Friday, March 9, 2012

Literacy Lesson: El viejo y su puerta (Minimal Pairs)

Are you at the time of year when you and your students could really use a laugh?  You cannot read this book and keep from cracking up!  I love Gary Soto's sense of humor and the great thing about this book is that even first and second graders can "get" the funny parts.
El Viejo y Su Puerta [SPA-VIEJO Y SU PUERTA] [Spanish Edition]
This book provides a great entry to talking about minimal pairs (pares mínimos) with your students.  Minimal pairs are pairs of words which differ in only one phonological element and have distinct meanings.  

In El viejo y su puerta, the old man is not very good at listening to his wife so when she asks him to not forget to bring the puerCa to the barbacoa, he mistakenly hears puerTa.  The old man is a bit confused but the door proves useful en route to the party and there is plenty of food to eat thanks to the friends he makes along the way.  The book begins with this explanation:

En México hay una cancioncita que dice “La puerta.  La puerca.  Al viejo lo mismo le da.”  Eso es porque a un viejo las dos palabras le suenan muy parecidas – sobre todo si no escucha con atención.  Así es que sean jóvenes o viejos, escuchen atentamente porque si no, ¡se pueden meter en un lío!

After you read and enjoy the book, you can have a discussion about minimal pairs and the importance of careful listening using these cards (you can download them for free over at Teachers Pay Teachers):

You can represent the sounds in the words with magnetic letters or by simply writing the letters in the sound boxes.

It is really important to help our students understand minimal pairs in Spanish so that we can better help them understand minimal pairs in English.  Several years ago, I attended a PASA Conference and heard Dr. Elena Izquierdo talk about why our students struggle with English words like "meat" and "mitt".  She said we really need to do a lot more work in the younger grades to train their ears to distinguish the differences.  

What do you think?  Do you have a favorite way to train those little ears?

1 comment:

Join the conversation in English or español! You know you have something to say!