Ryan was in first grade. He missed a crucial and common sound pattern: silent e (also called bossy e, magic e, final e… etc.). As a result, he was stuck on low level kindergarten books. To hide his embarrassment, he whispered over the words. At home, he told his mom he was afraid to go to school. Reading time was scary, and he worried that his teacher or his peers would discover his profound reading difficulties. He did not receive any silent e stories to practice the silent e pattern.
What is silent e?
Silent e is a long vowel phonics sound. In Reading Elephant books, it is the first long vowel pattern students learn. Typically, kids learn silent e at the end of Kindergarten or beginning of first grade. Here are some samples silent e words:
a_ e lake, bake, lane, make, mane
e_e Pete (This pattern is mainly in longer words, but teach it nonetheless).
i_e hive, bike, dive, tile, mile, mine
o_e hope, cope, hole, rope, rose
u_e duke, use (this one has two sounds, including the “oo” sound as in “duke” and the long u sound as in “use.” Teach both.)
Silent e stories
As an educator, do you have enough quality silent e stories? Ones that are leveled for first grade? Many struggling readers need a lot of practice with silent e. Phonics books can provide excellent practice because kids can learn the pattern and also develop fluency.
Ryan was used to working with short vowels. In silent e stories, vowels begin to do something different. They say a different sound. For example, in silent e words a_ does not make the a_ as in apple sound. Instead, it says a_e as in cake sound. This may confuse your student.
Consequently, your student may need a lot of practice with silent e. Some struggling readers need a month or more of practice.
After Ryan learned silent e, he read slowly. He painstakingly looked to see if there was an e at the end of each word. He read 12 correct words per minute while his peers read 2 to 3 times faster. During reading time, Ryan pretended to read fast too, he mumbled random sounds and hid his lost eyes.
He needed more practice.
Many kids need to read lots of silent e stories to develop fluency. At first, the silent e sound may slow a child down. However, if he gets to read lots of silent e stories, his reading speed will pick up. Reading Elephant offers an extensive silent e series. I’m also excited to offer the free silent e book “The Jade Plant.”
Print “The Jade Plant” story for free
To print the free silent e story, click the following link:
“The Jade Plant” is a silent e story about a girl who sets up a jade plant shop, equipped with pots hanging from ropes and colorful, radiant plants. When she gets a customer, he selects a loan jade plant in the corner. Before reading, you can ask your student the following questions:
- Have you ever seen a jade plant? If so, what did it look like? If not, let’s find a picture of one.
- What do plants need to survive?
- How would you set up a plant shop? Would you hang the plants from ropes? Would you decorate your store?
Pre-reading questions can help your student connect their experiences to the story. In reading research, this is called activating background knowledge. If you activate your students background knowledge, or ask him questions about his relevant experiences, you improve his chances of understanding the plot. And when kids are struggling with decoding words, understanding the story is a herculean task.
Teaching vocabulary words when using phonics books
Phonics books use limited language. Our books are written methodically so kids have the tools to decode nearly all words in each story. Ostensibly you may think you cannot teach vocabulary words under such circumstances. However, you can teach vocabulary words when kids are still reading at a very low level. Of course, you cannot select the words in the text (the words in phonics books are too simple and familiar). Instead, think of words that relate to the story. For example, while reading “The Jade Plant” you can teach your student the meaning of radiant and succulent—words that do not occur in the text. Here are some suggestions:
Radiant-This means bright. We can describe a sunset with pink and orange streaks as radiant. Jade plants are usually green. However, they can also be radiant because they can have bright yellow and orange hues. Sometimes the tips of their leaves are tinged with bright colors.
Succulents-These are plants that usually have thick, fleshly leaves. They can retain a lot of moisture. They’re really good at storing water. As a result, succulents make excellent plants in desert regions. They can survive a drought wherein there’s not much rain. Jade plants are succulents. If you take a look at their leaves, you can see that they are thick and fleshy and full of water.