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Y is an inscrutable letter. It can be a vowel or a consonant. Its pronunciation changes radically based on where it is in a word. Last time, I covered the pronunciation of a vowel plus Y at the end of a word. I didn’t tell you how to pronounce a Y in the middle of a word, though. And what about just a Y at the end of a word, with no vowel in front of it? How do you know when a Y has a long E sound as in “lofty” and when a Y has a long I sound as in “sky”?

And no, I was not under the influence of any controlled substances. Sometimes sleep deprivation makes life fun!

I cover the spelling patterns for words with vowel sounds at the end. Many of them are built using a vowel plus a “y” at the end. They’re pretty straight forward and most students don’t have a very hard time with them.

Oh and happy Thanksgiving weekend!

In this video, I go over the pronunciation pattern for words that contain “all” or “alk”. It’s pretty straight forward and even native English speakers are usually aware how these words work.

The one possible issue is that the North American pronunciation of these syllables are in the process of a shift. In my opinion, the best way to go is to get your students to learn your own accent first. If they are successful, it will be easier to hear and imitate others in the future.


Mentioned in this video:
The Cot-Caught Merger

In this video, I talk about how to help students differentiate sounds that are very difficult for them to hear– the “ng” or “nk” sounds. The general idea applies to anything in phonics your students struggle to hear.

Example pairs:

ran vs rang
king vs keen
wrong vs Ron
sun vs sung

The basic tactics are drawing pictures and explaining where their tongue, etc. should be, using minimal pairs, and most importantly, delaying speaking activities until after a lot of listening activities have been completed!

Do you know the three ways to pronounce “ed”? How can you help your students figure out which words are pronounced with which?

Have a look at these words:
walked, used, hated, loved, coughed, stopped, hugged, loaded

Do you see a pattern that you can use to tell how to pronounce the ending “ed”? This video goes over that pronunciation pattern, and then it goes on to cover a very similar one for words that end in “s”. Finally I talk a bit about my language learning experiences and about using L1 in the classroom.

Do you know when “s” sounds in words are spelled with a single “s” instead of a double “s”? I explain the three basic guidelines that will get you the right spelling for the vast majority of English words.

Have a look at these words:
haste, pass, messy, harness, nest, jester, lost, loss, send, post

Can you figure out how to tell whether a word (you haven’t learned before) is spelled with one “s” or two?

I also expand a bit on the “l vs ll” phonics pattern from before. Finally, I give examples of the kinds of words my former students could spell after practicing the patterns from Phonics Fridays 1 through 5, and what kinds of expectations I had for them. My students were mostly elementary school aged native Mandarin speakers.

This time, I go over the various “R sounds”, both syllables starting with Rs (e.g. rad, red, rib, rob, rub), and vowel + R combinations (e.g. bar, bare, fern, fear, fir, fire, ore, oar, cur, cure). For most non-Native English speakers, the North American R is very difficult to pronounce. I talk break it down and go over some phonics patterns that many native speakers, including myself before moving to Asia, miss.

I hope this is useful for your classes. A world with more second language English speakers who can pronounce my name would be great!

Have you wondered why some words such as “hill” are spelled with a double l, while others such as “hail” use a single l? This Phonics Friday covers the “-l vs -ll” spelling pattern.

I talk about diphthongs, which are crucial to be aware of when helping students with vowel pronunciation problems. As an example, I go over the dreaded “What’s your name?” pronounced as “Whas your nem?” problem.

Links mentioned in the video:
Diphthongs
The Cot-Caught Merger

Do you know when “k” sounds in words are spelled with a “ck” instead of just “k”? If not, make sure to see the end of the video!

I also go back and explain in a bit more detail how I taught phonics to absolute beginner ESL/EFL students. I talk about the basics of an oral spelling quiz, how I graded them and few other odds and ends.

If any of you have had experience using a similar system in the classroom, I’d love to hear your feedback.

It’s possible that TEFL is still what I have the most expertise in and in particular it was my focus on phonics that was quirky, different and actually got real world results for a lot of my former students. This certainly isn’t the easiest system to market to most people who enroll in classes at schools that teach English as a foreign language. I should know since I used to be a partner at one and was responsible for both curriculum development and selling the parents of my students on that curriculum! But after having taught over a thousand students, many from absolute basics, I’m pretty happy with the results.

I’m no longer an English teacher since I’ve moved back to the US, drawn by the lure of the San Francisco bay area tech scene. But maybe there will be some other EFL teachers in Taiwan, China or even Korea, Japan, Latin America or elsewhere that can pick up a few things and some kids can benefit indirectly from me sharing it. It’s an experiment. I’ll try to deliver a short video each week and see how it goes. If they’re of any use, please give me feedback and subscribe to them and/or like them.

In this first video, I explain a little bit about how I did phonics drills and go over the first spelling pattern I taught– long vowel sounds in the middle of a word.

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