Teaching Long Vowel Words with a Magic ‘e’

Introducing the Magic ‘e’

Yesterday, my son drew a picture for me and wrote: “I love you mummy and I wish you had a grayt lighf, Mummy.”

Pleased he is writing, I try not to fuss about his spelling too much. Notice he wrote ‘grayt’ instead of great and ‘lighf’ instead of ‘life’. And yes, his ‘f’ is backwards, too.

My son’s school is teaching phonics with Ruth Mishkin’s program Read, Write, Inc.

Having taught in two countries at 5 different schools, I have seen a lot of phonics programs.

There are a few things I like about this program. First, I like the way it teaches children to write letters with catchy phrases that help the child visualize the shape of the letter. For example, children say, “All around the apple” as they write a lower case ‘a’.

I also like how Read, Write, Inc. teaches the ‘special friends’ (a.k.a. vowel teams, digraphs) with catchy phrases like ‘ow – blow the snow’ and ‘ay – may I play?’

Since my son learned ‘the special friends’ first, he is now writing ‘lighk’ instead of ‘like’ and ‘playt’ instead of ‘plate’.

I decided it was time to teach the long vowel/silent e words before he gets too attached to spelling common words with his ‘special friend’ spellings.

My personal favorite way to do this is to use the ‘Magic e’.

If you would like to read more about teaching literacy or your child is not yet ready for long vowel words, you may be interested in the following blog posts:

Teaching Letters and Sounds to Young Children

Phonics for Active Kids

How to Motivate Children Who Are Resistant to Learning At Home

If not, here is how to use the magic ‘e’ to make learning long vowels fun.

How to Use Magic ‘e’ to Teach Words With Long Vowels

First, make your sparkly Magic ‘e’ wand.

Materials:

  • popsicle stick
  • construction paper
  • glitter glue
  1. Get a popsicle stick (lolly stick) and a piece of colored construction paper.
  2. Fold the paper in half and cut it into a square shape. Open it up so you have a fold and two symmetrical squares on either side of the fold.
  3. Tape the popsicle stick onto the square on the right.
  4. Fold the square on the left over the top of the popsicle stick and glue the two squares together with the popsicle stick inside.
  5. Write a lower case ‘e’ on the front of the wand in glitter glue.
  6. Voila! You have a magic ‘e’ wand.
Popsicle stick taped to paper
William glues the two squares together
The Magic ‘e’ Wand

 

How To Introduce the Magic of Magic ‘e’

Prepare several notecards with the short vowel word on one side and long vowel word with the ‘silent e’ on the other.

Have your child read the short vowel word e.g. mad.

Next, tap the word with the Magic ‘e’ wand and say your magical phrase: Abracadabra! Alakazam!

Flip the word over and show the word with the magic ‘e’ on the end of it. Explain that the wand changed the vowel sound. With the silent ‘e’ at the end of the word the vowel says its name. Now the word reads ‘made’ instead of ‘mad’.

Go through each word with the magic wand and practice reading the long ‘a’ words. Here is an example of how to do this (pardon my eldest son’s finger in the footage – he did the recording):

 

 

When you’re finished with the long ‘a’ words, you may wish to introduce some long ‘i’, long ‘o’, and long ‘u’ words.

Have fun! You may want to use some of the ideas from Phonics for Active Kids to practice long vowel reading.

Here is a Magic ‘E’ Vocabulary Powerpoint I created years ago to help with vocabulary development and long vowel/silent ‘e’ reading practice.

Other Resources

Here is a Silent ‘e’ Spelling game on Education.com.

And an Electric Company Silent ‘e’ video on YouTube:

 

Teaching Letters and Sounds to Young Children

Early Phonics Instruction

Our local school uses a phonics program that links reading and writing. It’s a nice program and works well when children are ready to write, but I prefer to start phonics earlier in a fun, informal way.

Why Do I Start Teaching Phonics Early?

When children are developmentally ready it is easier for them to grasp letter sounds outside of a school setting.

I knew my three-year-old was ready, when he suddenly became interested in the first letter of his name and he started spotting the letter “W” everywhere we went. I decided it was time to teach the letters and sounds.

My favourite program is Zoo-phonics because each letter is associated with an animal, an action, and the sound. This is good for kinaesthetic learners and just plain active three-year-old boys (like my son).

There are many other similar programs available to suit younger children. You can even make up your own phonics program incorporating your child’s interests (e.g. vehicles). I would include the sound, letter character, and action if I were to create my own.

My rule of thumb is to spend no more than three minutes of instruction with a three-year-old (4 minutes with a four-year-old, etc). Children this young have a short attention span and it is critical to keep phonics instruction fun and informal.

When I introduce Allie Alligator for letter “a”  I chase my son around the lounge using my arms like snapping alligator jaws while I make the sound “a”, “a”, “a”. This is fun for him and he doesn’t even realise he is learning his letter sounds.

Let me know if you find an original way to introduce the letters and sounds. If you keep it fun and informal, your child will be more than ready to read when the time comes.

The Five-Finger Rule: How To Choose A ‘Just Right’ Book

How To Choose a ‘Just Right’ Book

How to select a ‘just right’ book

The Five-Finger rule – How To Choose A Just Right Book

Last week, my son came home from school with a reading book that was far too difficult for him.

“But…but… my teacher said I could read books from the European section of the library. My friend Sarah is reading it and says it’s really good.”

As I listened to him struggle over the first couple of pages, I knew he was going to get too frustrated to finish the book. It was time to teach him how to choose a ‘just right’ book for independent reading.

We need to teach our children how to select appropriate independent reading books. These are books that will increase their reading fluency and, at the same time, help them develop their reading comprehension skills.

How To Choose A ‘Just Right’ Book

  1. In order to choose a ‘just right’ book encourage the child to pick up a story that looks interesting by glancing at the front cover and reading the title.
  2. Next, the child should do a ‘book walk’ by flipping through the pages, looking at the illustrations, and reading the captions and/or chapter titles.
  3. Finally, they should choose a page in the middle of the book to read. As they come to difficult words they should hold up a finger. If they have 5 or more fingers up by the end of the page, the book is most likely too difficult for them to read independently. Of course, we must apply this rule with common sense. If the children are missing names of people or places we may decide not to count these. My son loves reading tales of Greek heroes and gods. These names are difficult even for me, so I don’t count them when we use the 5-finger rule.

Here is a link to a thorough explanation of this rule that I found helpful.

Now that I am a parent I believe that this is one of the most important concepts a teacher can share with parents and children. The Five-Finger rule empowers children to choose the books that will really move them forward.

When To Revisit Easy Books

Of course, there are times when it is beneficial to revisit ‘easy’ books. I often encourage my son to read picture books to his little brother. He loves to do this and it really helps his reading fluency and ability to read aloud with expression.

When To Use Challenging Books

I also expose my son to challenging books above his independent reading level when I read him a story each evening. I purposely choose this book because I know he will enjoy the story. I choose this book with the purpose of promoting vocabulary development and providing ample opportunities for discussions that will enhance comprehension.