Ever have a student who is reading way below their grade level? You want to get them up to speed quickly. If you go too fast, you may lose them. If you go too slow, you may bore them to tears.
Teaching students to read silent-e words is not a new thing. Sometimes called bossy e or magic e, it’s usually taught with all of the various spellings at the same time (a-e, i-e, o-e, u-e). That approach works for many students, but it may not work for all. There are times when struggling readers need it broken down into manageable pieces. Here’s another way to tweak your instruction for those students.
I begin with teaching only silent-e words with a-e spellings. (Please print out these sample sheets from my book, The Ultimate Guide:Teaching Phonics to Struggling Readers.) Take a look at the first page here with the picture of a lake. The letter e on the end of lake is silent. Although it doesn’t make a sound, it is powerful because it jumps backwards over the k and makes the vowel scream its name. The a has its long sound in lake as opposed to its short sound in lack.
Notice there are no blends or digraphs on that page; this is intentional. Once my student is secure in reading and spelling those kinds of words, I then kick it up a notch and introduce a-e words with blends and digraphs when they are ready. Turn your attention to the page with the plane. The word plane on that page has an initial blend; other words, like shape, have a digraph at the beginning. All of the words on that page are spelled with a-e, but they also contain blends and digraphs. It’s a higher level skill to decode those words so they are not introduced at the same time.
In similar fashion I teach silent-e words with i-e and o-e spellings. This way I can teach my students to read and spell silent-e words even if they are not yet secure with blends and digraphs.
There are times when we need to break concepts down into their smaller parts in order for students to grasp the idea and hold onto it. Teaching silent-e words this way works beautifully.
We have provided you with a deck of flash cards. Feel free to color them in and print two sets each for a fun game of "Go-fish".