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Spelling Rules or Just have to memorize

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Joined: 02 Jul 2013
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:16 pm    Post subject: Spelling Rules or Just have to memorize Reply with quote

Hi Debbie,

My question is: When a letter such as 'a' makes a particular sound like 'ay' in words such as





does the letter says its name/become a long vowel based on its surrounding and the position in those words or is it just the way it is hence the kids have to memorize the spelling. Likewise for the other vowels when pronounced with a long vowel or when isolated

I came across the word radio whilst teaching and wondered if there is a rule explaining why the 'a' and 'o' are long?

Also is there any books you can recommend where such rules are covered?

Kindest regards

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Location: UK

PostPosted: Thu Jul 25, 2013 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Abby,

Really good question!

There are some spelling 'tendencies' (which I prefer to say rather than 'rules' per se) which are worth knowing about - but often the simplest way forward is as good as any.

For example,

"In these words: bagel, paper, apron and Asia, this letter (point to the letter 'a' in the words and the first letter 'a' in Asia), is code for the /ai/ sound."

So, the supporting adult can do this with any word in any book (or other medium) at any time.

I've made a simple poster to promote this form of incidental teaching as you can easily teach any bit of the alphabetic code at any time like this:

The reality is that single letter 'a' can be code for many different sounds in different words, or be in a 'letter group' which is code for a particular sound like /ai/ as in the words above, or /ar/ as in words like 'father' and 'drama', and /or/ as in words like 'autumn' or 'automatic' - and so on.

I have drawn up a grid to show how complex the alphabetic code is when reading from print-to-sound but I don't advocate using this other than to appreciate what 'readers' are faced with when trying to read the English language -and also to show how complicated the code is:

For the 'short vowel' and 'long vowel' sounds for single vowel letters, however, I advocate an 'incidental teaching tip' as follows:

At first, you will be teaching the single vowel letters 'a', 'e', 'i', 'o' and 'u' AS CODE FOR the short vowel sounds as in the words 'apple', 'egg', 'insect', 'octopus' and 'umbrella'.

Shortly afterwards, teach that IN SOME WORDS these single vowel letters MAY BE CODE FOR the long vowel sounds of /ai/, /ee/, /igh/, /oa/ and /yoo/ or long /oo/.

This means that when beginners encounter simple words in their reading material such as 'me, we, be, he, she' and 'table, apron, April' and 'child, mind, find, I, wild' and 'no, go, so, also, mango' - (and even 'radio'), and 'unit, uniform, unite' and so on, they can try the short vowel sound first for the single vowel letter and if that doesn't make a real word or make sense in the sentence, then they can try the long vowel sound.

We need beginners to be fearless in their reading and writing, but also to understand that the English alphabetic code is particularly complex therefore they cannot be expected to read every word correctly, they will need adult help for quite a while - years in fact - especially for spelling!

That's why I suggest it is really important to tell beginners about the fascinating history of the English language and the historic reasons for the complex alphabetic code, and also to provide both giant main display alphabetic code charts and mini alphabetic code charts for learners' phonics folders which can be found here - downloadable for 'free':

By the way, I suggest that we never use the expression that 'letters say their names' or 'that letter says its name' - no letters 'say' any sounds, they are CODE FOR the sounds.

Also, avoid mixing letter 'names' with the notion of letter 'sounds', there is no need to use the expression or the notion that letters 'say' anything when you keep in mind that the letters and letter groups are simply CODE FOR the sounds identifiable in our speech. Very Happy

This also means that there are no such things as 'silent letters' as ALL the letters are silent!

We simple root all the letter groups in the notion of a 'code' and say, for example, that these graphemes are code for their associated sounds:

'kn' is code for the /n/ sound

'wr' is code for the /r/ sound

In some words, 'mb' is code for the /m/ sound (lamb) but in other words, 'mb' is actually two separate bits of code such as in 'cucum-ber' and 'remem-ber'.

And so on... Very Happy
Debbie Hepplewhite
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