Heather Jung breaks out the glue and demonstrates how she makes short vowels sticky.
|Image from Creative Commons|
Over the years, I have noticed that most of the Spanish speaking students I work with can solve words phonetically with ease fairly quickly. Phonics is a strength for them because Spanish is a phonetic language with sounds very similar (in many ways) to English. Arabic and Urdu speakers often have a much more difficult time, particularly with remembering short vowel sounds. These short vowels are difficult for them to discriminate aurally and are not sounds used in their native languages.
Recently, I came across a strategy that I have found very helpful for getting those tricky short vowel sounds to “stick” in my students’ memories. I found this strategy in the book Catch a Falling Reader by Connie R. Hebert. In Chapter 9 of her book, Hebert recommends using physical actions and movement to help students make more powerful connection to short vowel sounds. For example:
Short a: Have the students pretend a doctor is shining a light into their mouth and having them say “aaah.”
Short e: Have the students say “eeh” and use their finger to trace the straight line across their teeth, as they say the sound. The straight line is like the straight line in the middle of the lower case e.
Short i: Have the students say “iiih” and feeling how their cheeks squish and smile, as they say the sound.
Short o: Have the students trace the shape of their mouth, as they say the sound “oooa.” They will note that it is the same shape as the letter o.
Short u: Have the student karate chop their stomach as they say the “uuuh.” You may even want to pretend that you are hurt when you demonstrate this one and remind the student to be careful when they karate chop their own stomach. This humor will make the sound extra “sticky.”
By integrating visual (seeing shape of your mouth making the sound), auditory (hearing the sound) and kinesthetic (moving as they make the sound) you can integrate multiple learning styles and make more powerful connections to the learning for your students. You may feel very silly as you demonstrate these movements, but that means that it is funny to your students too. That drama and fun enhances and bonds the learning. It will also be funny to look around the room and see your students doing these actions are they remembering the short vowel sounds that you have now made “sticky” for them as they read and write independently.
Hebert, C. R. (2008). Catch A Falling Reader 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.