• Wonderful Writers
    Below are some of the phonics rules that we have learned:
    Letters of the Alphabet:
    There are two kinds of letters: vowels and consonants.
    *Vowel sounds are made in your throat with your mouth open. Consonants are made with your lips, tongue, teeth and sometimes breath or voice.
    *The main vowels are a, e, i, o and u. They are always vowels.
    *Y is sometimes vowels, too. (It is always a consonant when they are at the beginning of a word.)
    *All other letters are consonants.
    Vowel Sounds:
    *Every word has a vowel in it. Even the smallest words, which are I and A, include a vowel. There are no words that have just consonants. In fact, it is very difficult to pronounce consonants clearly without a vowel.
    *Every letter has a name. It also has a sound. As children begin to read and write, usually from kindergarten through third grade, they come to understand that the "alphabetic" layer of English spelling, simple sound/symbol correspondences, can't account for the way many English words are spelled. They also gradually come to understand that one symbol or group of symbols can stand for more than one sound, and sometimes a sound can be spelled several different ways. They also will learn that groups of letters can subtly change the meaning of a word -- such as the addition of ed, s and es.
    Short Vowel Sounds:
    *Sometimes vowels have short sounds as in man, hen, pit, hop and sun. When a word has only one vowel between two consonants, the vowel usually says its short sound.
    Long Vowel Sounds: 
    *Sometimes vowels have long sounds, mail, feet, ripe, goat, cube. When a word has two vowels, we usually hear only the first vowel and it says its long sound.
    *"When 2 vowels go walking, the 1st one does the talking!" Word sort activities: Do word sorts with simple words, e.g. at, ate, pin, pine, mad, made, can, cane, cut, cute, dim, dime, rip, ripe, bit , bite, etc. Look for patterns of short/long vowel sounds. See if they can guess the secret?
    *The "final e" rule - The "e' is so strong, it's magic. When a word has a vowel, then a consonant, then a final "e", the first vowel says it's name and the "e' has no sound. It actually follows the rule: When two vowels are close together (and in this case, there is only one consonant between them) the first one usually says its name.
    Suggestions for Practice:
    *Do word sorts with vowel digraphs that make long vowel sounds: met, meat; ran, rain; far, fair; pant, paint; man, main; her, hear; set, seat; bed, bead; got, goat; cot, coat; rod, road; cost, coast.
    *Help them come up with the rule by themselves as they see the pattern: When a word has two vowels we usually hear only the first vowel sound and it says it long sound or "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." (When you use the latter saying, be sure they understand what the first vowel is saying -- i.e. its name.) (Another important note: the "u" in the 'qu' digraph is never considered a vowel -- it is part of the untouchable "qu".)
    *Have student make a new word by adding a magic e to these words: met, bet, cot, ran, pin, fed, got, pant, etc.
    *Do a word sort of words ending in a vowel: by, why, she, fry, go, cry, he, fly, me, sky, no, be, so, sky, my, we, dry, spy, yo-yo, spry, try, we, my, etc. What is the rule? When a word has only one vowel and the vowel is at the end of the word, the long sound is usually the only one heard.  This is one of the places where "y" becomes a vowel.
    *Do a word sort with words 'c' and 'g' words: candy, cold, curl, corn, scale, circus, dance, pencil, center, bicycle, police, cup, city, cent, cat, dice, etc. gate, golf, gum, gem, giant, gym, general, gold, wage, germ, glad, huge, grade, goose, garden, age, gas, ago, get,, etc. Have them say the words, listening for the hard or soft sounds of the letters. Have them see if they can find the pattern and make up a rule. When "c" or "g" come before a, o, or u, it usually says its hard sound. The hard sound of "c" is like "k". When 'c' or 'g' come before 'e, i, or y, it usually says their soft sound. The soft sound of 'c' is like 's'. The soft sound of 'g' is like the sound of 'j'. We call 'c' and 'g' copycats. They sometimes copy 's' and 'j'.

    *Sometimes vowels and vowel combinations have more than one sound. For instance, the letters "ow" have two sounds, as in now (where it is a dipthong) and slow (where it is silent w, acting as a vowel.) And to make things even more confusing, sometimes "ow" words are spelled the same, but do not sound the same or have the same meaning, as in the bow in the girl's hair and the bow that was taken at the end of the recital.

    Word sort activities:
    *Word sort for different sounds of "ow": town, slow, clown, brown, throw, grow, down, crow, allow, grown, window, flower, flowed, snowed, flowed, snowing, blowing, towing, row, bow, row, etc. The student may come up with a rule, such as 'ow' (dipthong) in the middle of a word or syllable is pronounced one way, whereas at the end of a word or syllable it is pronounced as long 'o'. Word sorts often help students to come up with their own rules, which is much more beneficial than being told the rule over and over. When 'l' follows a, the 'a' usually makes an "aw" sound.

    *Do a word sort using all, ball, fall, call, tall, wall, always, fan, can, mask, etc. Again have them note the pattern and make up their own rule. Note that there are exceptions, such as "shall". When 'r' follows 'a' the sound is also distorted and sounds much like "ah" as in far.

    *Do a word sort with these words: farm, park, barn, dart, dark, car, far. (Note: Some parts of the United States almost eliminate the 'r' sound in these words, typically Northeastern area. When 'lk' follows 'a', the sound is "aw": walk, chalk, talk, stalk.

    Double OO:
    There are two sounds of oo, too. Double vowel oo can have a short sound, as in wool. Or it can have a long sound as in school. The only way to know is to try them both and see which word sounds right in the sentence.

    *Word sort activities: Have child read these words and decide whether they have the short or long sounds. foot, rooster, school, took, spoon, root, stood, wool, good, book, hook, food, shook, loop, smooth, bloom, droop, stood, moon, igloo, crook, wood, spool. We hear another sound in boil and boy. Have student do a word sort and see if they can think of the rule: boil, boy, toy, toil, spoil, noise, oyster, joy, join, moist, choice, coin. [They may be confused by oyster. Because the rule is that oi is used in the middle of words (or syllables) and y is used at the end of words. The y is at the end of the first syllable of oyster, so it still follows the rules of phonics.]

    Consonant Digraphs:
    Because the English needed more sounds, they decided to put two letters together to make a whole new sound. We call them the "untouchables" because when you see them together, you know they make a new, distinct sound and they are not sounded separately as the individual consonants are in a blend. The consonant digraphs or untouchables are sh, ch, th, wh, qu, and the less common ph. All but wh and qu can come at the beginning or ending of a word. Wh only comes at the beginning of words. Can you guess why? [It has too much air to come at the end of a word. It would be too difficult to pronounce.] Hear the sh sounds in shop, shake, cash, fresh, shoes, shut. Hear the ch sounds in chair, chase, such, teach, much, each, chin, chop, chimpanzee, church, etc. Hear the th sound in thing, thin, three, teeth, with, this, etc. Hear the ph sound in phone, phonics, graph, etc. Hear the 'kw' sound in quasi, quake, quail. Now hear the wh sound in what, when, white, wheel, which, and while. Hold a torn piece of paper before your mouth and notice the difference in the amount of air that comes out when you say "witch" and "which." There should be a big difference if you are enunciating correctly.

    Silent Letters:
    *Tell students that they can usually tell how to pronounce a word or spell it by listening to it carefully, but there are some words that have silent letters. We call these "oddballs!" Words with silent letters have to be learned by visual memory in order to be able to spell them. Using the following words with silent letters, read over them together: knee, known, knew, calf, wren, thumb, knit, half, written, knock, climb, wrote, knot, lamb, ghost. Talk about the silent letters. Then give them this list to have them make corrections in the misspelled words: lam, ritten, new, thum, nock, nown, nit, clim, haf, gost, nee, not, rote, caf, ren. Have child summarize what has been learned about silent letters: [The sounds /n/, /f/, /m/, /r/, and /g/ can be spelled by "silent letters.] and What are the silent letters that spell these sounds? [/n/ kn, /f/ lf, /m/ mb, /r/ wr, /g/ gh. Here are some more words to play with: kneel, wreck, knead, chalk, knife, wrist, crumbs, knead, knock, thumb. Contractions To make writing more informal and to more accurately copy our speech, contractions were invented: Instead of saying "I will leave for school in fifteen minutes," most people would say in their speech, "I'll leave for school in fifteen minutes." To say "I will" in one word, we write "I'll". This small mark, ', is called an apostrophe. It means that one or more letters have been left out and the new word is called a contraction. See if you can say some contractions for these words: could not, we will, are not, that is, you will, she will, was not, do not, there is, let us, should not, that is, I am, it is, would not. Dictate the words and have student write the contractions.