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Short Vowels?


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Joined: Nov 03, 2005
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Posted Apr 03, 2002 at 6:28:04 AM
Subject: Short Vowels?

Hello all,

A European colleague who is a reading tutor and I were discussing Susan Barton's Reading & Spelling program (love the program by the way) where she uses the terminology 'short' vowels. My colleague disagrees with a child 'holding on' to a short vowel sound if they have difficulty hearing that vowel (like the /o/ in hot) because she teaches it just as it's named, a short sound. Neither of us could recall ever learning why this terminology was used to label these particular vowel sounds. Your mouth is usually more open when producing vowel sounds and they are voiced and can be elongated, correct? Even the /e/ Ed and /i/ itch can be elongated especially when compared to short fast sounds such as /p/ , /t/. Because we work pimarily with children who speak 2 and 3 languages I think it is important to be careful in our descriptions. I find it easier to use the 'most frequent' or 'first sound'. What are your experiences and opinions about this? Thanks for the input.

Also, is there any place where I may find a copy of those 'red words' used to describe the 15% of English words that do not follow the typical rules of English spelling? Thanks for your help. Keila

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 03, 2002 11:38:08 AM

Project Read (Language Circle, they have a website you can find by searching) has a list of the most frequently used "red words."

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 03, 2002 11:45:32 PM

Project Read's website is <http://www.projectread.com>. On my website, <http://user.mc.net/~gsh>, under Free Resources, I also have a list of 140 High Frequency Words arranged according to levels of difficulty. The Level 5 words there correspond well to the "red" words from Orton-Gillingham programs.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 04, 2002 12:00:39 AM
Subject:Re: Keila

What we call *short* and *long* vowels are termed by linguists as *checked* and *free* vowels. Some vowels are 'checked' because they have a consonant after them. Syllables with single vowels followed by consonants usually represent the short sound. Some programs refer to these ending consonants as back doors. Exceptions are those ending consonants which are contained in other patterns (r-controlled, all, aw, ow, etc., some of which are vowel diphthongs). Syllables which end with vowels are considered 'free'. They have no consonant to contain the sound. When a syllable ends with a vowel, it usually represents the long sound of the vowel.

Yes, short vowel sounds CAN be extended if you choose to do so. I think \e\ is the most difficult but sometimes this is referred to as the creaking door sound. Creating it is really hard on the vocal chords. There is also a relationship between certain short and long vowels. For example, children often substitute *a* for *e* in short vowel words because the long sound of *a* is very close in point of articulation to \e\. The same is true for long e and \i\.

All of this is as clear as mud, right? Grace

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 04, 2002 2:39:18 PM
Subject:Re: Keila

Mud is likely clearer for the kids who have difficulty hearing the differences in these sounds! Thanks for your input Grace. Your site has wonderful resources too. Now I will burden you with one more question, when we say a vowel with a consonant 'back door' is USUALLY a short vowel in the CVC pattern, is there any pattern to when it is NOT a short vowel? In your Roots book I see you refer to these as variant sounds. For example, cost and most. Thanks again. Keila

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 04, 2002 2:55:56 PM

(1) "Short" and "long" vowels in English have absolutely nothing to do with the amount of time spent on the articulation. The naming came along with a lot of the rest of our official non-functional grammar rules (How many of you were taught "I shall" and "he will" but the reverse for emphasis? And has anyone ever seen this rule actually used, even in the eighteenth century?); these rules came from Latin grammarians who tried (not terribly successfully) to mold English along the lines of Latin grammar. Apparently the terminology is meaningful in scholastic Latin, but no, it never has been meaningful in English.

Yes, I do agree, the best way to teach these is the "first sound of a" as in apple and cat, the "second sound" ("says its name") as in apron and cake, and the "third sound" as in awful, saw, father, arm, car, and paw.
After having taught them this way, as just alternate sounds, I then mention that they are *called* "short" and "long" even though they aren't, because students need to know this terminology for some textbooks.

I also teach bilingual students in Montreal and in ESL and in general it's easier to teach reading because they are already very aware of sounds; my only problem right now being my Chinese students who have practiced incorrect pronunciation patterns for years (read fine but can't speak.) I do stress repeatedly that the "short" and "long" are just names, not pronunciation rules.

Although many "checked" vowels are "short" and many "open" vowels are "long" as in cat - cater, this is a less than infallible rule as in seat -- separate. I sugggest this as a "first try" method on pronunciation, and recommend the system "If one sound doesn't work, try the other."

(2) I've been seeing this discussion about "red words" for some time, and I have a logical difficulty with it:
You are reading along and you meet a new word that you have never seen before. This can happen to any of us, from first grade to PhD reading. I can give you the math term "homeomorphism" and most of you probably haven't seen it. (and no, that e is not a misprint -- it's a technical term) Or the famously difficult English name Featherstonehaugh. So, what did you just do?
I strongly hope that you all sounded them out!
Now, reading along like that, how do you know whether these are "red words" or not?? You can't!! Not unless I make up a special book with only non-red words, or one with all of them marked in red, and you are strictly limited to only one book. This is *not* independent reading or reading fluency!

So, my logical difficulty is this: what do we tell the reading student to do?
Two possible answers come to mind:
(a) Sound out the word the best you can, and if it's a word you know, adjust your pronunciation slightly if necessary by the meaning of the sentence; when you meet totally strange words that you have never ever heard spoken (rarities until senior high school) use your best guess for now and ask someone later if the word comes up again.
I *hope* that this is what all you adults out there are doing -- this is actually independent reading.
(b) Ask someone each and every time you meet a new word, whether this is a "soundable" word or not. This boils down to learning to read by rote memorization of each word anyway, and is little advance over pure sight memorization.

Not only is rule (a) a method to read truly independently, it is the only way I know that teaches spelling adequately, because in the process of trying to analyze and pronounce the word you are paying attention to all its parts and learning those which are regular and those which are not. If you learn the "spelling pronunciation" and then learn the actual spoken pronunciation, you have not only learned to read the new word but also to spell it. If you memorize the irregular words by sight, then you are back to the problem of memorizing long lists of apparently meaningless spellings.

In fact, of the two examples I gave above, "homeomorphism" is regular as are most Greek/Latin technichal terms, and is pronounced hoe-mee-oh-more-fizm, exactly as you would expect. On the other hand, the (real) name "Featherstonehaugh" is a common joke in England; over centuries the pronunciation has been slurred down to "Foon". So this is a "red word" I guess. BUT, now you read it and worked on it, I bet you could now read it again and come close to spelling it!

I was taught this way myself, taught my daughter and a whole class and a number of tutoring students this way, and honest, it works, and works a lot more easily than trying to teach reading twice with contradictory rules. I firmly believe in the KIS rule -- Keep It Simple. If you teach letters and sounds, including necessarily digraphs and vowel combinations and alternate vowel sounds (100 to 120 common patterns) and then sound out everything left-to-right, period, you can teach reading and spelling quickly and easily. You can take a class of six-year-olds from near zero (some know the alphabet) to 95% reading fluently and writing readably in 100 hours. (I know PG claims less time, but there are many other issues, age, previous teaching, writing, reading for content, etc. etc.)
But if you use a self-contradictory approach that some words follow one set of rules and some have to be memorized, then the student still has to do a memory-bank search on each and every word and is slowed down and made more dependent.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 05, 2002 12:11:43 AM
Subject:Re: Keila

Victoria has said some things very well. It's often better to refer to the first, second, and third sounds of vowels. But, because most of us refer to them as short and long, I'll adhere to those terms for the moment.

To answer your question, the single *o* in *old, cold, hold, mold, told, scold* is an example of a whole pattern where the single *o* is considered *long*. Another example is *find, kind, rind, wind* (to turn, which can also be wind, as moving air). In both of these cases, the vowel is followed by a consonant blend and somehow the whole combination indicates the vowel sound. Then there are the r-controlled vowels in which the vowel sound changes either to a very soft *a* or to a schwa sound as in *herd, bird, first, word*, etc. or to an almost long *o* as in *for*. Then we have many words with a single *a* preceded by *w* in which case the vowel takes the \o\ sound (wall, want, etc.). I hope this answers your question. Grace

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 05, 2002 8:30:31 PM

Dear Keila,

I am a private tutor with students in K-8. Your teaching colleague's method (I believe) will only continue to confuse her students when they try to identify short vowel sounds versus long vowel sounds on their own. And it's very important that they be able to do this as so many spelling patterns are based on students knowing whether they are hearing a short vowel sound versus long vowel sound (e.g. --ck or -K or -ke, consonant doubling, drop the -e, etc.). I see students who have had three, four, five years (or more!) of instruction in "short" vowel sounds versus "long" vowel sounds and they just don't get it/ or they just can't remember which are which.

Here's another way out of the controversy: Rather than following the usual route of teaching "short" vowel sounds, then "long" vowel sounds..., I teach my students to recognize all the vowel sounds (I teach 17), including categorizing them by how and where those sounds are made in the mouth, and the most popular way to spell each sound.

Until they can hear and distinguish between all the vowel sounds in all the words they'll hear or read, I don't want to talk about "short vowel sounds" versus "long vowel sounds" because--as your e-mail implies--we can say any vowel sound for a really long time. In fact, that's a crucial part of vowel sounds that I want them to learn--that vowel sounds make words louder and longer. Being able to stretch out a word and identifying the vowel sound is an important part of building phonemic awareness, understanding the alphabetic principle, and learning how to spell or read words. No matter how young or old my students are, I always start with teaching students how to hear, and then spell, vowel sounds in words.

My vowel sounds chart is based on linguistics (arranged on the page according to where the sounds are made in the mouth, similar to Lindamood-Bell's chart if you are familiar with theirs) and has a picure of a word that represents each sound (sheep, pig, snake, ...boy, crown). During this process, I do talk about (and we feel with our mouths) how some sounds take longer to make because our tongues have to go more than one place, but that also includes sounds that we don't identify as "long" such as /oy/. (Note: I do group and label the sounds on my chart according to how the sounds are made in the mouth. A couple are borrowed labels from L-B, the rest are my own: Smilies /ee/, /i/, /a_e/, /e/, /a/, /i_e/; Comfortable Center /u/; Dr. Jaw /o/; Smoochers /oo/, /oo/ as in book, /o_e/; Crazy R's /ar/, /or/, /er/; and the Sliders /u_e/, /oy/ and /ow/.)

Only after students are able to recognize all seventeen vowel sounds, and they know the most popular way to spell them, do we go back to categorize/label the "short" versus "long" vowel sounds. And even then, we talk about how both short vowel sounds and long vowel sounds can be said for a long or short time. I emphasize that they're never going to be able to distinguish the short versus long vowel sounds by stretching out the word or saying it fast. That's why your teacher colleague is only going to confuse them: A student can alway stretch out the vowel in "hop" for a really long time, thus believing that it has a long vowel sound; or say the the word "hope" very fast and conclude that the vowel sound is short. Or they can call /ar/ or /oy/ long vowel sounds for the same reason.

I do want my students to know these labels of "long" and "short" are not totally arbitrary; they do make some sense. They've already done mouth thinking when learning the vowel sounds chart and know that if a machine was measuring how long it took them to say /i_e/ versus /i/ when they were trying to say it fast, that the machine could identify the longer vowel sound. And this makes sense to them because they can understand that when their tongue has to go two places it's going to take longer than if it only had to go one place (I use a real life analogy such as a baseball diamond). But, I want them to understand that they're not going to be able to--and should not--rely on this understanding when trying to remember which vowel sounds on their chart are labeled "long" versus "short."

So how do my students learn which vowel sounds are considered "long" vowel sounds? Along with the mouth thinking discussion above, we notice several patterns which I'm sure you teach too: The five vowel sounds that sound like the name of the five main vowel letters ("the vowels that say their name") are called the "long" vowel sounds. We notice, too, that these vowel sounds have spelling patterns that are "longer" because they tend to use more letters in one syllable words: silent -e or vowel teams. My students color all the long vowel sounds red. Actually, they color only the most popular way to spell that vowel sound (i.e., ee, a_e, i_e, o_e, u_e) that's on the line next to the picture representing that sound. Then I ask them to look for the five sounds on the vowel sounds chart that only use one letter to spell those sounds: /i/, /e/, /a/, /u/, and /o/. Voila! The "short' vowel sounds. We talk about how we can use that association: that short vowel sounds are most often spelled with a very "short' (1 letter) spelling pattern to spell those sounds. My students color in those vowel sounds in blue. (These colors are arbitrary, and I have so many related materials labeled with these colors that I haven't changed them, but if I was starting again, I would color the short vowel sounds in red and the long vowel sounds in green for the obvious association between stop and go.)

As I've said, some of my students still have trouble remembering which sounds are "short" or "long" so we play many games where they can use their chart to help them. The key problem for my students is not hearing the difference between /o/ and /o-e/ or /a/ and /a_e/, but in knowing which is labeled long or short, and then knowing automatically the spelling pattern which goes with it. Our emphasis on playing the game is hearing the vowel sound in the word first and then connecting it back to the most popular way to spell those vowel sounds. (I would be happy to share some of my games for those who are interested.)

Only after my students get fast at spelling all the vowel sounds the most popular way (they need to fill out a blank vowel sounds chart accurately in under 35 seconds), do we start adding the second and third, etc., most popular ways to spell those sounds. An added benefit to starting with vowel sounds--not reading letter combinations--is that there are relatively so few of them. Most students are amazed that there are only 17-18 vowel sounds to learn (and by the way, many are confused about vowel sounds versus vowel letter names because of how most teachers teach--vowel letters don't/make have sounds!) Starting with sounds, rather than letters, increases their phonemic awareness and their understanding of the alphabetic principle.

Well, this is a really long answer--the major reason that I tend not to reply to questions on-line. Hope it helps! :)

Bonnie


.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 06, 2002 6:58:24 AM

Hi Victoria, Let me make a few comments concerning long vowels, short vowels, letters talking, silent e, the letter names, and the rules of phonics programs, whoops, don't forget the exceptions! When I teach a new class of older kids using PG, I tell the kids to forget all those things, if they know them. The only thing that I tell them is to remember that there are vowels and consonaunts. I tell them that letters don't talk, they do. I then ask them, those who have been taught by a phonics program, if the terminology confused them? They always said that it had and they never understood the silent 'e'. When I teach the kids the vowels, I always tell them that they represent one of two sounds and tell them the sounds. I also tell them that when they see a vowel by itself, is will be usually be the short sounds, I tell them the specific sounds not the terminology. I tell them if when they say the sound and the word doesn't make sense, try the other sound. Of course, knowing the choices for the different sounds is one of the main concepts of PG. This doesn't take very long to teach and the kids understand it immediately. They also are glad to find other kids who were also puzzled with the 'wierd' terminology of phonics.
In your post, you said that PG talks about the 10 hours of instructiion. This really only applies to remediation. When you use it as a decoding/spelling program for k-3, it of course takes longer. The progression of the program depends on the cognitive development of the child. The nice thing about it, is that you don't have to spend forever teaching the alphabet and dolch words, you can just start right off with teaching reading. I know that this statement is controversial but it does work. We spend such a long time with having the kids learn the letter names in isolation, but that is not teaching them to read. I know that they have to learn them, particularly for spelling, but they don't have to start off that way, they will learn them soon enough. Most of the kids that are going to have a reading problem, can't connect the letter name to the symbol. I remember the struggle that I had trying to teach my daughter, Jackie the letter names, let alone the alphabet song! Immediately, she started losing self-esteem because she couldn't do it. The sessions always ended in tears and frustration. I like the idea that the very first lesson in PG, instead of learning the alphabet, they learn how to blend and segment sounds into words without frustration. So many of the kids that I test, tell me the letter name, not the sound because they associate the letter name with the letter not the sound to the letter. As the kids work with the sounds corresponding with the symbol, they learn the letter name but when they are ready. The use of the term 'sound picture' (what PG advocates) instead of the letter name is, I think, a real boost to teaching reading to young kids who may have maturational lags. Also teach ing sound to symbol makes sense to kids instead of about letters talking. That is so confusing to concrete minded kids. By the way, I was able to hear Dr. Reid Lyon speak at the Virginia branch of the IDA. He was incredible! I was able to speak to him later and asked him about a rumor that I had heard. I asked him if Dr. Torgesen was going to do an independent research on PG and he said yes. I then emailed Torgesen and asked him if I was able to train some teachers in elementary school in PG, could we be part of the study? He told me that within the next 6 months, he would know if his grant was approved and he would get back in touch with me. In the interim, I am going to talk to the head of reading for the county and see if I can do that. If she says yes, I will then apply for a grant of my own that will cover the expenses of the program. There is a lot of money out there now to do research on the different programs. As a matter of fact, the programs have to be researched and determined their success rate with certain problematic kids for the schools to receive federal funds. No longer, are kids going to be identified for special ed services because they can't read by grade three. The schools have to show that they have used reading programs that will actually teach these kids how to read that are based by research. Also, the IDA is lobbying to drop the discrepency formula to identify students for sped services. I know that this post is long but I wanted to get this information out. The reading programs have to have clean independent research done to pinpoint the type of student that not only won't learn to read with their program as well as to those students that will learn.. I am very optomistic that finally, education my be successful for all students not for the top 20% of the kids that have no problems with learning..

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 06, 2002 10:46:09 AM

I wish you the best as you pursue this.

I'm a strong believer in addressing cognitive skills in school. The earlier in their school years, the better. If Audiblox/Schoolblox would be coupled with PG in the early grades, the result might be awesome.

I currently am using Audiblox/Schoolblox with my regular class of 5th graders to develop their cognitive skills. A couple of students really stick out in my mind. At the beginning of the year other teachers felt they should be referred for ADHD, and their decoding, comprehension and recall of information was not very good as well as understanding new concepts. ADHD is not even a question now. It is amazing how well they can attend. This has helped their understanding and recall of information in their classes. I do still need to read one's science/social studies tests to him. The other one can read the tests by himself. He picks up words so easily after seeing and hearing them. Decoding of new words in reading is still an issue though. The reading teacher just told me the other day that she is amazed at how well the one comprehends while still stumbling over words. I wish, and have suggested, PG be used with both of them, but I am not their reading teacher.

I would very much like to try this combination of PG and Audiblox/Schoolblox at my school (especially in the early grades), but as of right now everyone has their own ideas of what to do, and it is very difficult to implement change.

Keep us posted on what you do. I am very interested.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 06, 2002 2:33:19 PM

I have (had) a lovely pair of charts, consonants and vowels, from a company called Phonovisual; these also relate sounds to articulation points, give a picture for each sound, and show the most popular method of spelling the sound in large letters and common alternative spellings in smaller letters. These charts are simple enough to be used to teach Grade 1 beginning readers, as they were intended, and organized enough to be useful to a student of linguistics. I like them a lot and recommend them as a useful reference to tape to the desk or wall. (The workbooks that come from the same company are OK but tend to dullness, I have to warn) Unfortunately my copies of the charts may or may not be in one of the cardboard boxes from the last move so I can't give details of the address, but I'll try to find it.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 06, 2002 2:58:05 PM

Dear Keila:

I don't think there is one list of non-phonetic "red words" because there is just a huge amount of them. However, Project Read has "red word" cards for 160 of the most common non-phonetic words found in lower grade readers.

L.Starr

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 06, 2002 3:25:09 PM

Yes, good luck in getting your school to do something useful! This will be great.

I really think you and I do pretty much the same thing, but we are starting with different populations.

You seem to get mostly kids who have been labelled as special ed and pretty much left out of the loop. In one way that's bad since they have fallen so far behind, but in another way it's good because you start with a fairly blank slate and get little outside interference. I get mostly kids who have *apparently* been successful in the school system for a number of years, and then crash when their coping and faking skills run out. My students have all sorts of half-learned and mis-learned procedures which they insist fiercely on hanging on to because they *have* succeeded in the past, at least as success is defined in gold stars and grades; and they have two hours (in lucky weeks) with me teaching systematically, fighting against thirty hours with their teacher telling them the exact opposite. I have to start where the kids are and give them something that they can use despite their teachers.

Personally, given the choice, I always teach the short vowel sounds first and the names/long sounds later. My little old Ladybird abc book with a for axe, e for egg (not the best choice as it sounds more like ay, but oh well), i for ink, etcetera, is a nice tool. (See my recent post on homeschooling recommending strongly to teach a kindergartner lower case and sounds as opposed to upper case and names!) But I'm not often given that choice; most students come to me firmly convinced that letter names are given down from Mount Sinai, and I have to work around that. I get to spend weeks usually just making it clear that letters do represent sounds, and that saying the names in a high-pitched nasal high-speed spelling chant is not going to help in reading. This is a source of great anger and frustration to these kids, who are told exactly the opposite for thirty hours a week by their much nicer class teacher who is so much fun. (Just because she doesn't teach anything and they are suddenly failing, why am I so difficult?) They have also usually learned the terminology about letters "saying" sounds, so unless there's a real problem of understanding I don't bother to fight that battle; as long as the kid learns to say useful sounds when they see the appropriate letter groups I'll go along with a few poor wordings as long as they aren't actively harming learning.

As I've also posted more than repeatedly :-) I always teach kids two or three vowel sounds, and the essential rule of try one vowel sound and then the other.

And as I also keep saying also ad infinitum, I don't teach Dolch words /sight words as a *separate* topic AT ALL. You see, I find a logical difficulty as well as a practical one in teaching reading twice over with two self-contradictory sets of rules: for these words here you can use the phonics I'm teaching you and you can sound them out, but for these words over here you just memorize them by sight and rote memorize their spellings; what's that you ask, how do you know when you meet a new word whether it's in the decode file or the memorize file -- gee, I have to tell you -- so how do you know when to sound out -- I have no idea, just do this. Say what? Contradictory, overloads the memory, non-systematic, and slow as the overloaded memory banks have to be searched for each word. I find it infinitely easier to just teach sounding out (including 100 or so common spelling patterns and all vowel sounds) and tell the student honestly that some words have a few rule-breaking parts, especially weird vowels and the occasional non-pronounced consonant, but the consonants can be used to make a good guess along with the meaning of the sentence.

As far as silent e, I was taught many, many moons ago to think of it as a "helper" vowel; in most common long vowel spelling patterns the first vowel represents the long sound and the second vowel is just there as a helper or a signal to make that long sound rather than short; the second vowel doesn't represent any sound at all, just lends its help to the first. This at least is a reasonably consistent explanation and clarifies a common problem for many students who want to know why that letter is there and what sound it "says" (OK, represents).

I very strongly resist the cutesie terminology popular with many elementary teachers and text writers, who call it a "magic e". I spend my life trying to convince kids that reading and math are NOT magic, but based on logic, systematic rules, and the real world and are therefore learnable (while magic requires an inborn talent,. the luck to drink the right potion, and memorizing the right mystical incantations from the secret book that is held by the inner circle, so if you don't have it, you don't, and you can give up learning here and now -- speaking of the huge math problem we have . . .) I grit my teeth when the kid comes back to me and tells me that her teacher let them in on the big secret of the "magic e".

Then we get to my present student, who has been taught unfortunately by a "modern" teacher and is displaying exactly the same error patterns and bad habits in French . . .

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 10, 2002 3:31:15 PM

Grace,

I just checked your web site for 140 HFW list and am very impressed. It is so obvious that you are a mature teacher with valuable experience.

I wish I had seen "Teaching The Child To Print" 4 years ago. My son has had a terrible time with b, p, d confussion it is improving but been very hard for the poor guy. Actually, cursive is helping correct the problem.

I will use your printing method at home with him.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us parents.

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Anonymous
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Posted:Apr 10, 2002 3:56:58 PM

Shay,

That is good news it is time they started waking up to the fact that reading programs should be tested and proven and that not every program works for every kid.

Keep me informed.

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