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Engaging Phonemes Activities

Engaging Phonemes Activities

It’s important, especially for our multilingual learners, to learn how to properly pronounce
phonemes (sounds) for the 44 phonemes in the English language. Despite English only having
26 letters, there are 44 phonemes in our spoken language.

One issue to look out for is students, and even some teachers when teaching the phoneme, will put a schwa on the end of the sound. A schwa at the end of a sound is similar to a short,
breathy U sound, like /uh/. The slash marks (virgules) are around the letter to represent a
sound. So, instead of learning the sound for P as /p/, students often say something like /puh/.
This is pretty common with sounds that we need to clip off, like /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /g/, and /k/. Other sounds that sometimes end up with a schwa sound are /h/, which comes out as /huh/, but should just be more like a panting dog, a breathy sound from the back of the throat. Another one that can be difficult is /y/, which will also come out as /yuh/. Sometimes, when students try to put sounds together to say words, if they sound out PIT as /puh/ /i/ /tuh/, it’s harder to blend the word together to say /pit/, and might come out as /puhiiiitttuh/.

Phonics-Phonemic-Awareness-and-Phonological-Awareness-The-Ultimate-Guide-scaled

Part of a quality intervention for students struggling to read is ensuring they pronounce the
phonemes correctly, and it’s especially important to draw their attention to what the mouth is
doing, or the articulate gestures. Helping them to become aware that their tongue is lightly
tapping on the ridge behind the top row of teeth when saying the /t/ or /d/ sound, is important for them to clear up confusion. Some of our sounds are made in the exact place in the mouth, but only differ by what we call voicing, which means our voice box vibrates. The vibration should be felt on the sides of the throat. So the only difference between the /t/ sound and the /d/ sound is that the voice turns on for /d/, but they are made in the exact place in the mouth. For example, /p/ and /b/ are exactly the same, except for /b/ has your voice on. Others are /k/ and /g/ with /g/ being voiced, /f/ and /v/ with /v/ being voiced, /th/ and /th/ with /th/ being voiced, /s/ and /z/ with /z/ being voiced, /sh/ and /zh/ with /zh/ being voiced, /ch/ and /j/ with /j/ being voiced. Sometimes students can’t feel the voice in their throat, so have them cup their hands over the ears and go back and forth between the /f/ and /v/ sound, the /v/ sound will be louder, indicating the voice is on. That should work for the difference in all voiced pairs.

It’s a lot of information to take in, and some teachers have been taught these intricacies and
others haven’t. A good video to watch for proper pronunciation is here. Students should begin learning the individual sounds in Pre-K, but wouldn’t be expected to learn all the sounds until Kindergarten.

Florida Center for Reading Research has all kinds of phoneme activities. One that you can find
here is a first sound matching activity. It has three pictures of items and two of them start with
the same sound, one doesn’t. They have to find the one that doesn’t match, like house,
helicopter, and zebra, and they would throw out the picture of the zebra. There are lots of
activities to explore here.

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