Word endings can be a little tricky to introduce, especially the first few, because they don’t just introduce a new sound. They also tend to introduce the concept of syllables. Up until now, most children have been exercising their phonics muscles on single-syllable words. Now, all of a sudden, we add an ending, and the word has two syllables.
Children tend to not realize that these first multisyllabic words are different from single-syllable words, and they will try to cram all of those letters into a single syllable, which is always fun.
I’m not sure that there is a particular order necessary for the first lesson. I have done it in a variety of orders because my lessons tend to follow a flow of conversation with the child. It is important, however, to cover certain bases, which I’ll delineate below.
- Teach the child about syllables as a concept. I utilize clapping to illustrate this, and it tends to work well. I tell the child most of what they’ve been reading are one-clap words. See? Cat. Dog. Mat. Sam. We clap with each word and, sure enough, each word only needs one clap.
- There are words that have more than one clap. I like to use family names to illustrate. Mommy. Daddy. Baby. If you have a Robert or Timothy, even better!
- Adding an ending to the word often takes it from a one-clap word to a two-clap word. For instance, Mom (one clap) becomes Mommy (two claps).
Once the child understands that there are syllables, attempting to read these words will go easy enough.
Introducing the –y Ending
Flip to the Word Endings section of your binder. You’re going to make a little chart, just like the other little charts we’ve made for other types of words:
I threw my name in there as an example. If you are like most American families, there is at least one person in your family who has a name ending with the long-y sound. Throw it in! Children love understanding the rules involved in reading their own name or the names of their siblings.
The child is going to sound out the four or five example words you’ve written into their list. try to have them read the first syllable on its own by covering the second symbol with your finger. As they work through the list, they will begin to realize that if they can decipher the first syllable, they can just tack that long-y sound onto the end.
Introducing the –ed Ending
We’re going to do the same thing here as we did with the –y ending. The only issue here is that sometimes –ed sounds like –d and sometimes it sounds like –t. I tend to ignore that and just get them to read through the list. The reason for this is that once they understand what they are doing, they will automatically use whatever pronunciation is correct for that word, especially if they are older. One of the reasons I think it is so difficult to teach little three-year-olds is that they tend to still be working on pronunciation of basic verb conjugations. Correcting pronunciation is by far a better use of time with a three-year-old.
And I say this as someone who has taught (and is currently teaching) a three-year-old to read.
Please note that some children need the rule spelled out. We say: -ed sounds like /d/ or /t/ depending on the word.
I loved it when Kelly quoted Alan Tate as saying,
In pronunciation the criterion was the oral tradition, not the way the word looked in print to an uneducated school-teacher.
Indeed! And this is why we don’t always need to get particular at the outset. If they are speaking well, they will read the words fairly naturally, and any exceptions can be corrected as you walk along the way together.
So here is the chart:
Remember to cover the second syllable with your finger while they figure out that first syllable.
Notice that I purposely included words that use both pronunciations. There are two approaches to the idiosyncrasies of our language. The first is to avoid them until the children understand the rules. The second is to include them as you move along. I choose the latter, though not to such an extreme that it creates a stumbling block.
As with everything, practice with a patient teacher is what they need.
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