Letter Sounds – Part 2


The first series of BOB Books is all short vowels and hard consonants.  The second series is long vowels and some soft consonants.  Here are the next level of letter sounds to teach, prior to having your kid read the second series.

We have already learned the basic sounds of the letters, but sometimes there are combinations of letters that make them sound different.  First, I will cover the new ways these letters can sound.  Next will be when they sound that way.

The vowels can make long sounds (think: cape, Pete, line, rope, cube or tube).  For the most part, a long vowel sounds like the name of the vowel (a says ay, etc.).  The exception is u, which can either sound like it’s name (as in cube) OR can sound like oo (as in tube).  Here’s where we get to the practical side of teaching my kids to read – I could have looked up the intricate rules on why our language is so messy and tried to explain them to my kids.  I didn’t.  I simply told my kids that the letter u could make either of those sounds if it was long, and that they should try one and if it doesn’t make sense, try the other.

I know, very scientific.  I was trying to keep to KISS.  I didn’t want to overwhelm my kids with lots of rules.  This way, they also had to practice reading for comprehension – if they strung sounds together and it didn’t make a word, I encouraged them to play with it a bit to see if they could make sense of it.  This got them thinking about the sentence but also about context.  Please comment away if you feel this is not the way to go, but it’s what I did with my two.

Remember how there were two consonants that made hard sounds?  Well, g and c can also make soft sounds (think: giant and mice).

Before covering the whys, there are two more things to know: e at the end of a word is silent, it has no sound; and, y at the end of a word sounds like a long e (think: many).

Now, let’s go over some of the basics on when vowels are long and consonants are soft:

1) a_e results in a long vowel.  (think: take) If there is more than one consonant between the vowel and the e, then the initial vowel is not long.  (think: biter vs bitter)  This rule is also true with the letter e (think: Pete).

2) g and c are soft when followed by e, i, or y.  (think: gel, mice, giant, lace, lacy)

3) most combinations of vowels sound like a long version of the first vowel (think: maid, rain, weed, leap). There are some exceptions to this (this is English, after all, the land of exceptions).  One exception is ou (think: you, our, loud – which is not pronounced with a long o like lode).

These rules will get you through most of the long vowel series of BOB or Modern Curriculum Press.  Again, KISS (keep it simple, stupid).  I was trying to give as few rules as possible while still covering almost all the bases.

And some final pointers:

-ed usually says d (think: liked – it’s like with a d at the end)

-es says s (think: bikes – it’s bike with s at the end)

– aw, ew, ow (click here for the hand motions I used to teach these)


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