Monday, March 22, 2021

Retiring 2 Vowels Go Walking

Do you use the "two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" rhyme in your classroom?  It must be a solid strategy because the PBS show Between the Lions and Jack Hartmann both have songs about it, right?


Well, I used this catchy rhyme too until I found out it is wrong about 60% of the time! I was lucky enough to get more in-depth phonics/spelling training that made a huge impact on my teaching. Does your school have a professional development fund? If not, I'm happy to pass on what I know, if you are interested.

I follow Christina (the Reading Interventionist on Instagram) and she posted this week about retiring this saying.  I completely agree and told her I would post about this also in solidarity. Apparently many teachers have questions about what to teach instead. 

My school focuses on learning all the sounds the phonograms make. So when my students struggle to read a word, I say, "Do you see a phonogram? What sounds does it make?" 

We teach the sounds in the order of frequency. So for example, if the student is struggling with the vowel team in the word "steak" s/he would identify  "ea" as the phonogram. The sounds in order of use are ē as in eat, ĕ as in head, ā as in break. This student would try the sounds and determine it is the 3rd one. So the "two vowels" rhyme would have let her/him down but armed with the knowledge of the phonogram sounds,  the student can successfully decode the word.  

This is why it is called the science of reading. There are rules and explanations that I wish I had known earlier. And young children CAN learn them. You know as well as I do that kids thrive on structure and rules. It gives them a sense of control and instead of feeling overwhelmed they have a specific procedure to help them figure those challenging words out.

I realized my best selling resource Decoding Strategies: A Quick-Reference Guide for Parents & Guided Reading, has the two vowels rhyme in it so I updated it to add a version more in line with the example above. 


If your students could use some practice reading words with the 3 sounds -ed can make, I have a new set of Boom cards or Google Slides you might like. Inflectional endings can be hard for some students.



So what do you think? Ready to retire the "two vowels go walking" rhyme? 




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