Medial vowel discrimination is a very difficult skill for Kindergarteners to grasp. The more practice students have with hearing and finding the medial vowel, the easier it will become to them. If we want our students to be able to read and spell with accuracy and fluency, we must be sure that they can easily discriminate between vowels and their sounds inside of words!
Vowel tree is a fun, quick way to review vowels daily in small and/or whole group.
This project is easy and cheap and can be created completely from supplies that I already have at school! I hate trying to reinvent the wheel!
Large piece of light-colored construction paper
A large tree either cut out of paper or drawn
Written or punched out letters (to write vowel tree and a, e, i, o, u)
Optional: a piece of fruit to cutesy it up
With the one that I use (pictured in this lesson), I simply used construction paper to create the tree and then laminated it! It was easy and fun... because it's so cute!
"Today, we are going to learn how to use a new tool to help us hear different vowel sounds! We are going to learn how to use the vowel tree. This (point) is the vowel tree. What is this tool called?"
Students will say, "This is the vowel tree."
"Yes! The vowel tree is a fun way to hear different words! And now, I am going to show you how to use it! Turn your ears on and watch me!"
"Every time we use the vowel tree, we are going to go over all of the vowel sounds and see if they help us to make words. First, we start with reviewing our vowel sounds. Let's do that now.
A says... (students say /a/), E says... (students say /e/)... I says... (students say /1/)... O says... (students say /o/)... U says... (students say /u/). Good! Now, we also have to review the two sounds we are going to have at the beginning and end of our words."
(I would introduce this idea using C initially and T finally.)
"C says... (students say /c/)... T says... (students say /t/). Great! Now that we know all of the sounds we are going to be using, we can begin going through the vowel tree together. This first time, I just want you to watch me."
The way the vowel tree works is easy and the pacing is quick. I just move the initial and final letters down on the sides of the tree. As I move them down, we sound out each word.
For this introduction, this is what would happen:
(Start with the C and the T in the top of the tree as you review the sounds. When you are ready to begin sounding out the words, you move the C and the T to the left and the right of the a, the first vowel, respectively.)
"Now, I will sound out the word, then blend it back together. /c/ /a/ /t/. cat. One more time.
/c/ /a/ /t/. cat. If it is a word, I give a thumbs up, if it is not a word, I give a thumbs down. Is cat a word?"
(Students will say, "Yes, cat is a word.)
"Good! Since cat is a word, we will give a thumbs up. Then, I will say a sentence and you will repeat it. The cat is on the mat. Your turn."
(Students will say, "The cat is on the mat.")
"Great job. Now, we will move down to the next one. Watch me. /c/ /e/ /t/. cet. Is it a word? Show me with your thumbs." (Students will put their thumbs down.)
"You are right, cet it not a word. So, we can keep moving. The next one we will make is /c/ /i/ /t/. cit. Is it a word?"
(Students will most likely give a thumbs up.)
I really use my teacher knowledge to correct and add to the learning here.
"Well, this one is tricky... It's tricky because kit, with a k, is a word... but cit, with a c, is not a word. Now, if you were sounding out the word kit and wrote it down with a c, that would still be a smart choice. After all, c and k make the same sound. But, in this case, for our vowel tree practice, we have to say that cit is not a word. So, let's give it a thumbs down."
(Students will give a thumbs down.)
"Great job listening and thinking along with me there! Let's keep on going; we are almost all the way down the tree! /c/ /o/ /t/. cot. Is it a word?"
(Students will most likely put their thumbs down.)
Use your teacher knowledge to expand the learning here.
"Actually, cot is a word. It's not a word that we use often, but it is a word. A cot is a small, tiny bed. Sometimes, people in the military and people in clinics, like the one here at our school rest on a cot. Later today, we will practice the word cot with our vocabulary routine. But for now, listen to my sentence. A cot is a small, tiny bed. Your turn."
(Students will say, "A cot is a small, tiny bed.")
"Wow! You guys are learning so much with this vowel tree today! Let's finish it up! The last one is /c/ /u/ /t/. Is cut a word?"
(Students will give a thumbs up.)
"Great job, again! Cut it a word. My sentence is: I can cut straight down the lines. Your turn."
(Students will say, "I can cut straight down the lines.")
"Awesome! You guys did a fabulous job helping me with the vowel tree! Now, to finish the practice, I am going to write the words down that we went over so that you can sound them out and read them throughout the day!"
TTW have a place in the room for a small paper, a white board or a corner of the ActivBoard where students will be able to see the words throughout the day. Students will be able to practice the words and/or sentences during the day with their friends, with me or alone, if their work is completed.
Sometimes, when I would rather write sentences (which is great for later in the year), I make sure all of the words are sight words and decodable words, such as:
I have a little cat. / I can see the green cot. / You do not cut your mom's hair.
When I have written these things down, this will serve as my closure. I will review the words and/or sentences with my students one last time and set my expectations once more that they practice them throughout the day.
For daily practice, my students will be expected to sound out all of the words with little to no support. I will be there to use your teacher knowledge to expand learning and/or to provide sentences, but my students should be able to sound out the words themselves.
Here is a video of how the vowel tree works!
I have to remember to review vowel sounds and the initial and final sounds we will be using before we begin practicing. I do this every time, so students will have less frustration and the pacing will stay quick.
(When I have a few extra minutes, one fun way to practice vowel sounds before working with the vowel tree is to use the video Vowel Bat.)
*I really try to make sure to only use initial and final letter couples that will provide students with at least 2-3 words in the beginning.
I start with my two consonants in the top of the tree as I review the sounds. When I am ready to begin sounding out the words, I move the consonants to the left and the right of each vowel respectively.
"Now, let's sound out each word and blend it back together. Remember to segment and blend each word two times. Once you have done that, vote with your thumb and tell me if it is a word or if it is not a word. If it is a word, we will practice a sentence. If not, we will move on. Now, turn on your ears, look up here and let's begin."
Students will practice and sound out the words with medial a, e, i, o and u. I give them a sentence, and have them repeat it, if the word is a real (not a nonsense) word. If the word is a new word, we practice the vocabulary routine sometime in the day with that word.
This tool can be used in this way (many times per day) or in many other ways!
I like to have 6 of these vowel tree mats- this way, every student (and I) can have one mat to practice with in small group. Students can create all sorts of words, can respond to so many types of questions and can participate in different engaging activities with manipulatives! When students have their own letters (magnetic, flat or on handwritten sticky notes), they are able to really USE their mat!
This is a great activity for vocabulary practice in centers as well- you found something that you THINK it a word (like put)... so look it up in the dictionary or type it into dictionary.com and figure it out!