Join 96 other subscribers
Want a blog feed?
Category Archives: long vowels
You can teach your child to read. Start with a phonics assessment.
Are you are planning to teach your child how to read this summer, either starting at the beginning or filling in the gaps? If so, where do you start? I suggest you give your child a pretest to see what reading skills your child has learned well, and what ones he has not yet grasped. The words on this pretest are more or less divided into four kinds of words in this order: 1. Short (closed) vowel, one-syllable words. These include one- and two-letter words, words beginning or ending with blends and digraphs (black, church) words which end in twin consonants (fell, jazz), words which end in “ck,” and words to which an “s” can be added to make plural words or certain verbs (maps, runs). 2. Long (open) vowel, one-syllable words. These include words ending with silent “e,” words with double vowels which have only one vowel pronounced (goes, pear), and certain letter combinations (ild, old). They also include words with “oi,” “oy,” “ow” and “ou” letters. 3. Two– and three-syllable words which follow the above rules (catnip, deplete) and two- and three-syllable words which don’t follow the above rules but which follow a pattern (light, yield). These words include words with certain suffixes (le, ies) and words with a single consonant between two vowels (robin, motel). 4. Exceptions. These include words with silent letters (gnaw, lamb), words from other languages (debris, cello), and words which fit no pattern (business). Ask your child to read the words in the pretest below. Each row across tests a particular phonics skill. If you child hesitates at all, that is the place to begin teaching him or her phonics. I will talk more about how to teach these four groups of phonics skills in my next blog. Phonics assessment bad, hem, fit, don, pug, am, if, lass, jazz lock, Mick, bills, cliffs, mitts, catnip, Batman grand, stent, frisk, stomp, stuck chuck, shun, them, branch, brush, tenth star, fern, birds, fork, purr, actor, doctor, victor muffin, kitten, collect, pepper, gallon complex, helmet, falcon, napkin, after tantrum, muskrat, constant, fulcrum, ostrich skate, bike, Jude, mole, dare, shore, tire, pure need, cheer, aim, hair, bay, pie, boat, oar, Joe, low, soul fruit, few, child, blind, fold, colt, roll, light, high earn, worm, rook, pool fault, claw, all, chalk, Walt boil, so, pound, down comet, dragon, liver, salad, denim total, ever, student, basic, demon, vital apron, elude, Ethan, Owen, ideal, usurp inside, nearly, absent, unicorn, degrade, tripod advance, offense, fence gripped, planned, melted, batted, handed sweeping, boiling, thinning, flopping, biking, dating rapper, saddest, finer, bluest, funnier, silliest easily, busily, massive, active, arrive, wives keys, monkeys, armies, carried action, section, musician, racial, crucial, nuptials brittle, pickle, carbon, dormer parcel, decent, gem, urge, badge lose, sugar, nature, sure graph, Phil, then, moth bomb, thumb, gnat, gnome, high, sign whip, whirl, echo, ghoul, knee, knob could, calf, folk, hustle, listen, wrist alone, bread, bear, chief, young, squaw, swan, waltz, word decision, exposure, gigantic, polarize, occupant, quarantine If you want to help your child learn to read, one of the best things you can do is not to let him guess. Most words can be deciphered if the student has a phonics background. Also, don’t let your child depend on pictures for meaning once the child starts to read. Most adult reading material is not accompanied by graphics. Students must learn to gain meaning from the text alone. If you have decided to help your child read this summer, good for you. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to help your child read better. Years of research show that the best way to teach reading is to start with letter sounds (phonemes) and then to combine those letter sounds into words (phonics). If you do this in a systematic way, such as following the four-part sequence I describe above, your child will learn to read.
How to teach words using ă and ŏ
Suppose you have taught your child the 16 consonant sounds which don’t vary at the beginning of words: b, d, f, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, qu, r, t, v, x, and z. Now you are ready to teach vowel sounds.
Explain what vowels are
Because you will be using the words vowel and consonant with your child as you teach, make sure you take time to explain what these words mean. Vowel refers to five letters all the time (a, e, i, o, and u) and two letters sometimes (y and w). Consonant refers to all the other letters and to y and w most of the time. For now you can leave out the y and w, but when you teach small words like by and now, mention that y and w act as vowels sometimes.
Should you say short / closed vowels? Or long / open vowels?
Today many support materials refer to vowels followed by a consonant in the same syllable (cat, hot) as closed vowels. Years ago these vowels were called short vowels, and they were pictured with a curve over the vowel as in ă, ĕ, ĭ, ŏ and ŭ. Similarly, vowels coming at the end of a syllable (go, hero) are today called open vowels by some reading support workbooks. Previously they were called long vowels and pictured with a horizontal line over them as in ā, ē, ī, ō, and ū. I will use the terms short and long since those are the terms most parents recognize. I will use markings over vowels such as ă, ĕ, ĭ, ŏ and ŭ when referring to a particular short vowel sound and ā, ē, ī, ō, and ū when referring to a particular long vowel sound.
Naming vowel sounds as short or long is important because we need a vocabulary to use with children when we refer to vowels pronounced like their letter names and vowels pronounced more softly. Whichever terms you use, make sure your child understands them.
Teaching words with a ă sound
While you are teaching the 16 consistent consonant-letter sounds, you can begin to teach one short vowel sound. I recommend starting with the letter ă because almost all phonics support materials start with the vowel ă, and because ă might be the easiest short vowel sound to master. The support materials I suggest for my students are the Explode the Code series. That series starts with ă words.
When I am teaching in person, I use flash cards with pictures of words beginning with ă such as alligator, astronaut, and apple. I recommend you teach your child to say “ă as in apple” to reinforce the letter connected to the sound.
Choose five or six consonant letter sounds your child has mastered. Using letter tiles, form two and three letter words such as am, an, at, bat, bam, tan, and mat, etc. Place the letter tiles for one word an inch or so apart and ask your child to say the sounds, keeping the picture of the apple on the table too, for reference. Repeat saying the sounds as you slowly move the letters closer and closer together until the child says the word. It might take many tries, but usually there is a Eureka! moment when the child realizes she is reading a word, not just letter sounds. Reading teachers call these tiny words CVC words, meaning consonant-vowel-consonant words.
Gradually add more consonant sounds and form more words with ă as the vowel sound. If the child loses interest, one way to extend the lesson is to use her name and write a goofy sentence such as Kim is a pan or Kim is a map. Another way is to use your name and have her end the sentence. Mom is a ____. Teach her that the vowel goes first or in the middle. Try mispronouncing a word she writes and ask her if you said it correctly.
You can buy magnetic cards which you can cut into small rectangles to attach to the back of letter tiles. Then you can work in a metal lasagna pan or pizza pan or on the refrigerator. If your child is four or five, a short lesson (ten minutes) teaching in one mode followed by another short lesson in another mode (writing words on an iPad or laptop, writing in a workbook) might be all she can handle for one session. I have given one-hour lessons to a four-year-old, but I needed to have six mini-lessons to sustain her interest.
Teaching words with a ŏ sound
When, after several days or weeks, you are sure your child can read ă words, move on to ŏ words. Create a reference card—an octopus, for example. Work on two and three letter ŏ words such as on, off, odd, Oz, nod, fob, and Bob, etc. After several days or weeks—whatever it takes—mix ŏ words with ă words.
To reinforce your work, read together picture books. When you come to a word she can pronounce, point to it and ask her to say the word. Two or three times are enough to show her that what she is learning applies to her real world.
Defining basic terms used to discuss reading
When you are learning how to teach your child to read, you need to familiarize yourself with a few words. If you read widely about reading, you will encounter these words all the time. But even if you don’t, understanding them will make reading instruction easier to follow.
One such word is “phonemes.” The smallest sounds we utter are called phonemes. About 48 such small sounds exist in standard American English. These sounds are not letters; they are sounds to which we pair letters in order to read and pronounce sounds. Some words such as eye have one phonemes (a long ī), but most words have two or more phonemes. Snow, for example, has three (s, n, ō). Putting together phonemes to form words is an important reading skill.
Another important word is “phonics.” Phonics means combining phonemes to form words. For example, the phonemes b, ă, and t combine to form the word bat. 250 letter patterns represent the 42 to 44 phonemes in American English. Most children cannot figure out phonics on their own. They need instruction to match a phoneme to a letter or to a pair of letters.
systematic phonics instruction
Systematic means that concepts are taught in a particular order. For example, phonemes which are always represented by a single letter such as b are taught before phonemes which are represented by more than one letter such as th. Short vowel words such as cat are taught before long vowel words such as bike.
For more details on the sequencing of learning sounds, go to http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200901/BTJPhonologicalAwareness.pdf. While you are there, check out 1) the list of read-aloud books that emphasize sounds, and 2) activities you can do with a child who is learning sounds.
A vowel is the primary speech phoneme in every syllable (one vowel phoneme for one syllable). Vowel phonemes are made by the mouth without any blockage by the tongue or lips. Short vowel phonemes are the vowel sounds in Pat, Ben, Jill, Tom, and Bud. They are sometimes represented by a curve over the vowel. Long vowel phonemes are the vowel sounds in Kate, Eve, Mike, Joe, and Lou. They are sometimes represented by a straight horizontal line over the vowel. Other vowel sounds are also represented by a, e, i, o, and u, and by combinations of these letters. W and y can also be vowel phonemes in combination with other vowels or alone as in cow and by.
short and long vowels
Short and long are a traditional way to describe certain vowel sounds. Short vowel sounds can be said quicker while long vowel sounds take a fraction of a second longer to pronounce. In recent years, the terms closed and open are used the same way to mean, respectively, short and long.
A consonant is a speech sound made by partially blocking the air as you breathe out. Most phonemes are consonants, but they cannot be pronounced without connecting them to vowels. American English includes the consonant phonemes b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, qu, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, and z.
Syllables are units of sound containing one vowel phoneme and usually one or more consonant phonemes. Mitten has two syllables: mit and ten. Robotics has three syllables: ro, bo, and tics.
Knowing these terms gives you a basic vocabulary enabling you to follow instruction about reading.