Alternative pronunciation of 'er'

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Maltesers
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Alternative pronunciation of 'er'

Post by Maltesers » Sun Dec 02, 2007 9:25 pm

I am stuck on this. Am teaching phase 5 Letters and sounds.

I cannot hear the difference between

farmer

and

herbs

HELP!
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Judy
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Post by Judy » Sun Dec 02, 2007 9:28 pm

Neither can I!

I teach them as both the same sound and so far none of the children has commented so I don't think we are alone! :lol:

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Maltesers
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Post by Maltesers » Sun Dec 02, 2007 9:41 pm

Maybe its the way we speak? :lol:

Have been 'ering' all over the place with my other half? I still can't hear the difference. He says its shorter at the end of a word as in farmer and longer in herbs

I don't know but I feel better there is someone else who thinks like me :lol:
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Post by Judy » Sun Dec 02, 2007 10:01 pm

Maybe its the way we speak?
Or maybe our auditory discrimination is below par?

What about

armour and journey?

and doctor and word?

pillar and custard

I'm off to watch Cranford! :lol:

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maizie
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Post by maizie » Sun Dec 02, 2007 11:44 pm

I wouldn't stress too much about it, it's the dreaded schwa!

Most of the /er/ sounds at the end of words tend to be cut off short into an /uh/ sound (the scwha), 'teachuh', 'monstuh',dang(e)uh' etc. If you teach it as /er/ it will be a positive help with spelling. When the children read it they'll tweak it to however they normally say it as soon as they recognise the word. If the unaccustomed /er/ at the end of the word inhibits their recognition of it, just tell that that we're all 'lazy' speakers and don't put the ends onto words properly!

Of course, with some accents the /er/ may be enunciated quite clearly...

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Post by Judy » Sun Dec 02, 2007 11:54 pm

If you teach it as /er/ it will be a positive help with spelling.
That's good then! I'd never thought of that - but then it had never occurred to me to teach it any other way than as /er/. The fewer schwas we have to contend with the better as far as spelling is concerned!

And, if Maltesers doesn't object to me changing the subject slightly, I'd like to ask whether anyone knows of any patterns that will help children to know which of the many /er/ spellings to choose, other than 'ear' (as in 'learn') never being used at the end of a word - I think!

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Dec 02, 2007 11:56 pm

It's generally not a problem for reading when the 'er' sounded /ur/ can be tweaked to /u/.

The problem is for spelling when the learner may segment 'sister' to /s/ /i/ /s/ /t/ /u/.

Drawing attention to this should be enough - that when the speller identifies the sound /u/ at the end of the word, he or she needs to consider which grapheme will be the code for the /u/ sound as it is not going to be the letter 'u'!

Knowing what the exact code will be depends on the circumstances. As Jenny says, prolific reading may well help word-knowledge.

The teacher, as I say, should have an Alphabetic Code chart available to point to the precise grapheme with a word example if possible.

Then, the teaching should include common words with the same sound and spelling patterns which can be grouped together - word associations.

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Post by Judy » Mon Dec 03, 2007 12:19 am

The problem is for spelling when the learner may segment 'sister' to /s/ /i/ /s/ /t/ /u/.
Maybe I've just been lucky but I've never had a pupil do that, inspite of the fact that mine have a wide range of different accents - Welsh, Midlands, Scottish, 'South-east'......

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Post by Kelly » Mon Dec 03, 2007 12:39 am

I personally encourage children to say the word as it should be said (for spelling purposes) e.g. s-i-s-t-er. When we teach the 'er' sound we tend to have some fun with saying the words 'properly' (clearly saying the 'er' sound). However, in Kiwiland we do say "sistuh".

I must admit, like Judy, that I haven't come across children using the 'u' at the end of a word (for the 'uh' sound). I would think that they would be more likely to use an 'a' as that does at least happen!

We do teach as part of our programme the generalised rule that a 'u' can't be at the end of a word (with a few exceptions of course :roll: although at the end of the word it would more likely 'say its name' wouldn't it e.g. emu than 'uh'?)

Off to look into it............

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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Mon Dec 03, 2007 12:44 am

Judy - I was thinking of the youngest of learners who become very good at accurate segmenting of spoken words and do not necessarily have any experience of spelling the identified end /u/ with 'er' or alternatives.

By the time that you are tutoring pupils, they usually have at least some familiarity with words like 'sister'.

The chances are that they cannot segment like an early years synthetic phonics taught child in any event!

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Post by FEtutor » Mon Dec 03, 2007 12:47 am

Kelly wrote:I would think that they would be more likely to use an 'a' as that does at least happen!
I've definitely heard some mothahs and sistahs in London too.

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Post by Judy » Mon Dec 03, 2007 12:55 am

By the time that you are tutoring pupils, they usually have at least some familiarity with words like 'sister'.
That could explain it - in some cases at least, though I do have a few who aren't reading at all when they come to me.

And I must say, that segmenting has never been a problem with any of my pupils. Even my weakest speller can do it - it's getting her to remember to do it, after years of learning strings of letter names that is the difficulty!

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Post by maizie » Mon Dec 03, 2007 1:34 am

And I must say, that segmenting has never been a problem with any of my pupils. Even my weakest speller can do it - it's getting her to remember to do it, after years of learning strings of letter names that is the difficulty!
Off topic, but your observation reminded me of the time I was dictating some spellings' to a group; one child said "I can't spell that", so I said "Yes you can" and segmented it slowly for her. "Ooh Miss, you've just spelt it for me" she cried! I heard a distinct tinkle of pennies dropping :grin:

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Post by chew8 » Mon Dec 03, 2007 10:40 am

I suspect that those of you who say that you can't hear the difference between the sounds represented by the 'er' in 'herbs' and 'farmer' are being influenced by the fact that you know that the letters 'er' are involved in both cases, and are exaggerating the pronunciation of 'farmer' as you try to listen to yourself pronouncing it so that the second syllable comes out as a clear /er/ rather than as an /uh/ sound.

In most UK accents apart from Scottish, Northern Irish and West Country, 'farmer' is pronounced 'farmuh', but 'herbs' is not pronounced 'huhbs'. Maltesers' other half is right, in the sense that the second syllable of 'farmer' has a shorter (less stressed) vowel sound than the vowel sound of 'herbs'. The schwa is by definition unstressed. It can be a bit of a problem for spelling, because it's the commonest vowel sound in English and has the most different spellings. For reading it's much less of a problem, however: we can just sound out all vowel graphemes giving them their full value (farmER, pillAR, motOR, murMUR etc.) and then 'tweak'.

I had a wonderful example of tweaking just a few days ago. I had been doing the two main sounds of 'ea' (plus the exceptions 'great', 'break', 'steak') with three seven-year-olds who started the term as three of the four weakest readers in the year-group of 80-odd. I included the word 'jealous' in one of my home-made bingo games, but thought the children might find it a bit hard. Two of them needed help, but the third sounded it out first as 'jee - louse', then as 'jell - ouse', then looked a bit puzzled, then said 'Oh, jealous', giving it its normal pronunciation - i.e. tweaking a syllable which had rhymed with 'mouse' at both of her first two attempts into a syllable with a schwa sound.

Jenny C.

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Post by Judy » Mon Dec 03, 2007 11:02 am

I suspect that those of you who say that you can't hear the difference between the sounds represented by the 'er' in 'herbs' and 'farmer' are being influenced by the fact that you know that the letters 'er' are involved in both cases
Jenny, I had wondered about that too but as it's impossible to put the clock back to before I learnt to spell, there is no way of checking.

Also, although I have virtually lost my Isle of Wight accent since living on the 'mainland', that is where I grew up and the local accent is definitely 'West Country'!

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