By Max Millard
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  1. Contractions
  2. Long vowels
  3. Short Vowels


Grade levels: 2 to 5

blackboard and chalk
two word lists
whiteboard, whiteboard eraser and marker for each student

(Before class, post this word list at the front of the room, printed large enough so that all the students can read it from their seats):

didn't (did not)
don't (do not)
I'll (I will)
I'm (I am)
let's (let us)
we're (we are)
who's (who is)
you're (you are)

(Write the word "contraction" on the blackboard and ask someone in the class to read the word aloud.)

Do you know what a contraction is? It's a shorter way of saying something. For example, have you ever heard the phrase "nome sane?" (Probably no one will respond.)

All right, let me use it in a sentence. What if someone says, "I was riding the bus the other day, nome sane? I ran into a friend of mine. Nome sane? He said, I need to come up with 100 dollars or I'm in a lot of trouble. Nome sane?"

Now who understands the phrase "nome sane"? That's right, it means: "Do you know what I'm saying?" That's an example of a contraction.

I'll read you some other words and ask you what they mean. Raise your hand if you know the answer. Wassup (what's up), gimme (give me), whatcha gonna do (what are you going to do), wannabe (want to be).

Look at the list of contractions on the board. They're in alphabetical order. I'll read you a word and you tell me the contraction. (Read some of the words aloud and call on students.)

Now I'll read you a contraction and you tell me which words make up that contraction. (Read contractions aloud and ask students.)

(Distribute whiteboards, markers and erasers.)

Next I'm going to read you some other contractions. When you hear the word, write it down the best you can. Don't worry about the spelling.

(Read aloud from the following list in random order. Don't let the students see how the words are spelled. After reading each word, cross it out so that you don't repeat yourself. Wait for the students to finish writing, then call on them to lift up their whiteboards for everyone to see. Discuss whether their spelling is correct. After each word has been discussed, they should erase their whiteboard.)

aren't, can't, doesn't, hadn't, hasn't, haven't, he'd, he'll, he's, how's, I'd, I've, it's, she'd, she'll, she's, there's, they'd, they'll, they're, they've, wasn't, we'd, we'll, we're, we've, weren't, what's, where's, who'd, who've, won't, wouldn't, you'd, you'll, you've

Now I'm going to read you some phrases and you write them down. Then write down the contractions they make. (Read words that make up contractions, such as "you are.")

When you're finished, hold up your board for everyone to see.

(If some students aren't getting it, call on them and ask them to discuss their thinking process out loud. Alternate between reading contractions and asking for the phrase, and reading the phrase and asking for the contraction.)

Now I want to ask you a really hard one. This isn't correct grammar, but it's a very common word. Who knows the contraction for "am not"?

(If no one can figure it out, write the word "ain't" on the blackboard. Then recite this poem:

Don't say ain't.
Your mother might faint.
Your father might fall
In a bucket of paint.

So remember, use contractions whenever you can't, but "ain't" ain't right.



Grade levels: 1 to 3

blackboard and chalk
lists of one-syllable words containing long and short vowels

Does everyone know the long vowels? Let's say them together.

(Write each vowel on the blackboard. Go around the room and ask the students to take turns identifying the long vowel sounds. If the students have trouble, draw the vowels in the air by using your arms to make the outline of the capital letters. For A, put your arms above your head like an A-frame shape. Do the same for the other letters.)

Now I'm going to read you some words. You tell me which one has the long A sound.

(Hold the list in your hand and slowly read aloud three or four words, only one of which has a long A. Circle the words as you read them so that you can repeat them if necessary. For example, BAG, KEEP, CAKE, PASTA.)

Which of those words has a long A sound?

(Do the same for the other long vowels. The exercise will help the students to concentrate on what you are saying and to listen carefully to the vowels. After a student gets the correct answer, cross out the words you have already read. Continue until all the words have been used.)

long A: rake, cake, snake, plate, train, rain, brain
short A: flag, bag, can, jam, hat, pasta

long E: sheep, street, sweet, keep, feet, jeep, leaf
short E: nest, leg, sled, men, bet

long I: tire, dive, line, kite, dice, drive
short I: ship, fish, pin, ring, wig

long O: bone, rose, boat, coat, cone, stroke
short O: block, cloth, frog, hop, cross

long U: tube, mule, flute, tuba, news
short U: rug, gum, duck, trunk, sun



Grade levels: 1 to 3

blackboard and chalk
picture cards for one-syllable objects with short vowels
lists of one-syllable words with short vowels

(Before class: post these six lists of words at the front of the room, printed large enough so that all the students can read them from their seats):

bad, bed, bid, bod, bud

pag, peg, pig, pog, pug

bat, bet, bit, bot, but

fan, fen, fin, fon, fun

tap, tep, tip, top, tup

jat, jet, jit, jot, jut

Do you know what a vowel is? How many vowels are there in the alphabet?

How many letters are there in the alphabet? What do we called letters that are not vowels? That's right: consonants. How many consonants are there?

26 letters
21 consonants

Everything that's not a consonant is a vowel. So how many vowels are there? That's right: there are five.

Do you know what is meant by short vowels? Let's review the short vowel sounds. I'll draw a letter on the board and you tell me the short vowel sound.

(Draw the five vowels on the board, one at a time. Go around the room and take turns asking the students to name the letter and to say its short vowel sound.)

Now I want to show you some pictures. Each of these pictures has a short vowel sound. Tell me what the picture is and what short vowel it has in the middle.

(Show pictures of these objects: bed, pig, bat, fan, top, jet. If students can't identify the picture, give the correct answer.)

Let's take the first card, "bed." When I call on you, come forward and show me the correct spelling of that word on the list. The other words on the list are almost the same, but they have a different short vowel in the middle.

(A student will come forward. Point to the list of words that contains the correct word and ask the student to find the word "bed." Do the same exercise for all the picture cards.)