Category Archives: double vowel words

Two games make phonics fun for beginning readers

With young students, games are the easiest way to maintain interest and learn at the same time.  I’d like to suggest two games to teach beginning reading (CVC words).  Neither game is new, but both attract youngsters, from my experience.

One game is BLAH BLAH BLAH Word Game, Level 1000.  This game consists of three sets of playing cards, color coded according to level.  Each card consists of one word printed in the middle, and individual letters of that word printed in the corners.  A player needs to match one letter on a card in his hand to one letter on the face-up word in the middle of the table (hat and tug, for example).

This game has three levels:  CVC words; CVC words with blends; and words with long vowels (oa, ai, ee, oo, etc.).  It does not include words ending with silent e at the 1000 level.  When a player matches a letter, he must place his card over the face-up word already played and read the word aloud.  The next player must match one of the letters on the just matched card.  However, other cards (skip a turn, take four cards, change order) allow a player without a match to play.  The first player to play all his cards wins.

I have played this game with an about-to-start kindergartener, who sounds out each word as he plays.  He uses the “joker” cards strategically to stop a player from winning or to enact revenge on a player who interferes with his goals.  But it could be used with a child learning his letters but not yet able to read words.

The only drawback I have found is the size of the cards.  For little hands, regular-sized playing cards are too big to fan.  Too bad the deck isn’t smaller-sized.

The other game my almost kindergartener and I like is Zingo!  Each player receives a BINGO-like card with six words printed on it.  However, one of the letters of each word is missing as in “_ig” or “c_t.”  A player must take letter tiles distributed from a machine-like device and use them, one at a time, to create words by covering the blank spaces on his card.  Consonants are black and vowels are red.  The first player to cover his card wins.

This game offers two levels, one on each side of the BINGO card:  CVC words and CVC words with blends.  The machine-like device which distributes the tiles is attractive to little hands, and can easily distract a youngster from the purpose of the game.  This game is harder than the previous game since it requires the child to read several incomplete words at each turn and to try to figure out where placing a tile makes sense.  For beginner readers, this requires help.

I like to use games like this at the end of a lesson to extend the lesson time.  Little kids have short attention spans, so ending a lesson with games like these continues the learning.

Which to teach after CVC words—double syllables, double vowels or silent e’s?

Reading experts agree that CVC words—two consonants sandwiching a short or closed vowel—should be taught first to children who are just beginning to read.  The reason has to do with logic.  Almost all CVC words pronounce sounds in the expected way, that is, with a one-to-one correspondence between the sound and the letter representing the sound.  The few words which are exceptions to the rules—words like “was” and “gym”—are not taught yet.

Experts also agree that one-syllable CVC words containing blends in which each letter is sounded should be taught next.  Words with blends at the beginning, words like “spot” and “drum,” should be taught before words with blends at the end, words like “bend” and “lump,” because beginning sounds are easier to master than ending sounds.

Teaching reading in this order is important because most beginning readers are four to six years old, and their sense of logic does not allow for exceptions.  All red lights mean stop, no exceptions.  Every time Dad says “no,” that means no, no exceptions.  One plus one equals two every time, no exceptions.  Every “z” is pronounced “z,” no exceptions.

The problem for teachers is that after children learn CVC words, what kinds of words should they learn next?

  • Two syllable words containing two CVC segments (CVCCVC) such as “rabbit” and “Justin”?
  • CVCe one-syllable words containing a silent e at the end such as “make” and “kite”?
  • CVVC one-syllable words containing double vowels such as “Jean” and “boat”?

There is no correct approach after teaching CVC words.  Teaching two-syllable CVCCVC words maintains the logic of one sound per letter, but two syllables are harder to learn than one.  All those letters can look intimidating to a tiny child.

child with adult helping to read

CVCe words require that the last letter not be sounded, which breaks the rule of one sound per letter.  If lots of silent letters were not pronounced, this would wreak havoc in a child’s mind.  But since the same letter—“e”—is not sounded, this maintains a one-to-one logical relationship that is easy to remember.

The hard part of CVCe words is that the silent e changes the sound of the vowel to a long or open vowel sound.  Previously children needed to know five vowel sounds; to learn CVCe words they need to know ten.  (Actually, they need to know eleven if both sounds of u are taught.  In “mule” the u sounds like “yu” and in “tune” the “u” sounds like “u.”)

One child I taught could not make the transition from CVC to CVCe words even after several months of work.  She could remember how to pronounce either CVC or CVCe words, but when I mixed them, she could not go back and forth sounding the words correctly.

Learning CVVC words containing double vowels is readily grasped if the double vowels are identical, as they are when the vowels are “ee” as in “seen” and “deed.”  Usually when the vowels are different, as in “mean” and “read,” the second vowel is silent but its presence means the first vowel is pronounced like a long or open vowel.  The new reader needs to remember two ideas:  that the second vowel is not pronounced, and that the first vowel is not pronounced like a CVC vowel.  For some children this is difficult even if exceptions are not mentioned.

What to teach after CVC words?  The choice is yours, but each option comes with its difficulties for children.  I usually teach the silent e words next.  I have tried printing words with a shadowy “e” which helps children to remember not to say the “e.”  But when I take away the shadowy letter “e,” it is like starting over.  What I thought would be a short cut way to learn turns out to be a dead end detour.

One thing I have learned:  Integrating whatever you teach next with CVC words can take a long time.