Vowels are tricky letters. Long vowels, short vowels, silent ones on the ends of words and of course sometimes ‘y’. Each year in grade one I struggle with how to introduce these letters in an authentic way.
Using the thinking routine, ‘See, Think, Wonder’, developed by Harvard’s ‘Project Zero’, offers an authentic entry point to discuss and think about vowels. We structured our conversation in three parts ‘what do you see, what do you think and what do you wonder’.
The provocation was a box of magnet letters.This box had individual compartments for the letters. Consonants were blue and vowels were red.
What do you see?
“I see a pattern red, blue, blue, blue, red, blue, blue, blue.”
“I see different letters.”
“I see some letters have different places for them.”
“I see different colours.”
“I see stickers with letters.”
“I see different boxes, like little places.”
“I see 28 boxes.”
“Nooo… I see ummm… 25… no… let’s count again”
Children count to 18 and then recount again to 26.
“26 boxes!!” shout several children
“Like the number of letters in the alphabet… 26 letters.”
“How many boxes are blue and how many boxes are red?” – Teacher
“5 boxes are red.”
“21 blue boxes.”
“The red ones are important.”
“what makes you say that?” – Teacher
“because they have a special colour”
“I think that the red ones are vowels…see … a,e,I,o,u”
“A vowel is a letter that you use in the middle of the word and its important that is why they are red because they are important”
“Red ones are vowels and the blue ones are not.”
“The blue ones are consonants.”
The children were then given the chance to play with the letter and make words they know.
“What do you notice about the words you made?” – Teacher
“I notice that my words have blue, red, blue.”
“I have a row of three letter words and a row of two words and they have blue and red letters.”
“I notice that I have ‘id’ and ‘id’ and these words rhym – sid and lid. ”
“I have three in a row that are blue, red, blue.”
“There are ‘at’ and they rhyme. ”
“What are vowels?”
“Do all words have vowels?”
“Are vowels always in the middle?”
“What would happen if we didn’t have vowels in our world? Would all the words be hard to read?”
“I wonder why the ‘y’ is a half vowel. It means it’s kind of a vowel. If its on the end of a vowel”
“I wonder if all words have vowels in them.” – Teacher
“No… there are words with no vowels I am sure.”
“Hmmm… I wonder… does every word has a vowel?”
This experience of playing with vowels allowed girls to develop a relationship with these letters. From this experience, I have noticed they are more aware of the presence of vowels in their reading and writing.