help please with ea words - teaching dyslexic DD

(57 Posts)
betterwhenthesunshines Mon 04-Feb-13 19:25:52

DD is 8, in Yr 3 and has a dyslexia diagnosis. We are helping her a lot at home and things are improving although still extremely variable. Her reading especially has improved (EasyRead system) and she no longer panics and can consistently sound out new words, is reading more fluently and she now seems to have a good phonic grounding.

However it hasn't yet transferred to her spelling which is still a tricky area. Any tips for when the -ea- sound makes the short 'e':
bread, spread, head, lead (as opposed to the simple bed, fed, led, shed)

and when the long 'ea'
reach, teach, speak, creak, knead, bead

and when the 'ee'
need, greed

lead tricky one this "My pencil has lead in it"
"My dog has a lead" "I led the horse to water"
Should she just be trying to learn the different words in different scenarios, or is there any rhyme or reason? Any 'rules'?

PS I don't really want a lecture on why English spelling should be changed Masha grin just some tips about the best way to help her!

learnandsay Mon 04-Feb-13 20:34:59

read, lead, head

I have a very old dictionary, (Odhams 1932) which shows read and lead originating from Anglo-Saxon words using the ash ligature (ae) joined together in the middle. But not head; it appears to originate from an Anglo-Saxon word which had a separated a and e.

mrz Mon 04-Feb-13 20:51:53

I'm afraid there aren't any rules

learnandsay Mon 04-Feb-13 21:02:27

Well, there are rules but they make the problem worse and not better.

mrz Mon 04-Feb-13 21:08:47

No learnandsay there aren't any rules that tell us when the "ee" sound is written <ea> or <ee> or <e>

meat
meet
me
brief
ceiling
ski
baby
key
theme

learnandsay Mon 04-Feb-13 21:16:16

It depends on what you mean by a rule. Etymology is a series of rules. The only problem is that etymological rules are no help in this case. But they're still rules. And they still exist.

Feenie Mon 04-Feb-13 21:17:38

hmm

Feenie Mon 04-Feb-13 21:19:00

Etymology is the study of how words have followed a sequence of events, not a set of rules.

maizieD Mon 04-Feb-13 21:23:37

If it helps,'good' spelling is not just a 'memory' skill, it is also a product of kinaesthetic memory in that when a word has been spelled correctly sufficient times it is helped by 'muscle memory' of the unique 'feel' of how the word is written. So lots of practice of spelling the word correctly while saying the word, or saying the sounds as they are written, will help to reinforce muscle memory.

I would suggest concentrating on just one of the 'sounds' at a time, doing lots of practice of writing them in as many contexts as possible, labels, sentences, little stories, dictations, any way that will use as many as possible of them.

Once one group of words is secure (reasonably consistently spelled correctly) move on to a different 'sound' of the grapheme.

I don't think that the 'automatic' aspect of spelling is really appreciated and chilldren often don't get enough repetition of words to help them to be fixed in kinaesthetic memory, particularly if they are not words that they are likely to write very often.

learnandsay Mon 04-Feb-13 21:25:07

That depends on what you mean by a rule. Words derived from a common root follow one rule. Words sharing common original runes follow another rule, and so on. You may choose to emphasise some other characteristic of a word's origins but that makes no difference to the commonalities mentioned above.

mrz Mon 04-Feb-13 21:47:54

Etymology can only provide a clue to how a word is written but it doesn't provide a set of rules.

I would get your daughter to sort the words by the spelling for the "ee" sound betterwhenthesunshines and as maizieD says if she says the sounds as she writes them it helps reinforce the spelling.

learnandsay Mon 04-Feb-13 21:54:55

They're not clues, mrz, (unless you believe the etymologists are actually wrong.) They're facts.

learnandsay Mon 04-Feb-13 21:58:53

The OP asked are there any rules and indeed there are rules. The only problem is that the rules make her task more difficult and not easier. But that does not mean that they do not exist.

mrz Tue 05-Feb-13 06:39:26

I believe the etymologists are correct learnandsay but I don't believe that the help a child to know whether to write meet or meat ...so when you say they are rules I don't believe you either

learnandsay Tue 05-Feb-13 06:42:27

Whether or not etymological rules exist has got nothing to do with helping children.

mrz Tue 05-Feb-13 07:14:08

The OP wanted to know if there were rules to help her daughter know whether words are spelt <ea> or <ee> learnandsay and there aren't.

learnandsay Tue 05-Feb-13 07:22:55

She wanted to know if there were any tips.

You were the one who brought up the term rules. There are rules. There aren't any tips that I know of.

Popeyeswife Tue 05-Feb-13 08:42:47

I'm a dyslexia teachersmile

I would teach these are groups of sounds- with a good gap between word lists- at least a week.

The ee and ea saying eeeeeeeee are slightly easier- she has to learn 2 lists but it could take a long time until she is confident on them all. Practising dictation with the words in context will help.

For ea saying e as in bed, follow the same mulit sensory methods which you might use already:

-tracing words on table whilst saying the letters
-making words from plastic letters or letters cut up ( large fonts) and re-arranging in right order.
-dictation in context but keep all words in sentences very simple- CVC words an d high frequency so she can manage
-small cards with the letters on the front and a picture ( drawing) and a key word on the reverse. eg ea and a loaf of bread on the front of the card and the word "bread" on the reverse.

You would be better to link ea saying e as in bed with the other way of making a short e sound - one single vowel- rather than linking it to ea as a long vowel sound.

So that means telling her that there are two ways of making the sound "e" ( short vowel)
One is a single letter e, the other is ea at times.

There are many more words which have ea as a long vowel than ea as a short vowel sound- so she will learn them in time.

betterwhenthesunshines Tue 05-Feb-13 09:14:19

Thanks all.

Yes, she has been doing just one type of sound at a time at school for a while, but is now starting to get mixed groups. Her basic understanding is now good, it's just pushing it a bit further to know what spelling applies in different circumstances so it's good to know I'm not missing any 'tricks' to help her.

We use various methods - arranging foam magnetic letters, saying the word sounds while repeated writing, looking for things in words (eg the glass of juice has ice in it to remember it is ui not iu. Friend has end at the end etc)

It all helps, I guess it just takes time.

This is helpful though:
You would be better to link ea saying e as in bed with the other way of making a short e sound - one single vowel- rather than linking it to ea as a long vowel sound.

^So that means telling her that there are two ways of making the sound "e" ( short vowel)
One is a single letter e, the other is ea at times.^

There are many more words which have ea as a long vowel than ea as a short vowel sound- so she will learn them in time.

I'm also trying to concentrate on the more frequent words. School recently highlighted that she had spelt 'viciously' and 'category' wrong and I was a bit hmm er, I think we can let that go for now (at least she's trying to write them!) and concentrate on 'coat' and 'once' and 'enjoy' grin

maverick Tue 05-Feb-13 09:46:44

betterwhenthesunshines, scroll down on this page for an evidence-based list of Dos and Don'ts to help with spelling -and yes, mrz is correct, there are no 'rules' in English spelling.

www.dyslexics.org.uk/spelling.htm

learnandsay Tue 05-Feb-13 10:02:08

I don't think the question are there rules which govern spelling was ever asked (or answered.) I think the question asked was when does ea make long or short sounds. In some of the cases mentioned it was pointed out that the sounds came from a common Anglo-Saxon symbol.

Popeyeswife Tue 05-Feb-13 10:40:07

Don't expect her to make huge leaps- it's more a drip-drip process.

I have pupils aged 15+ who still haven't got the hang of ee. e, ea, etc. As long as she gets them right 80% of the time that is fine- and TBH in RL most of us use spell checkers or a dictionary.

Re. spelling rules- there are lots I'm afraid.

Mostly they apply to suffixing- y changing to i + es in plural unless preceded by a vowel, base words dropping the final e when adding a vowel suffix, the "doubling rule" to keep the single consonant short when adding vowel suffixes.

The book Spotlight on Suffixes (1) by Gillian Aitken AMBDA is great and has lots of graded worksheets-you could easily use at home when the time comes..

Popeyeswife Tue 05-Feb-13 10:42:02

Just to add- the book I mentioned is photocopiable by licence, and each page is headed by THE RULE then examples and cloze exercises.

betterwhenthesunshines Tue 05-Feb-13 13:10:44

Popeyeswife - thanks - that's a useful link to the dyslexics spelling page. And I'll look up that Gillian Aitkin book - I think some work on prefixes, suffixes etc would help

We did start doing the Apples & Pears workbook at home, but it was too much for her - she avoided doing the writing and got too frustrated so for the last year we have been focusing on helping her with her reading through a computer based system (no school type pens and pencils - psychological bonus!) called EasyRead. I don't know if you have heard of it, it uses all the same synthetic phonics and has had a huge and positive impact.

Maybe now it would be good to go back and do some Apples&Pears again to consolidate her good phonic decoding and help to know where to apply it in the relevant context. I'm interested to know if you find this to be a useful scheme?

And also never a bad thing to keep reminding myself this is a slow process.

derektheladyhamster Tue 05-Feb-13 13:17:19

My son struggles with spelling, we started halfway through book a of the apples and pears scheme at the beginning of the last summer holidays (end of yr 4)

He's now just finished book b, and we're about to start book c. His spelling has noticeably improved and we're really happy with it

We don't do it everyday (too many other things going on) and quite often only do half a level at a time.

betterwhenthesunshines Tue 05-Feb-13 15:19:22

That sounds good progress derekthelady - a term and a half only - it's good when you can see the results isn't it? Does your son feel he is improving? More confidence? I know what you mean about too much going on - but we have finished doing daily vision therapy exercises and reading programme so I think we could go back to this now.

We started with book A so I will need to do a placement test to see where to re-start.

Mashabell Tue 05-Feb-13 15:45:01

^Any tips for when the -ea- sound makes the short 'e':
bread, spread, head, lead (as opposed to the simple bed, fed, led, shed)

and when the long 'ea'
reach, teach, speak, creak, knead, bead

and when the 'ee'
need, greed^

There are no rules, but I can give u all the common words with them.
Short e
39 words just have a surplus a:
Read (yesterday), lead (in petrol),
bread, breadth, breakfast, breast, breath, breathalyse, cleanliness, cleanse, dead, deaf, dealt, death, dread, dreamt, feather, head, health, heather, instead, leant, leapt, leather, meant, measure, pleasure, realm, spread, stealthy, sweat, thread, threat, treacherous, tread, treasure, treasury, wealth, weather.

Because there is generally no doubling after vowels spelt with two letters, and the letter v is generally not doubled, except in a few modern words like ‘chivvy’,

11 words have no doubled consonant after their spelling for short /e/ (unlike jelly, wedding, teddy)
Jealous, meadow, ready (already), steady, threaten, weapon, zealous,
Endeavour, heaven, heavy.

Another 17 words have assorted variants for e or are accompanied by other inconsistencies:
Peasant, pheasant, pleasant,
any, many, said, says, every, seven, Wednesday,
friend, heifer, jeopardy, leopard, bury,
leisure, lieutenant [lesure, leftennant in UK; leesure, lutennant in US].

Most stop now.
Will find u the ee ones (and break, create, etc) tomorrow if interested.

derektheladyhamster Tue 05-Feb-13 16:04:39

I'm really pleased. At the end of yr 4 he struggled with the sentence, 'How much for fish and chips' now he can spell words like 'watched, thirsty and biting'

Incidentally, the spellings of words like meat and meet, are introduced at the end of apples and pears book b.

betterwhenthesunshines Tue 05-Feb-13 17:25:11

Just done the level 51 placement test with her and she got them all right grin grin and also got correct the ones from previous placement tests that we had done earlier last year ( I checked those too to see if it was just a lucky day!!). It's so good to keep a record of this stuff so you know things are actually progressing.

mrz Tue 05-Feb-13 17:32:27

learnandsay perhaps you should read the original post and see what the OP asked before being so dogmatic

mrz Tue 05-Feb-13 17:37:26

lead tricky one this "My pencil has lead in it"
"My dog has a lead" "I led the horse to water"
Should she just be trying to learn the different words in different scenarios, or is there any rhyme or reason? Any 'rules'?

learnandsay Tue 05-Feb-13 17:37:38

You have a point?

mrz Tue 05-Feb-13 17:43:58

Check your facts before you post ...

learnandsay Tue 05-Feb-13 17:45:18

Indeed, quite correct.

mrz Tue 05-Feb-13 17:53:46

So you did see the OP as "Any rules?"

derektheladyhamster Tue 05-Feb-13 18:05:42

It's great when you can see the progress, well done to your dd grin

kesstrel Tue 05-Feb-13 18:08:27

OP: I believe Debbie Hepplewhite at Phonics International uses a mnemonic story system for these sorts of spellings. She says, quote: "I call it 'word associations' where you need to group and associate certain words together as falling under the umbrella of the same spelling variation.Then these words can be part of a story so that there can be visual images of the storyline - and the storyline itself." I think the idea is that the child is more likely to be able to remember a mini-story made up of words that share the same spelling, so that it can then act as a mnemonic. She has a message board on her Phonics International website, so you could ask her about it.

plusonemore Tue 05-Feb-13 18:14:04

Not you two again mrz and lands? Are you stalking one another? wink

mrz Tue 05-Feb-13 18:25:40

No plusonemore but are you stalking us?

Mashabell Wed 06-Feb-13 07:55:14

I was in a hurry yesterday and missed your PS
I don't really want a lecture on why English spelling should be changed Masha

I don't usually do that.
I merely show people what there is to learn.
I gave u all the tricky words with alternative spellings for short e yesterday. There are not that many of them, but they occur in quite a few high frequency words, as u can see.

Learning to spell words with the ee sound takes quite a while. After consonant doubling, it's the second most unpredictable part of English spelling.

This is partly because an exceptionally large number of words have two spellings for the /ee/ sound (47):

Bee/be, beech/beach, been/bean, beet/beat, breech/breach, cheep/cheap, creek/creak, deer/dear, discreet/discrete, eerie/eyrie, eve/eaves, feet/feat, flee/flea, freeze/frieze, jeans/genes, Greece/grease, heel/heal, hear/here, key/quay, leech/leach, leek/leak, meet/meat, need/knead, pee/pea, peace/piece, peek/peak, peel/peal, peer/pier, reed/read, reek/wreak, reel/real, seamen/semen, see/sea, seem/seam, seen/scene, serial/cereal, sheer/shear, sheikh/chic, steel/steal, sweet/suite, tee/tea, teem/team, wee/we, week/weak, wheel/weal, geezer/geyser, leaver/lever.

The spellings for the other 363 relatively common words are completely unpredictable:
Achieve, adhesive, agree, albino, antique, appeal, arena, aubergine.
Beacon, bead, beak, beam, beard, beast, beaver, beef, beer, beetle, belief, believe, beneath, between, bikini, bleach, bleak, bleat, bleed, bleep, breathe, breed, breeze, brief.
Cafeteria, caffeine, career, cathedral, cease, cedar, ceiling, chameleon, cheat, cheek, cheer, cheese, cheetah, chief, chimpanzee, Chinese, clean, clear, clementine, codeine, colleague, comedian, compete, complete, conceal, conceive, conceit, concrete, congeal, convene, convenient, cream, crease, creature, creep.
Deal, dean, debris, deceive /deceit, decent, decrease, deed, deep, defeat, demon, diesel, disease, domineer, dream, dreary, dungarees.
Each, eager, eagle, ear, ease, east, Easter, eat, eel, engineer, equal, era, even, evil, exceed, experience, exterior, extreme.
Fatigue, fear, feast, feature, feeble, feed, feel, female, fever, field, fiend, fierce, fleece, fleet, freak, frequent, frontier.
Gear, geese, genie, genius, gleam, glean, greed, green, greet, grief, grieve, employee, guarantee, guillotine.
He, heap, heat, heath, heathen, heave, hero, hyena, hygienic.
Imperial, increase, indeed, inferior, ingredient, intermediate, interviewee.
Jamboree, jeep, jeer.
Key, keel, keen, keep, kneel.
Lead, leaf, league, lean, leap, lease, leash, least, leave, legal, legion, lenient.
Machine, magazine, margarine, marine, marquee, material, me, meagre, meal, mean, measles, medieval, medium, meek, mere, meteor, meter, millipede, mosquito, mysterious, near, neat, needle, niece.
Obedient, ordeal.
Peach, peat, peep, people, perceive, period, peter, pierce, pioneer, pizza, plasticine, plead, please, pleat, police, polythene, preach, precede, preen, prestige, previous, priest, proceed, proceedings, proceeds, protein.
Quay, queasy, queen, queer, query.
Ravine, reach, really, reap, rear, reason, receive /receipt, recent, recess, reef, regime, region, relay, release, relief, relieve, repeat, retreat, reveal, routine.
Sardine, scheme, scream, screech, screen, seal, sear, season, seat, secret, seed, seek, seep, seesaw, seize, sequence, sequin, series, serious, serum, she, sheaf, sheath, sheep, sheet, shield, shriek, siege, ski, sleek, sleep, sleet, sleeve, smear, smithereens, sneak, sneer, sneeze, souvenir, speak, spear, species, speech, speed, sphere, squeak, squeal, squeamish, squeeze, stampede, steam, steep, steeple, steer, strategic, streak, stream, street, succeed, superior, supreme, swede, sweep, sweet.
Tambourine, tangerine, teach, teak, tear, tease, tedious, teeth, teetotal, theatre, theme, theory, these, thief, thieve, thirteen, tier, torpedo, trampoline, trapeze, treacle, treason, treat, treaty, trustee, tweed, tweezers.
Unique.
Vaseline, veal, vehicle, Venus, volunteer.
Wean, weary, weasel, weave, weed, weep, weir, weird, wheat, wheedle, wheeze, wield, wildebeest, wreath.
Year, yeast, yield.
Zeal, zero.

So teachers/spelling schemes pick out a few at a time, group them in different ways and just plug away at it.
It obviously takes quite a while to learn them all.

Mashabell Thu 07-Feb-13 10:37:39

I wonder if many of u are aware that the adding of ea to English spelling in the 15th century was a deliberate undermining of earlier greater English spelling consistency (e.g. erly, lern, hevy, tred, erth - speke, reson, beleve) as found in Chaucer who died in 1400?

maizieD Thu 07-Feb-13 16:49:21

I wonder if many of u are aware...

Quite honestly, marsha, I don't think that many of us care...apart from in a history geekish way.

(hmm does 'us' spell 'yous' in marsha land?)

mrz Thu 07-Feb-13 17:26:28

One of the reasons <ea> was added to English spelling was the pronunciation of the sound changed after the Norman conquest

Mashabell Fri 08-Feb-13 10:22:54

One of the reasons <ea> was added to English spelling was the pronunciation of the sound changed after the Norman conquest

The conquest was in 1066.
The short e sound was spelt e (brest, fethers, in stedde) and the ee sound with e-e (leve, sleve, beleve, treson) until 1430, when Chancery scribes who had previously written only French and Latin had to switch to English.

There is no evidence for any sudden change in pronunciation, just the spelling, especially as many writers did not adopt the Chancery spellings immediately and carried on spelling the old way for another 100 years.

There is not the slightest evidence whatsoever that words which had different spellings earlier (erly, lern, deth - yere, lene, speke), and which still have different sounds now, suddenly changed to one and justified the new use of ea for both (early, learn, death - year, lean, speak).

We can speculate why the Chancery clerks did this, but they clearly messed up English spelling quite deliberately.

maizieD Fri 08-Feb-13 12:41:20

We can speculate why the Chancery clerks did this, but they clearly messed up English spelling quite deliberately.

Are you using 'deliberately' to mean 'purposely' or to mean 'purposely with malicious intent'?

It all sounds a bit conspiracy theorist to me...

learnandsay Fri 08-Feb-13 13:03:28

It doesn't matter why the clerks did it. Their documents were only meant for the civil service. It just so happened that their script was the easiest one available at the time for the newly emerging printing presses. So if I was you I'd blame the printers not the clerks.

maizieD Fri 08-Feb-13 18:08:39

I'm not altogether sure that Chancery documents were printed at an early stage anyway. So why should printers be influenced bythe spellings of chancery clerks? Most early printed material was ecclesiastical in origin and tended to be books.

learnandsay Fri 08-Feb-13 23:09:51

Because the printers were business people and they printed for whoever could pay. And in the 1470s the most demanded style of print for commercial purposes in London was Chancery Standard. So, guess what got printed.

Euphemia Sat 09-Feb-13 08:23:21

All this is very jnteresting, but it doesn't help the OP to help her child right now, does it?

Euphemia Sat 09-Feb-13 08:24:34

Did I really just type jnteresting? grin

Can't see properly in the morning! grin

mrz Sat 09-Feb-13 08:47:54

I'm afraid there aren't any rules or tricks to help the OPs child right now as has been said previously Euphemia

Euphemia Sat 09-Feb-13 09:28:25

That was my point, Mrz - what the OP needs is sensible, relevant advice on the teaching of reading, not a lesson on the history/vagaries of the English language, which is what certain posters always jump to on these threads.

maizieD Sat 09-Feb-13 12:20:03

not a lesson on the history/vagaries of the English language, which is what certain posters always jump to on these threads.

I just scroll down quickly past those with averted eyes grin

ML0808 Wed 20-Feb-13 08:23:52

I just stumbled across this site because I had been Googling for ea words to help my own dyslexic child with his homework. Obviously this wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but I felt compelled to drop you a line and say that while all the mothers on here seem well intentioned, they don't seem to be of much help to you. I think you should be directing these sorts of problems towards one of the sites set up to help parents of dyslexic children. Then you can get some advice that's actually useful and, when needed, a shoulder to cry on (we all have our hard days). You Tube also has some wonderful tutorials from teachers and parents of dyslexic students on how best to teach new words and sounds. As for your original question, my advice (for what it's worth) is to just take it one word and one test at a time. It's really too hard to teach them every word within a sound group. Let her get her sounds right, and let her spell phonetically so that she's getting her words down on paper. Then maybe go through and explain which sounds need to be swapped for similar sounds. My approach with my nine year old son was to tell him that English doesn't make sense, and that some words are just spelt differently. It's no big deal and it's not his fault if he's written the wrong sound down. That's what it sounded like, and it was a really good try. Focusing on the stupidity of the English language seems to alleviate the anxiety and feelings of failure. Then I just deal with his words one spelling list at a time. I'm not sure where you live, but I discovered a Multilit program that is being run at Macquarie University (in Sydney) that might interest you. It's had great success in catching children up to their peers in about 6 months, but it costs $6000. It seems pretty steep, but if I don't have to stress about this stuff any more, or pay for a tutor in High School, it'll be worth it. I hope that I've been of some help to you. But if not, just remember, she'll get there eventually. As long as you keep her confidence intact, the rest will fall into place in it's own time.

betterwhenthesunshines Sun 24-Feb-13 12:29:13

ML0808 Thank you for replying. Good tip about You tube.

You're absolutely right about letting them know that often English spelling doesn't make sense. Ithink that's one of the problems with the way in which synthetic phonics is (sometimes) taught. ie "here is 'a', it makes this sound (short 'a')" and then a few months later they are being told about long vowels, not to mention awful, august, argue etc

I've tried to lift the pressure and more often now just say "here you use xx to make this sound".

Feenie Sun 24-Feb-13 12:49:01

but I felt compelled to drop you a line and say that while all the mothers on here seem well intentioned, they don't seem to be of much help to you

How patronising! Several posters here are very skilled and experienced teachers, as well as well intentioned mothers.

mrz Sun 24-Feb-13 12:52:53

I think it is important to understand the basic concepts

that letters are spellings of sounds: written language representing spoken language

that a spelling can contain one, two, three, or four letters

that there is more than one way of spelling most sounds: the sound 'ee', spelt as <ee> in 'tree', can be represented as <e> in 'he', <ea> in 'leaf', <ey> in 'key', and so on

that many spellings can represent more than one sound: <ea> can be the sound 'e' in 'head', 'a-e' in 'break', or 'ee' in 'seat'

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