After our kindergarten students begin to master the CVC spelling pattern, it is time to move on to reading words that are a little bit more complicated: CVCE words. Many students struggle with reading CVCE words, not only because it is something new, but also because they have to remember when a vowel makes its short sound versus when it makes its long sound. Knowing how to teach CVCE words, and having the right activities prepared for students will make learning CVCE words simpler for students, so they can begin mastering them as well. Here are my top three tips for teaching CVCE words to kindergarten students.
Tip # 1: Be Consistent
I know we have all heard the many names for CVCE words. Bossy E, Magic E, and Silent E are all helpful for helping students to remember the purpose of the “e” at the end of words. If using Bossy E, you can tell students that the “e” at the end of the word is the boss, and it tells the other vowels in the word to say their name. If teaching with Magic E, explain that when the “e” is at the end of the word, it magically changes the vowel in order to make it say its long sound.
You can also use Silent E and remind students that the “e” at the end doesn’t make any sound at all; it just lets us know to change the sound of the earlier vowel. I have even heard some teachers use the term Mama E, and say that, “Mama E makes the short baby vowels say their name.”
Regardless of which term you decide to use, I recommend that you stay consistent by sticking only with that one. It can be confusing for students to hear all of those different terms thrown around when they essentially mean the same thing. Instead, choose which term you think your students would relate to and remember the most, and use it throughout your CVCE lessons.
Tip # 2: Be Explicit
Like all other skills, the CVCE pattern is a skill that you have to explicitly teach. However, before students are even ready for CVCE, they need to know the difference between short and long vowels. Explicitly teach that short vowels are the vowel sounds that we hear in CVC words, but long vowels sound the same as the name of each vowel. That way, when you are teaching CVCE words, students already know that vowels can make different sounds within words.
Then, you can also be explicit as you teach whichever term you chose (Magic, Silent or Bossy E) and co-create an anchor chart with students that will help them remember. Have students think of words they may have heard or seen that have a long vowel sound. Record their correct answers on the chart. If possible, include pictures on the chart and really emphasize anywhere you have the “e” written. For example, if you have the word “cane” on a Magic E anchor chart, include a picture of a cane, and put the “e” inside of a star! Explicitly teaching CVCE words with lessons and anchor charts that students can refer back to will help students to grasp the concept more easily.
Tip # 3: Provide Multiple Exposures
My last tip for teaching CVCE words to young children is to give them a variety of CVCE activities that address this skill. Anytime I introduce a new skill, I first like to give students opportunities to focus on that skill alone, before having them use it alongside others. What I mean by this is that before I expect students to read CVCE words in a text or differentiate between CVC and CVCE words, I first give them activities that only focus on the CVCE word patterns or spelling patterns.
When first introducing CVCE words, I have students match the onset and rime of a CVCE word using a puzzle-like activity that includes a picture. This helps them to start recognizing the pattern. Then, as they become more familiar with CVCE words, they move on to more difficult activities. This includes first reading the onset and rime, and then choosing the picture that matches the word.
After students practice reading CVCE words in a few different ways, they can look at CVCE pictures on a spelling mat and figure out how to make the word using either magnetic letters or dry-erase markers. By practicing the same skill over and over again in different ways, students build mastery in reading and writing CVCE words.
Many students struggle with learning how to read and write CVCE words. Most of the year is focused on CVC words, where vowels make their short sounds. Teaching CVCE words changes the phonics rules they have learned and seems to throw them for a loop! By being consistent in how you refer to this new phonics rule, being explicit in how you teach it, and providing students with multiple chances to practice the skill, your students will master it in no time! If you have any questions about this blog post, feel free to ask in the comment below!