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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>


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


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 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.

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.

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