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Part 2 – Information about the vowels

Explanations are given about the way knowledge of the vowels can help the children work out words for reading and spelling.

 

Part 2: Information about the vowels

 

A single vowel followed by two or more consonants nearly always has a short vowel sound (so long as the single vowel is not part of a digraph or trigraph), as can be seen in pantomime, opposite, practice, horrible, octopus and magnify. So you can be fairly sure that, in words like these, the vowel letter will have a short vowel sound. However, this certainty does not exist in multi-syllable words where there is only one consonant between the vowels. For example, in helicopter, medical, positive, promise, skeleton, and imagine, the first vowel is short, whereas in romantic, junior, locomotive, minority, museum and nobody, the vowel is long.

 

If the short vowel doesn’t work, try the long vowel is a useful reading strategy for words like those above. It is a technique that works well for children if that word and its meaning are already familiar to them through their spoken language. (This is another reason why improving vocabulary is always very important.) Ideally, the children should be encouraged to always try and decode a word they cannot read by trying the different vowel possibilities [demonstration]. If it still does not make sense, then the children should be encouraged to say that they do not know what the word is, rather than making a wild guess. It is nothing to be ashamed of; there are thousands of words in English and quite often we adults have exactly the same problem. Either we have to look the word up in the dictionary for its meaning and pronunciation, or we ask another adult who is familiar with the word.

 

The problem of coming across difficult, multi-syllable words in the early stages of learning to read does not occur when decodable readers are used. These books only have words that the children can work out for themselves. Once children are fluent in the reading of such books and can decode new, straightforward words, then they are well prepared for dealing with these more complicated multi-syllable words.

 

The schwa

 

A schwa is a swallowed vowel sound that is usually pronounced /uh/. A schwa occurs in an unstressed syllable of some longer multi-syllable words. Here are some examples: camel, lullaby, competition, return, about [demonstration].

 

The schwa does not cause reading difficulties for children who are familiar with these words in their spoken language, but it is a big problem for spelling. How is an /uh/ spelt? In the beginning, it helps children to spell these words by emphasising the pure vowel sound [demonstration]. The children who read a great deal often remember this type of spelling by having been exposed to seeing the word many times.

 

More information about the vowels

 

As explained earlier, two vowel letters are usually needed for representing a long vowel sound. The second vowel letter influences the first one and changes it from a short vowel sound to a long vowel sound. Occasionally, it is the second vowel that takes the sound, as in grief, neither and great [demonstration]. The word young is another example, although here the second vowel makes its short sound, /u/. The children get used to trying different possibilities linked to the vowels [demonstration].

 

Sometimes the second vowel influences the first vowel but also represents its own sound, as with these two-syllable words: bias, diet, dual, chaos, trial, cruel [demonstration].

 

  • Part 1- Vowels and consonants

    Information is provided about consonants and vowels, starting with simple short vowels and…

  • Part 3 – Guidance linked to vowel patterns

    There are explanations and rules linked to the vowels, which help the children…

  • Part 4 – Drop, swop and double

    Guidance is provided about the more complicated rules, described as ‘Drop, swop and…

  • Part 5 – Conclusion

    The advantages of synthetic phonics and knowing how the vowels work are summarized…

  • Words ending in 'y' with an /ee/ sound

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in 'y' with an /ee/ sound - print letters

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • CRE Spelling Rules Booklet

    These pages can be downloaded and made into a booklet. On some printers each page has to be printed one at a time and back-to-back.

  • Words ending in 'er'.

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in 'er' - print letters

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in '-le'.

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.

  • Words ending in '-le' - print letters

    This is a useful set of words for blending practice. Care should be taken to give the children only the words that use the letter sounds that have been taught.