Advanced search

Does anyone know the 'proper' way to explain 'magic e' in phonics?

(118 Posts)
owlelf Sat 06-Oct-12 10:46:44

DS is in Y1. His School have adopted Read write inc this year (previously Jolly Phonics).

He has guided reaching once a week, and daily WRI sessions, but he doesn't read one to one with a teacher.

Apparently as he is doing well he doesn't get any one to one reading. I feel that this puts added pressure on me to guide him properly at home. I'm very happy to read with him each night, and we both really enjoy bedtime stories. But I do feel pressure to make sure I explain things to him in a way that is consistent with what he is taught in school- otherwise I will confuse him.

Anyway, I know that the term magic e is now outdated. He does struggle over the concept of an 'e' changing a letter sound to a letter name- and I'm not sure if there is a clever way to explain it? I would live to know how this is covered in the read write inc program.

Can anyone help?

Rosebud05 Sat 06-Oct-12 21:03:17

OP, I've never explained this to my dd but she just seems to get that sometimes it makes the vowel sound become its letter sound and sometimes it doesn't, so I don't know what to suggest.

Maybe try Googling 'Read, write inc' and see if there's any info there? Otherwise, ask his teacher.

Haberdashery Sat 06-Oct-12 21:08:46

I really struggled with this last year when DD was a little ahead in reading ability and desire to read stuff herself compared to where her class had got to with phonics. In the end, I just had to fall back on 'this is how we make the sound * in the word *'. Because honestly, I couldn't work out a rule (as a reasonably competent adult) and there didn't seem to be one that applied to every case and I tied myself up in knots failing to explain why because there isn't really a why that applies enough of the time to be properly useful. I found a brilliant chart of all the sounds and how you can write each one somewhere online and we stuck it up on the wall and I used to see her poring over it with a puzzled look on her face sometimes. Some months later, she has just got the hang of 'if it doesn't make sense sounding like that, think what else it could sound like' and can work out most things, and is whizzing away reading real books to herself in her head and clamouring for more. I actually think in some ways the puzzling nature of the words and the lack of a rule I could tell her helped her. She had to make the connections for herself and sometimes you remember those connections better than rules you've had to learn.

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 21:11:22

Haberdashery you couldn't work out the rule because there really aren't any and when people try to make them they cause confusion like "magic makes the vowel long" ermm no it doesn't

Haberdashery Sat 06-Oct-12 21:19:57

Yes, that was the conclusion I came to in the end. I wanted to sort of make it easier for her but in the end I just couldn't. But fortunately it hasn't seemed to matter in terms of her enjoying her reading which is what I was keen to help make happen. And I suppose most adult readers are in the same position. Whether or not you were told about magic e, you know that cone and love sound different (and at some point you probably just had to work it out for yourself to some extent).

LindyHemming Sat 06-Oct-12 21:23:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrz Sat 06-Oct-12 21:27:03

a long hard vowel! the mind boggles! shock

simpson Sat 06-Oct-12 21:55:29

DD in reception seems to have taught herself the magic e way (after watching alphablocks).

Hopefully it won't cause her any problems to re-learn it another way....

CecilyP Sun 07-Oct-12 08:39:21

Simpson, unless she is incredibly rigid, and can't allow for alternatives, she shouldn't have a problem. The 'magic e' way works for the overwhelming majority of single syllable words. From the OP, it sounds like her DS is having difficulty reading the words, hence her need to help.

CecilyP Sun 07-Oct-12 08:42:51

I find the red/green/tricky words equally unnecessary ... "this word has a way of writing the sound * we haven't learnt yet ..."

Words write?

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 09:21:38

no Cecily words don't write and apparently neither should I on Saturday evenings

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 09:32:10

In case you are interested it should say " In this word the sound * is written this way, but we haven't learnt that way yet ... we also write the sound * that way in these words "

comelywench Sun 07-Oct-12 09:48:44

Who knew magic "e" was so controversial! I heard the alphablocks singing about him the other day and was transported right back to the magic "e" of my youth. Tell me "Super badger" isn't out too!

You just can't make rules for English that have no exceptions (generally). It's a very interesting language historically. A lot of our spellings are relics of the past pre the great vowel shift, so don't bare as much relation to modern speech. Not something to go into with Yr2's perhaps, but one of the reasons why we just have to learn all the irregularities in pronunciation, strange spellings of our wonderfully quirky language.

Elibean Sun 07-Oct-12 11:31:04

I just tell the dds that English is a wonderful language with lots and lots of describing words, and that it likes breaking rules a lot grin

CecilyP Sun 07-Oct-12 11:31:48

Have they become nudists, comelywench? English spelling, heh.

Elibean Sun 07-Oct-12 11:31:50

Though I don't usually say 'lot' a...I mean, so often.

Mashabell Sun 07-Oct-12 11:55:52

Mrz: arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh! all letters are silent
So what is phonics all about?

Anyway, the 'magic e', 'long, open vowel' or 'split digraph' principle
('mat - mate - matter, set -scene -setting, not - note - rotten, bit - bite - bitter, cut - cute - cutting', also 'solo, radio, rabbit’)
is obscured by hundreds of words with redundant '-e> endings
(have, give, gone, imagine, delicate, promise), undoubled consonants (body, radish, copy), as well as irregular vowel spellings (some, done, ready).

In the 16th C, printers had tacked on extra letters whenever they felt like it, for various reasons. The pamphleteers of the English Civil War (1642-9) wanted to squeeze the maximum of information onto a single page and dropped them again from most of them (e.g. olde, worlde, fissche, shoppe, kindnesse). Unfortunately they did not make a clean sweep of it.

Getting rid of the surplus –e endings would help to make the ‘short, closed’ and ‘long, open’ vowel spelling method more transparent. Adopting proper, rule-governed consonant doubling would do so even more. It would save oodles of rote-learning and loads of marking.

LindyHemming Sun 07-Oct-12 12:00:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 12:16:48

Phonics is a system by which letters represent spoken sounds (they don't make a noise masha they just sit there quietly on the paper)

comelywench Sun 07-Oct-12 13:55:04

They were always nudists Cecily ;) Yet another reason they're not suitable for Yr2's

Mashabell Sun 07-Oct-12 17:08:42

Getting rid of the surplus –e endings would help to make the ‘short, closed’ and ‘long, open’ vowel spelling method more transparent.

Redundant <-e> endings make words with short vowels look as if they should have a long sound:
gave - hav*e*, drive - giv*e*, combine - imagin*e*, revise - promis*e*,
to deliberate - a deliberate act -
cf. chaf, spiv, coffin, tennis, acrobat.

The surplus <-e> endings undermine the 'magic' or 'vowel-lengthening' role of <-e>, as in 'late, eve, kite, pole, rule'. Without them, the system would be more transparent and much easier to learn and teach.

One of the biggest groups comprises
64 words ending in <-ate>.
Candidate, celibate, certificate, chocolate, climate, compassionate, confederate, conglomerate, considerate, consulate, corporate, curate, delicate, desperate, determinate, directorate, disconsolate, disparate, doctorate, effeminate, electorate, emirate, extortionate, foliate, fortunate, frigate, glutamate, immaculate, immediate, importunate, intermediate, intricate, inveterate, Latinate, laureate, legitimate, literate, magnate, numerate, obdurate, obstinate, opiate, palate, palatinate, passionate, pinnate, pirate, pomegranate, prelate, primate, private, proportionate, protectorate, proximate, quadrate, quadruplicate, quintuplicate, senate, silicate, temperate, triplicate, triumvirate, ultimate, vertebrate.

Abate, accelerate, accommodate, accumulate, aggravate, agitate, amputate, appreciate, asphyxiate, assassinate, ate, calculate, celebrate, circulate, commemorate, complicate, concentrate, confiscate, congratulate, crate, create, cremate, cultivate, date, debate, decorate, dedicate, demonstrate, dominate, donate, eliminate, emigrate, estate, evacuate, exaggerate, exasperate, excavate, extricate, fate, gate, germinate, grate, gyrate, hate, hesitate, hibernate, humiliate, illuminate, illustrate, impersonate, indicate, inflate, infuriate, inoculate, interrogate, intimate, investigate, late, legislate, locate, lubricate, magistrate, mate, migrate, navigate, obliterate, operate, participate, penetrate, plate, pollinate, rate, relate, rotate, saturate, skate, slate, state, suffocate, terminate, tolerate, translate, vaccinate, vibrate.

Sometimes <-ate> spells /-at/ when used as an adjective or a noun [a separate advocate] and /-ait/ when used as a verb [to separate, to advocate]:
Advocate, aggregate, alternate, appropriate, approximate, articulate, associate, consummate, coordinate, degenerate, delegate, deliberate, desolate, duplicate, elaborate, estimate, expatriate, incarnate, inviolate, laminate, moderate, ordinate, predicate, profligate, postulate, separate, syndicate.

The people who standardised those spellings clearly did not give any thought to ease of learning.

mrz Sun 07-Oct-12 17:09:52


LindyHemming Sun 07-Oct-12 17:11:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LindyHemming Sun 07-Oct-12 17:12:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LindyHemming Sun 07-Oct-12 17:14:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Mashabell Sun 07-Oct-12 17:17:42

I am sorry that picking out letters in bold works so unreliably on MN.

I think the fact that these words
Advocate, aggregate, alternate, appropriate, approximate, articulate, associate, consummate, coordinate, degenerate, delegate, deliberate, desolate, duplicate, elaborate, estimate, expatriate, incarnate, inviolate, laminate, moderate, ordinate, predicate, profligate, postulate, separate, syndicate
have one spelling for two different words, just like 'read, lead, tear, minute, second...'
makes a mockery of all heterographs (e.g. their/there, hear/here) and particularly 'to practise / a practice'
to/a notice, service, promise, menace, surface, purchase, work, play
and hundreds more.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now