Sound and Spelling Rules: How to handle the "ei" vowel pair

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I am sure you have seen posts like this before. I know I have, and I get a charge out of them. Whether or not you like to teach systematic phonics and spelling, you probably have a hard time getting kids to lock in certain sounds and spelling rules…and this one can be a doozy!  

Let’s look at this dastardly duo up close. You have probably heard the old rule “I before E except after C?” Well, the rule doesn’t really end there. Nevertheless, this rule doesn’t always make spelling words that contain an “ei” vowel pair any easier. Let’s try it this way.

 

Teach a Sound Rule AND a Spelling Rule

1. Teach students that “ei” will sound like one of the following FOUR sounds in most English words, where an “ei” is found together in a word:

ē (Long E sound)  

ā (Long A sound)   

ĭ (Short I sound)  

ī (Long I sound)

2. Teach words together that use both an “ei” or an “ie” in the middle and follow this simple rule:

Use ei after the letter C and to say /ā/; otherwise—use ie.

See how easy it is to spell these words right using this rule?

chief               tie                   field                beige              niece              heirs              weird

 

We already see either an “ie” or an “ei” in each word, so all we have to do is look at the letter in front of each vowel pair to be able to get their order right. If there’s a C, it’s “ei”; if not, it has to be ie. Then, to pronounce the vowel pair correctly, use the four sounds we learned earlier:

    ē (Long E sound)           ā (Long A sound)       ĭ (Short I sound)        ī (Long I sound)

 

Yes, a few exceptions exist, but by getting more direct with the rules, the exceptions won’t present a major sound or spelling roadblock. In future posts, we’ll check out some other letter combos that give us fits. See you then!

 

Emotional Intelligence: How to boost learning with music

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If you are a teacher, you know that teaching—and learning—are emotional experiences. Thanks to neuropsychology and neuroscientists, we have some exciting ways to increase the joy in our classrooms, which in turn increases the learning. Why? It’s one of the most basic concepts in teaching and learning…happy kids learn new things easier than stressed out kids.

Eric Jensen, a pioneer among neuro-educators, suggests nine ways to ramp up the emotional intelligence in the classroom or in any learning environment. To help students connect positive emotions with learning, try adding in some of the following strategies:

  • Music

  • Games

  • Drama

  • Storytelling

  • Role modeling

  • Celebrations

  • Controversy

  • Rituals

  • Introspection

For the next several weeks, I will unpack each of these strategies and offer some examples of what they can look like in your environment. Let’s get started with incorporating music.

Whether we’re talking about vocal or instrumental music, classical or jazz styles, music from a radio, or from the streaming device of your choice, music in your students’ ears can elevate their learning. Jensen includes music because of what the research shows.

Music, as long as it is added intentionally and not overdone, can relax students. This “de-stresses” them and primes them for effective learning. We all know how stressed we can feel when too much information is crammed into our heads. It can halt our ability to listen actively and process new ideas.

But, music changes the brain’s neural map. When kids get to learn how to play a stringed instrument or one that requires the fingers to change positions, cool neural interactions happen inside the brain.

Since many schools can no longer afford music programs for the whole school, teachers who invite music into their classroom can still save the day AND positively influence their kids’ brains. When students get the chance to sing, dance, play instruments, etc., the parts of their brain that process music develop extra neurons! Voila! Better brains—better learning!

Shurley English makes it easy to adopt music in the classroom with musical and rhythmic jingles that teach grammar. Kids easily connect their emotions to their learning during jingle time. You can too! For more information about ideas to bring jingles and other brain-building activities to your kids, go to our website: www.shurley.com and check them out.

Remember to keep the link between students’ emotions and the learning process in mind as you plan and deliver all of your lessons.  Emotions drive attention, which in turn drives learning and memory.  

(This post is part of a series on Emotional Intelligence. To continue to part two, click here.)

How to Improve the Structure of Sentences

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Teaching students to vary the word order that they use in their sentences to add interest and variety is a skill that you can model as you support your students in their growth as budding writers.  Of course sentence fluency is one of the effective traits that good writers develop to improve their ability to communicate. Mover and Shaker lessons support this particular expertise as they show students how to modify sentences to shake things up a bit and move words around.  It gives them the power to make important decisions that enhance their ability to effectively communicate with their readers. As your students grow in their revision skills they will improve the content of their writing with better word choice and improved sentence structure. Our Mover and Shaker lessons are all about improving the structure of sentences as students think critically about word order.

Here is an example of how Mover and Shaker lessons unfold:

  1. The student writes their revised sentence from their Sentence Blueprint.  (To review a Sentence Blueprint lesson, click here.)

  2. The adjectives that describe the subject are moved from in front of the subject to after the subject noun which they modify.

  3. Commas are placed around the adjectives.

  4. This improves the sentence fluency by adding interest and variety to the sentence format.

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As you teach your students all of the various Mover and Shaker lessons you will be giving them tools they can use throughout their future college and career choices. You will be expanding their understanding of how the use of word order can assist them in emphasizing various points in their sentences. Additionally, it expands their learning from not only understanding the effective use of word order in sentences, but to also grow in the realization of how word order is successfully utilized in the overall composition. Why not give our Mover and Shaker lessons a try to see how they add some variety to the writing of your students?

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David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.

 

He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.