’ attention solely on the sounds of the words and not the shape of your mouth as you make the sounds.
You can go slowly or quickly, repeat the words or not—totally up to what best suits your group of students.
And that’s it! Fairly easy, but it does take some time. If you don’t have the time or would rather spend your time doing something else, check out my pronunciation resources in my TpT store! Almost all of them include a listening labyrinth among other activities (like full-color photo digital presentations!)
On the fence when it comes to accent reduction? Check out Why Adult ESL Students SHOULD Neutralize their Accent.
Remember to subscribe to get your mini lists of minimal pairs to get you started or just to find out more about teaching pronunciation to adult ESL students!