Today we are working with vowels. When we teach young students how to decode, they must learn that each syllable must have a vowel. Vowels can be tricky for some students. In today's lesson we are showing students how their jaw drops when we say the short vowels in the order of /i/, /e/, /a/, /u/, and /o/. By showing students this progression, they are more aware of what their jaw, mouth, and tongue are doing as they produce each sound. If they are more aware of this mouth placement, they are more likely to reproduce each vowel correctly. When we teach decoding skills (with vowels being at the center of our work today), we are addressing standards RF1.3, and RF1.3b. When students learn to decode well, decoding becomes automatic for students. Automaticity is the key for reading fluently. By teaching students how to decode regularly spelled one syllable words today, we are helping to address the fluency standard as well - RF1.4.
For this activity you will need small mirrors for each student. You can get decorative mirrors in the craft section of either Hobby Lobby, Michael's, or Joann Fabrics. They are relatively inexpensive. You will also need to pull up the Smartboard Jaw Dropping Vowels.notebook or Activboard Jaw Dropping Vowels.flipchart lesson that shows how a person's vowel drops if you go in the order that is shown on the lesson. Finally, you will need a set of sound spelling cards. If you don't have a set that usually comes with your reading series, I've provided a set here sound spelling cards.pdf. I have used the sound spelling cards from my reading series on the Smartboard lesson. If you want to change your pictures on the Smartboard lesson to match your series it is simple to do.
You will also want to make copies of the vowel strips vowel strips.pdf ,and vowel window cards vowel window cards.pdf for each student in your class. Finally, you want to download a copy of the word lists Word Lists For Vowel Activities.pdf for yourself.
I started the lesson with my Smartboard lesson projected. My students had their mirrors. I said, "Today we are going to be reviewing our vowels. I've noticed that some of us are having a hard time with vowels so we are going to work on it today. "
"I am going to say the vowels in the order they are in on the Smartboard. I am going to put my hand under my chin. What is my chin doing?" Then we had a discussion how our jaws drop gradually from /i/ to /o/. Then I let my students put their hand under their chins and practice as well. Then I said, "We are going to take some time and look in our mirrors and see what our mouths and tongues are doing when we say each vowel." We then took a good 5-7 minutes to make each vowel sound and discuss what our mouths look like when we say each vowel and where our tongues are placed for each vowel. We talked about how when we said the /e/ sound our lips were pulled back in a smile, and how our lips were like a doughnut or a cheerio when we made the /o/ sound. It's important for me to have these conversations with my students. I gave my students plenty of time to look in their mirrors. You can see how my students did this in our video Using Mirrors With Vowels.mp4. After my student had this experience, I said, "Now that you know where to put your jaw, mouth, and tongue, you'll be able to remember that and say your vowel sounds easily."
I then said, "Now we are going to listen for the vowels in words. Some of them will be real words and some of them will be nonsense words. After we hear the word, I will ask you what vowel you hear in the word. We are also going to put an action with our vowel sound so you can remember the vowel sound better." You can see the video for how I structured how we say the sound precisely and do the action to go with the vowel sound here in the resource section.
When you teach this lesson,you may use whichever words you'd like from the sheet I've provided for you. I have enough words for you to teach two different lessons. I taught one whole group lesson and followed up with another lesson for my struggling readers. You will do one set of real words and one set of nonsense words for the whole group lesson.
I gave the 5 vowel sound spelling cards to 5 different children in the room. I said, "I am going to ask you who has the vowel sound for a word that I say. Then I will ask you what vowel we hear. We will say the vowel sound and then do the action. Are you ready?" Check out our video Hearing Our Vowels.mp4 for a better understanding of how the activity worked.
I engineered this activity to be differentiated based on the skill level of my students. Every student received the same word window cards. My struggling readers received the vowel strips that had a, e, i, o, u in order. I wanted all my readers to be challenged, so I made other vowel strips with different fonts and had the vowels in mixed up order. This way, the students couldn't just memorize the vowels, knowing they would be in a certain order.
I instructed the students to cut their word cards apart and cut out the windows. I modeled how they should put their vowel strips behind the vowel cards so they could see the vowel through the window. Their job was to read all these nonsense words and move the vowel strips to make new words each time.
Based on my knowledge of what my struggling readers are doing during the nonsense word fluency tests each week (see the reflection in my closure section), I know they can't just blend the entire word together. Developmentally, they just aren't at that stage yet. I pulled my strugglers aside and modeled how they should say each sound and then blend the word back together. For all my other other readers, most of them can blend and read words during our nonsense word fluency tests well. So for this activity, I wanted them to do the same thing. For those few students who are a bit shaky, this was great practice for them. For those who can already blend well, we worked on speed and getting them to blend and decode more quickly. If you view the video Making Vowel Windows and Practicing.mp4, everyone worked with the same words, but we had a different focus based on the student's ability level.
I wanted our closure to be short and sweet. Since this was a decoding lesson, the lesson itself didn't lend itself to a great deal of higher level thinking, but I did want my students to understand why it's important to learn how to decode well. I said, "Why is it important that we learn where to put our tongue, mouth, and jaw when we produce our vowels? Why is it important that we learn how to decode our words automatically?" I wanted my students to understand the purpose and impact that decoding has on reading fluency.