Phonics Part 3: Vowels and Consonants

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

The 5 vowels make up just 19% of the letters of the alphabet, but have 38 different spellings (for the short and long sounds).  The vowels are much like the “glue” that hold words together. The 21 consonants, on the other hand, make up 81% of the letters of the alphabet, and have 54 different spellings (not including the digraphs). Here again is a 44 Phoneme chart 44Phonemes to illustrate this (from Orchestrating Success in Reading by Dawn Reithaug, 2002.)  Stay tuned for other resources and FREEBIES.

Some other interesting vowel and consonant trivia:

  •  “A vowel is a sound that is produced with no obstructions. The air simply floats through your mouth and has very little interaction with your teeth, your lips, or other structures. On the other hand, a consonant has some degree of air obstruction.” (Dr. Molly Ness, Linuistic expert). So now is everyone trying that out like I did? It’s true!  Producing vowel sounds require little or no lip / tongue movement. Whereas most consonants require specific lip and tongue placement.
  • Each syllable is made up of one vowel sound. This is how we count and divide multi-syllabic words (one vowel sound per syllable).
  • While most single consonants only make one sound, there are a few exceptions such as:  c = /s/ or /k/; g = /g/ or /j/; y = /y/ or /long e/ or /long i/; s = /s/ or /z/; x = /ks/ or /z/ . This reveals the letters c and x don’t have their own unique sound.

Then there is this interesting information about how we say the consonant letter names vs. the sound the letter makes — no wonder kids get confused! Here’s a previous blog post going into more detail on this fantastic research. I think it’s a must read for all elementary teachers: Alphabet Letter and Sounds Research (Cindy’s Blog)

Letter names starting with short vowel sound when pronounced:

  • f = /ef/
  • l = /el/
  • m = /em/
  • n = /en/
  • s = /es/
  • x = /eks/
  • r = /ar/ — not exactly a short vowel sound, but close

Letter names with long a sound when pronounced:

  • j = /jay/
  • k = /kay/

Letter names with long e sound when pronounced:

  • b = /bee/
  • c = /see/
  • d = /dee/
  • g = /jee/
  • p = /pee/
  • t = /tee/
  • v = /vee/
  • z = /zee/

Letter names with pronunciatons not using their letter sound:

  • h = /aych/ —  the letter sound is pronounced /h-h-h/
  • q = /kue/ — the letter sound is /kwuh/
  • w = /double u/ — the letter sound is pronounced /wuh/
  • y = /why/ — the letter sound is pronounced /yuh/

The article on Alphabet Research I referenced above has some excellent instructional guidelines for introducing and teaching the letter sounds. If you are a “letter of the week” teacher, this may shed some light on what newer research has revealed.

Here are some good strategies for vowel and consonant instruction in the classroom. Please share some of yours that aren’t on my list!!

  • Check out Kate Garner’s “Secret Stories.”  https://www.katiegarner.com/ She has a fantastic approach to help students notice what their mouth is doing when saying a sound and links it to fun phrases and actions.
  • POST an alphabet chart in the classroom which includes pictures, big enough to be seen across the room.  A good thing to look for is one that has 2 pictures for the vowels, or has the vowels in a different color. To me, this is a MUST in pre-K, KG and first grade classrooms. A poster close to your group teaching station is also highly recommended for easy, quick reference.
  • Here’s a desk alphabet chart that is handy for use at your small group station. FREE alphabet chart from TPT (Mrs. Ricca’s Kindergarten)
  • Learn letter formation steps that can be repeated. Here’s an idea from Pinterest: Lower case letter formation rhymes and Uppercase rhymes for letter formation
  • Provide lots of alphabet books in the reading center for individual reading time.
  • Learn the sign language finger spelling for letters of the alphabet. Here’s a link: ASL Finger Spelling Charts
  • Match upper and lower case letters.
  • Match pictures (beginning sounds) with letters.
  • Do picture sorts with 2-3 letters/sounds at a time.
  • Use object sorting tubs.
  • If working on 2 sounds at a time, give children those 2 letters on cards or with letter tiles. Teacher says the word or shows a picture and the students must descriminate between the two to hold up (all students engaged).
  • In shared or guided writing, have children supply the beginning consonant or vowel sound instead of the teacher writing. Example:  If writing the sentence We will go to the library today, the teacher could get students to help with spelling parts of the words (the w, l, t and perhaps the e, i, o  in we, will, and go).
  • Look for particular vowels and consonants in short poems (see Phonics Part 1 for resources).
  • Make alphabet books.  These could be individual or a class big book which can be viewed over and over again during center time.
  • Refer to one of my favorite bloggers / TPT authors for young children (This Reading Mama): https://thisreadingmama.com/teaching-letter-sounds/
  • Making letters with play-dough or in an art related activity should always be connected with pictures and sound practice so students can connect the sound to the letter.

Finally, using knowledge of beginning letters along with picture cues can help a child read easy texts and verify the correct word was used. Here are two examples:

  1. Look at the ______.  If a child only looks at the picture, it might be read as “Look at the rabbit.” But asking the child to confirm by looking at the first letter should reveal the word can not be rabbit because the word shown begins with the letter b.
  2. I can see my _______. If a child only looks at the picture, it might be read as “I can see my coat.” But asking the child to confirm by looking at the first letter, and prompting the child like this:  “What else could that word be that begins with the /j/ sound?” If the child does read the word jacket correctly, the teacher could ask the child, “How did you know that word wasn’t coat?” This would enable to you to determine if the child was using first letter clues, or just guessing.

Blog update for lawtonps.org users:  I did determine that lawtonps.org subscribers did receive two of my December blogs (the last one being Dec. 18) but both times you were immediately unsubscribed right after receiving the blog.  Therefore, you did NOT receive the blog I posted on Dec. 22 (Phonics Part 2).  Neither the blog hoster or LPS have been able to resolve this.  So as an incentive for my Lawton Public School friends, if you subscribe with your home email address (gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc.), I will put your name in a drawing for a free $25 gift card to a place of your choice (TPT, Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, Staples, etc.). That drawing will take place at the end of January or beg. of February. Thanks for your understanding and patience!!!!

 

Writing Part 5: Temporary Spelling and Word Wall

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Can u reed wut i am riting? Can u tel frum my riting that i no most uv the mane sonds in werds? I no sum site werds, i no the sonds in order frum left to rite as i strech them out. I no sum vowl paterns. I can evn spel sum 2 silubul werds by trying 1 silubul at a time. After i am dun riting, the teecher helps me pik out 2 werds to lern. Then i practis them a fu timez and add them to my speshul werd book so i can find and uz them agen.

This is an example of temporary spelling appropriate for a late KG-2nd grade student. The “student” was able to focus on the content of their writing using spelling strategies mentioned in my previous posts:

  • Stretch out sounds or use sound boxes.
  • Clap to hear the distinct syllables and spell each syllable separately.
  • Think about spelling patterns from known or rhyming words.
  • Use words posted on the word wall and/or in the individual word book.
  • Try words different ways to see which one looks right.

For this student, I would have selected these 2 words (werd/word and frum/from) for further practice because they were used often, close to the correct spelling, and only need minor adjustments. I usually have them circle the words we chose. These words only need minor tweaking and they are likely to be words needed often for future writing. When the words are added to his/her word book, they are there for reference and are more likely to be used correctly in the future. Continue reading

Writing Part 1: How to get students to write

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

So many teachers have asked for assistance with writing – so here is Part 1. Stay tuned for more parts devoted to helping students become better writers.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with writing. Do you have these thoughts?

  • What type of paper is best? Lined, unlined, wide rule, college rule, dotted lines?
  • How much should I help them with spelling? Does it need to be spelled correctly?
  • Should I use prompts or free choice journaling?
  • How do I get students to space correctly?
  • How do I get students to stay on a topic?
  • How do I get students to use the conventions we have worked on (capitalization, punctuation, etc.)
  • What do I do about handwriting issues?
  • How can I connect it with reading, math, or other subjects?

At the root of all of these issues above, I believe the following are musts for any grade level:

  1. Students must be exposed to quality literature which highlights a variety of writing styles. This is accomplished through the books you use in guided reading, whole group reading, and especially your daily read aloud time. Through this rich exposure to literature students become familiar with various authors and their styles of writing, as well as how authors use their “voice” to relay their message. Voice is the ability to project the way you talk into print. (More info in later posts about books that really show different types of “voice.”)
  2. Students can’t be expected to write if they don’t see the teacher model writing. Through modeling, teachers can use dozens of “think alouds” to share the decisions they are making. In this way, the strategies a writer (the teacher) uses are being exposed. Then the students are more likely to emulate these strategies.
  3. Writing needs to be scaffolded in the same way as other lessons: I do – we do – you do. Students observe and watch the teacher as he/she models various writing strategies. With shared writing, the teacher and students work together to “share the pen.” Then we gradually release students through guided writing sessions before expecting independent writing. This is a year-long process.
  4. Sometimes your writing strategy lessons might best be accomplished through your small group literacy time. Students are probably grouped based on their reading needs, so they likely have similar writing needs. From my experience, it’s a lot easier to monitor 4-6 students’ writing than a whole class. In this case a  goal could be to write once a week as part of your weekly routine. (Example: Monday and Tuesday are spent on the guided reading text for the week, Wednesday on word work, and Thursday for writing.)

Continue reading