Long and short vowels

This forum has been created to provide a non-challenging environment for teachers and parents new to using synthetic phonics.

Judy
Posts: 1184
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:57 pm

Long and short vowels

Post by Judy » Thu Nov 01, 2007 2:23 pm

A while ago I decided that it would be useful to teach my pupils about long and short vowels, although I know some SP programmes think this is unnecessary. I think it can be very helpful, particularly from the spelling point of view.

The trouble is that I haven't really found a way to explain this that doesn't produce blank looks on the faces of my pupils, all of whom are 'strugglers'.

I wonder whether anybody has any ideas for activities or even ways of explaining this which they have found successful, bearing in mind that I nearly always have to begin by explaining what vowels and consonants are before I can even begin to get into the 'long' and 'short' concept!

Thanks in advance.

Tricia
Posts: 177
Joined: Sun Oct 03, 2004 2:39 pm
Contact:

Post by Tricia » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:33 pm

Hi Judy,

Rather than explaining it, I try to help students discover the concept for themselves.

I base the lesson on Dr Seuss's "Tweetle Beetles" tongue twister from Fox in Socks and do it after we've looked at all the ways to write the le ending.

I read the tongue twister FAST so that we have a laugh. They don't have to read anything. Keeping in mind that I might be doing this with a very cool 16 year old lad, I don't mind sacrificing my own dignity but I won't ask them to look silly. However, a younger child might like to have a go.

For the lesson, use a small dry erase board or laminated card. I separate it into 2 columns - one with "battle" and the other with "beetle" at the top. We then read back through the tongue twister and decide which words go with "battle" and which with "beetle". I don't use any terms like long and short vowels, just get them to say the word and decided where to put it. For the first few they can look at the word while they make the decision.

I then go on to words that aren't in the book, like table, babble, cable, dribble - just keep adding words and they will get very good at deciding which have two letters in the middle and which have only one.

If we're having fun and success I might go on to words with "y" or "er"at the end.

Just remember that there are always exceptions like copy, pity, double, trouble etc. Also, even though you want to lesson to move at a very quick pace, it's often helpful to say each word in a quick phrase so that you're not just processing lists of words.

It may be hard, but resist turning this into a way to introduce rules.

Hope this helps. Have fun! (and I dare you not to practice reading the book aloud really fast in your own time...)
Tricia Millar
http://www.thatreadingthing.com
http://trt-for-teachers.com/
@TRT_Tricia

Kat
Posts: 81
Joined: Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:11 pm
Location: Ireland

Post by Kat » Thu Nov 01, 2007 10:12 pm

Hi Judy,
When introducing the children to the concept of short and long vowel sounds I use a small elastic band.
The children pretend to hold a similar band.
I hold it between my index fingers and thumbs so that it is relaxed(unstretched) as I say the /a/ sound which is naturally short or checked.
The children repeat the sound while holding their imaginary bands relaxed so that there is only a short distance between their two hands.
Then I gradually stretch the band out as far as possible as I make the elongated /ai/ sound until it can stretch no farther.
Again the children copy sound and action.
We repeat this, holding the band either 'short and relaxed' or 'long and stretched', as we make both the short sound and then the long sound in turn.
It is quite a visual/multisensory way for them to represent and appreciate the relative lengths of each sound.
I then call out suitable words containing either the long or short vowel sound.
We segment each word and,as we come to the vowel sound. the children indicate whether it is short or long by the distance between their hands.
The same activity can obviously be used with each of the vowels.

Examples of words I may use:

Jack/Jason
ten/me
sit/kind
on/go
up/judo

I can't believe it was such a task to put such a simple activity into words!
Please believe me when I tell you that the above is very much the 'long' version, the 'short' version would be a much simpler two second demonstration with an elastic band!
Last edited by Kat on Fri Nov 02, 2007 12:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
maizie
Administrator
Posts: 3121
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2004 10:38 pm
Location: N.E England

Post by maizie » Thu Nov 01, 2007 10:28 pm

Tricia,

I don't quite understand what underlying principle you are working from. Is it that 'long' vowels are generally followed by 1 consonant and that 'short' vowels have 2 (in multisyllable words). If it isn't, then I'm confused as to just what they base their decision on. It obviously works, else you wouldn't do it, but I can't work out why! :sad:

Tricia
Posts: 177
Joined: Sun Oct 03, 2004 2:39 pm
Contact:

Post by Tricia » Thu Nov 01, 2007 11:46 pm

Hi Maizie -

I shouldn't post while I'm multi-tasking but I'm going to try.

I've also had a glass of wine which doesn't always help me to think clearly. (oddly enough)

Yes, I was working from Judy's comment that
it can be very helpful, particularly from the spelling point of view.
Judy also mentioned that any explanation tends to produce blank looks.

I think that's because "long" and "short" don't actually describe the sounds very well. The word "man" takes just as long to say as the word "moon". Same with "tap" and "taupe". And the word "tan" sounds "longer" than "tote". The vowel in "beat" is shorter than the vowel in "bead".

I work from the perspective that it's very helpful to have some idea how to choose how to spell the middle sounds in these words but I don't think it's helpful at this stage to know the terms. When does a learner use the terms long and short vowels? (There is probably a VERY obvious answer to this that I'm not seeing - I blame the wine. :smile: )

Maybe it's like letter names. They are handy, at some stage, for simple referring but not while children are learning the basics of sound/symbol relationships. It may be fine to teach long and short as labels for vowels at some stage, but not while they're struggling with whether to write tabble or table.

My laptop battery is running out so I'd better hit submit.

I hope this makes sense.
Tricia Millar
http://www.thatreadingthing.com
http://trt-for-teachers.com/
@TRT_Tricia

Kat
Posts: 81
Joined: Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:11 pm
Location: Ireland

Post by Kat » Fri Nov 02, 2007 12:39 am

I do feel it is useful both to explain and use the terms long and short when referring to vowel sounds, once you've begun to introduce the long vowel alternative graphemes, for the simple reason that the vowel grapheme itself is one of the alternatives.

When teaching the children to read words such as place, he, kind, go, judo it is useful to teach them to try the 'short vowel sound' first but if that doesn't work to try the long vowel sound- particularly if you haven't yet taught split digraphs.

Judy
Posts: 1184
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:57 pm

Post by Judy » Fri Nov 02, 2007 1:05 am

Kat wrote:
When teaching the children to read words such as place, he, kind, go, judo it is useful to teach them to try the 'short vowel sound' first but if that doesn't work to try the long vowel sound- particularly if you haven't yet taught split digraphs.
When I mentioned 'spelling', I was thinking of further down the road when it can be useful to remind the children I work with of the 'doubling rules' they have been taught in school for adding 'ed'. 'er'. 'ing' 'y' but which they only half remember. They often seem to be vaguely aware that there is somethng to do with 'doubling' when it comes to consonants and I think I might as well make the most of that.

But as Kat mentions, it could also be useful at an earlier stage in reading. I begin with only the 'short' vowels until any blending/segmenting difficulties have been overcome so, in theory, they should always use the 'short' vowels when decoding. But because they have invariably been taught using mixed methods (and letter names) and therefore 'know' some words containing 'long 'vowels, they frequently try the 'long' vowels inappropriately when decoding.

I believe I have read somewhere in Debbie's posts or on her website that she suggests trying the 'short' vowel first (and always when the vowel is followed by two consonants) so I thought it would be a good idea to make my pupils aware that the vowels we are working with at first are the 'short' ones, before introducing 'long' ones. Anything to reduce the options so that they stand a better chance of getting it right first time!

Tricia - thankyou for your suggestion. The Dr Seuss you mention is one of the few I haven't got so I'll have a look for it when I'm next in town.

In the meantime, I've made some small cards with pictures of animals - dog, cat, rat, fox, frog, pig, bug etc for 'short' vowels; sheep, bee, goat, lion, whale, snail etc for the 'long' ones. I thought I would try having them say the word and sorting them into two improvised 'pens' - no reading involved!

But apart from 'puma' and 'tuna', which I doubt they'll recognise, I haven't been able to come up with anything for /ue/. Any suggestions?

And thank you for your idea, Kat! I'll try that one too!

A further question, and one that I should maybe have asked first, is how best to know the difference between the vowels and consonants. Trying to recognise the different movements of the tongue involved can be great fun, but doesn't actually seem to work! :lol:

mtyler
Posts: 371
Joined: Wed Jul 12, 2006 5:56 pm
Location: Minnesota, USA

Post by mtyler » Fri Nov 02, 2007 1:14 am

Judy,

Vowels are often described as "open" sounds, that is, the tongue is at rest (or mostly) and the lips are open (and tend to stay in position), and the vocal cords are activated (to exclude /h/). Consonants tend to have more lip and tongue action involved.

The sound /ue/ is a little different as it is actually two sounds /y/ + /oo/, and is probably not accurately the flip side of /u/, however it is the standard sound for the "long" sound of the letter 'u'.

This is what I remember from a phonetics text.

Melissa
Minnesota, USA

Judy
Posts: 1184
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:57 pm

Post by Judy » Fri Nov 02, 2007 1:25 am

Thanks, Melissa - that's what I thought!

But I was working today with an eight year old whose tongue didn't seem to obey the rules! :lol:

Kat
Posts: 81
Joined: Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:11 pm
Location: Ireland

Post by Kat » Fri Nov 02, 2007 1:40 am

Hi Judy,
Can you include mythical animals and have a unicorn?!

Besides a JP wall frieze and alphabet chart, I always have the 5 vowels displayed separately along with their 'cousin y'(written on a different colour card) and draw the children's attention to them as the occasion (whatever I deem that to be and I haveassembled an eclectic mix of suitable occasions!) arises.

I have them arranged in alphabetical order but on 2 levels ( this arrangement t seems to change as I submit so forgive if it doesn't appear as I have described):
a o u
e i y
in order to further categorise them into slender and broad ( as the y is on a different colour card it is clear that while it is related to the other 5 it is doesn't fully belong) .
This arrangement is useful when it comes to teaching soft 'c' and soft 'g'



I feel it is important for the children to recognise the vowels as a distinct and important group of letters and to be familiar with and encouraged to use the terms vowel and consonant from an early stage.
Last edited by Kat on Fri Nov 02, 2007 1:55 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Debbie Hepplewhite
Administrator
Posts: 3660
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:13 pm
Location: Berkshire
Contact:

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri Nov 02, 2007 1:46 am

I don't think the argument that short vowels are no 'shorter' than long vowels is a reason not to use the terminology - learners just need to know how you define 'short' and 'long'.

I refer to the staccato way in which it is easy to say /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ /u/ and explain to learners that when I refer to short vowel sounds I mean the sounds I have just written. I might be mistaken, but I think it is easier to say the short vowel sounds in a short, staccato manner than the long vowel sounds. But in any event, I make sure that there is a difference in the way the sounds are said.

The single vowel letters are code for short vowel sounds and long vowel sounds. This is an ideal way to distinguish between the notion of 'short' and 'long' because the same letters are code for two different sounds in an instant explanation.

I do something similar to Kat when it comes to multi-sensory. When discussing the need for double consonant letters after a vowel phoneme, I model for the learner a small distance for a short vowel sound and show/describe how an identified short vowel sound requires double consonant letters which I demonstrate by moving my hands apart to indicate 'double' - that is, more space is needed for double letter shapes.

And if the word involves an identified long vowel sound, then there will not be a double consonant letter following.

I am referring to words like the following:

We want to spell 'trifle' - long vowel /igh/ sound, single letter 'f'.

We want to spell 'truffle' - short vowel /u/ sound, double letters 'ff'.

We want to spell 'table' - long vowel /ai/ sound, single letter 'b'.

We want to spell 'rabble' - short vowel /a/ sound, double letters 'bb'.

User avatar
maizie
Administrator
Posts: 3121
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2004 10:38 pm
Location: N.E England

Post by maizie » Fri Nov 02, 2007 5:33 pm

But apart from 'puma' and 'tuna', which I doubt they'll recognise, I haven't been able to come up with anything for /ue/. Any suggestions?
/y-oo/ is an uncommon one, Judy!

tulip? (mind you, I had a child the other day who didn't know what a tulip was :sad: )
human
fury
usual
duty




Have you got a copy of the Sounds~Write Lexicon. It has some very helpful word lists (downloadable from their web site)

Kat
Posts: 81
Joined: Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:11 pm
Location: Ireland

Post by Kat » Fri Nov 02, 2007 6:04 pm

Just thought of another animal that could be included in your menagerie Judy - jaguar

User avatar
maizie
Administrator
Posts: 3121
Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2004 10:38 pm
Location: N.E England

Post by maizie » Fri Nov 02, 2007 6:32 pm

:oops: Oh, damn! I'm not reading posts properly, again.... Judy wanted animals.

Still, a human is an animal...

mtyler
Posts: 371
Joined: Wed Jul 12, 2006 5:56 pm
Location: Minnesota, USA

Post by mtyler » Fri Nov 02, 2007 6:50 pm

I have heard some people pronounce "emu" as /eemyoo/.

Melissa
Minnesota, USA

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests