Minimal Pairs Therapy: are you missing this first step?

Are you forgetting the first step of minimal pairs therapy? Because I’m going to admit it… back in my early career days, I may have missed this step!

Familiarizing your students with the target words (usually picture cards) is a critical step of minimal pairs therapy. The whole point of the approach is that we are teaching the child that if they say the word differently, it means something completely different!


I generally start by picking word pairs that I think the child would understand given their age and language skills. Let’s use ‘sn’ being replaced with an ‘n’ as example.

My first word pair is nail and snail.

Minimal Pair cards from Teach Phonology series.

I would pick up the nail card and say something like:

This a nail, it starts with the ‘n’ sound. Builders might bang a nail with a hammer when they’re building things. Have you ever seen anyone use a hammer and nail?

Look at this picture! This is a slow, slimy snail. Snail starts with ‘sn’. I get lots of snails in my garden, and I even find them in my mailbox. Have you ever found a snail in your garden?

I then put the cards on the table and ask the child to pick up the picture that I am saying. I like to alternate the order and see if I can ‘trick’ the child: “snail – snail – nail – snail – nail”.

If I miss these steps in minimal pairs therapy and don’t check to see that the child understands the words and can hear the difference, our progress might stall.

Are you a speech-language pathologist who is delivering therapy via distance learning or telehealth? Look into these digital and interactive sets of minimal pairs. Not only do they have the word targets, but because there is context, your child might find it easier to engage in, and understand the therapy.

Try making minimal pairs meaningful

Boom Cards have changed my SLP life! You can play anywhere where you have an internet browser such as on your desktop, laptop, iPad, tablet or smartphone. Read reviews and see what’s included in this S Cluster Reduction deck.


related posts

One Comment

  • Hi, I am a new SLP- I have been struggling with how to improve the phonological error of backing. I have tried contrastive approaches such as minimal pairs and maximal pairs! However I not seeing the progress I would like… should I be using more of a multiple opp. Approach


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *