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6 Tips to Help Distinguish Between Short I and Short E

Does your child have a hard time spelling words with the sounds of short I and short E? If so, it may be because he struggles to differentiate between these two vowel sounds. It’s a common spelling problem for young children, and in this post, you’ll learn what causes this issue and how to solve it.

First let’s talk about some regional differences. Listen to this short video clip to hear how I (a Wisconsinite) and Cheryl (who is from Missouri) pronounce some common words.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with either pronunciation—both are completely correct! But this video really illustrates the root of the short I/short E confusion, doesn’t it? In some areas of the country, pairs of words such as sit and set, bit and bet, and when and win are pronounced identically. And you may be interested to know that there’s actually an official name for this: the Pin-Pen Merger.

Areas of the U.S. Affected by the Pin-Pen Merger

Are you curious how the Pin-Pen Merger affects you? Find your location on the map below. If you live in a blue area—the Southern states, Texas, and a few other scattered areas—chances are good that most people in your area pronounce pin and pen identically. Most commonly, the merger comes into play when I and E come before nasal consonants like M and N.

Map showing the areas where the pin-pen merger occurs

Regional Variations Are the Spice of Life!

Before we continue, I want to make an important point. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having different pronunciations for words in various areas of the country or the English-speaking world. Regional differences are fascinating! Our only goal here is to help your child spell words that contain short I and short E sounds.

So let’s dig in!

6 Ways to Help Your Child Spell Words with Short I and Short E

Here are six things you can do to tackle short I and short E spelling problems.

  1. For beginning spellers, teach words with short I and short E in different lessons. If you try to teach them in the same lesson, you drastically increase the chances that your child will become confused. As a good example of proper spacing, the All About Spelling Level 1 program teaches words with short I in Lesson 7, and teaches words with short E three lessons later, in Lesson 10. The space between these lessons gives your child the chance to master one set of words before new (and potentially confusable) words are introduced.
  2. first page from Steps 1-10 in All About Spelling
  3. Provide extra practice. The free activity below will give your child extra practice in distinguishing between short I and short E.
  4. Pin or Pen Download
  5. “Pronounce for spelling.” Pronouncing for spelling means that we say the word very clearly, exaggerating the vowel sound. In the normal rhythm of speech, vowel sounds are often muffled, so when it’s time to spell, it’s important to slow down and drag out the pronunciation so your child can hear the vowel sound very clearly.
  6. Pin or Pen? Solving Short I / Short E Confusion
  7. Watch your mouth. Have your child watch your mouth as you make the sounds /ĭ/ and /ĕ/. The mouth should be open taller when you say the short E sound than when you say the short I sound. Now have your child make the sounds while watching himself in the mirror. For some kids, it may be easier to feel this with their mouth than to see it. This part can seem silly, so have fun playing with the sounds as you do this exercise.
  8. Have your child repeat the dictated word back to you. When you dictate a word for your child to spell, have him say it back to you with the exaggerated pronunciation before he spells it. Make any necessary corrections and have him repeat the pronunciation. When it’s time to work on Word Cards, say the word normally to see if your child can come up with the correct pronunciation for spelling before he tries to spell the word. For words where this is necessary, your child should remember both the pronunciation and the spelling before moving the card behind the Mastered divider.
  9. Treat some words as homophones. Finally, you may need to treat some words as homophones. Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently. Where I live, bin and Ben are pronounced differently, but they may sound alike in your area. If this is the case, dictate the word in a sentence so your child has the additional help of hearing the word used in context.

Learning to discriminate between the /ĭ/ and /ĕ/ sounds will help your student immensely in spelling, so working on this skill is well worth the time spent.

Do you live in the beige area on the map or in the blue area? Are your kids affected by the Pin-Pen Merger? Let us know in the comments below! And then download my free “6 Ways We Make Spelling Easy” e-book to learn about more great ways to help your child with spelling.

6 Ways We Make Spelling Easy
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Leave a Comment

Amy

says:

Thank you for such practical tips!

Amy

says:

This is very helpful. Thank you!

Tamara H

says:

Fascinating video!

Kathleen

says:

I live in the midwest and help with kindergarten learning to read. This is definitely an issue here. Thank you for your article.

Laura A

says:

Our neighbors all have different pronunciation than I do. I grew up as a Texan Air Force kid and have my own accent. So when I do phonics instruction with my youngest I try to normalize my sounds for them.

Michelle

says:

Great tips

Kylie kopp

says:

I grew up with this issue and now I’m battling it with my son too! #southernlife

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kylie,
Just think of your shared difficulties as a family tradition! :D

Janet

says:

Wonderful tips! And the free downloads are super helpful, too!

Candace Cedar Duerksen

says:

Thanks! This is helpful!

Margarita Diaz

says:

These are awesome tips!! Always looking for ways to help my son.

Lora

says:

Great tips, thank you!!

C. E.

says:

Great tips. Look forward to trying some of these with my kids.

Elizabeth

says:

This is so helpful! I often interchange the short e and I sounds.

Shelley

says:

The “watch your mouth” tip is really helpful. Thank you!

Jessica

says:

Great tips! You always make teaching easy with your articles and tutorials! I appreciate the resources you give us!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Jessica!

Nancy

says:

Wow thanks for the tips. Have always had a hard time hearing the difference.

Angie

says:

Love this! Super helpful!

Wendy

says:

This is wonderful!

Stephanie Chambers

says:

I’ve found having the kids repeat the word and having them watch my mouth helpful in clarifying pen/pin. Thanks for this article.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Stephanie,
Having students watch your mouth is a great technique for these tricky vowels!

Cindy

says:

This is just what we need right now

Katie

says:

This was so helpful!!

Lacie

says:

Looking forward to using this curriculum to teach my upcoming kindergartener next year.

Renee

says:

Thank you for sharing these helpful tips. Being from Texas makes it difficult for some of my students to distinguish between these 2 sounds.

Amanda Banks

says:

Can’t wait to try these. Thanks!

Crystal

says:

We will have to try these my 1st grader is having trouble with this.

Lily

says:

Love your program! ❤️

Carol D

says:

Love all the the extra downloads to reinforce lessons. I’m absolutely loving the reading and spelling and my kids love it!

Kelli

says:

My son and I will definitely be using these suggestions! Thank you for making reading and spelling easy to teach for someone who struggles with spelling her self!!!

Crystal McKinley

says:

My daughter age 10 struggles badly with this I and E issue!

I love your articles. I have two kids that struggle with letter sounds, reading and spelling. Thank you for the tips!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Jessica! We are happy to help.

Heather D.

says:

Nothing like working with an Orton-Gillingham program to make you hear your accent, even if you think you don’t have one.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Heather,
You have an excellent point there! Everyone has an accent and every accent has at least a few words that cause spelling difficulties.

Tamara

says:

Thank you for this!! I’m from Mississippi and this has been an issue for my kids.

Christi

says:

We sure do have the ‘pen/pin’ difficulty here in southwestern Virginia!

Aliesa

says:

My daughter really struggles to disringuish the difference between short i and e. I feel that the repetion built in to AAS has helped.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Aliesa,
Thank you for sharing this. It’s helpful to know that All About Spelling’s set up aided your daughter with differentiating short i and short e.

Leahsmom

says:

I love this AAR. It has helped so much!

Nicki Edmonson

says:

This makes so much sense! Thanks for the tips.

Ginger Jerzak

says:

Wjen I taught in a private school on the South this was a major hurdle to overcome with the dialect differences. I had to do the “watch my lips” tip with them. It worked.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Ginger,
Thank you for letting us know the “watch my lips” tip worked in your classroom!

Missy

says:

This is very interesting. I have not really run into this problem in our family. We are in a northern state. :)

Sara

says:

Thanks for the great ideas to address this problems. After working with your curriculum for many years in a home-based program, now I use your lessons with some of my classroom students who need extra help on a skill.

Sara

says:

Whoops, I meant problem :).

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sara,
Thank you for letting us know that our curriculum has been equally useful for you at home and in the classroom!

Mandy

says:

Honestly as a mom and homeschooler, these are always helpful for me too! Haha I really liked the video.

Tamara

says:

It is so helpful to be able to try out some of the lessons. They look colorful and professional and I would definitely consider purchasing a curriculum from here based on what I’m seeing here.

Gwen

says:

AAR and AAS programs truly are worth the investment! I wish that I had only found out about them sooner – five years ago! It would have saved us so much frustration and struggle! My oldest had a reading difficulty that he finally overcame, but he also has dysgraphia which will always be a challenge for him. AAS has helped immensely since we started. I am also using it with my daughter and will use it for my other 2 children as well. If you have more than one child, then it is money well spent because you can use the materials over and over. I can’t recommend these products enough!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Gwen!

Linzi

says:

Thank you very much. These are great tips! I will be using them for sure.

Sara L

says:

Thank you for the tips! It is so interesting to learn about regional variations!

Kristina S.

says:

I love All About Spelling.

Tawny

says:

Great ideas!

Jennifer Turco

says:

I enjoy all of your blog posts! Great articles and ideas!

Chantel King

says:

Great ideas! Thanks for the tips!

Gale

says:

Great video. Is there a similar thing with FIRE? In AAS it says it has ONE syllable…but I distinctly hear two syllables. FIE – ER.

Deb

says:

Very interesting! I am from the deep south and also hear two syllables, but my Mom was never out of the South until she visited my family while we were living in Iowa. She pronounced Fire as fi with a long i sound and the Iowans didn’t know what she was saying. Iowa is known for its correct diction so I thought they were correct. Since I read here that fire has only one syllable I am thinking she must have been correct all along.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Gale,
R is a tricky letter because it’s hard to say without certain vowel sounds before or after it. Because of this, one-syllable words like fire (and in some regions words like care and mare too) shift to being two-syllable-ish. This can be more or less noticeable depending on your accent. If you place your hand under your chin when you say fire, however, you will feel that your chin drops just once just as it drops once for clearly one-syllable words like far.

You can acknowledge to your student that fire and similar words sound like two syllables, but that is all because R is so tricky. Switch out the R and put a V in and show that the word five is definitely one syllable.

I hope this helps, but please let us know if you would like more help with this or anything else.

Zuleyka

says:

We love All About Spelling. We are currently working on level 1 and this came just at the right time. Thank you!

Gladys

says:

This will be very helpful and I plan on using this. Thanks!

Sister Mary Peter

says:

I just wanted to let you know that for some time now, there is no video link or image when I open your newsletters. I don’t know if it is an issue on your end or just with my computer, but in case others are experiencing the same thing, I thought I would let you know.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for letting us know about this. Would you mind sharing what email program you are using (gmail, outlook, yahoo, etc.) and what browser you are using (Edge, Chrome, Firefox, etc.)? This will help our IT guy.

Katie

says:

What great ideas! Thank you for sharing

Kristine M.

says:

Thank you for posting this article.

dynal roberson

says:

This is great, we are currently going over this so it’s perfect timing! Thank you

Crystal Young

says:

Thank you for the tips!

Amanda Brown

says:

Wow! I love that you speak positively about dialects in your learning materials…most other learning to read systems don’t even address this!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amanda,
I have seen some regional accents approached as being “wrong” way to speak and this saddens me. Regional accents are apart of our personal identities and strongly reflect who we are. They should be celebrated! What especially frustrates me is that people will say they don’t have an accent. Everyone has an accent!

Cheryl Perry

says:

This will be really helpful for some of my teachers (who are still confused) who have students with this confusion. However, in your video it should be pointed out that your friend from Missouri is from southern Missouri and those of us who are from the norther part of the state or in St. Louis do not sound like that. We are able to distinguish the difference when we speak between pen and pin. Students here still have difficulty distinguishing the difference, however we typically do not speak with a southern draw.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Cheryl,
We were not suggesting that everyone from Missouri sounds the same. Rather, we used Marie’s friend, Cheryl, to show an example of an accent that merges these sounds and it just so happens that Cheryl is from Missouri. Our beige and blue map definitely shows only half of Missouri is within the area where the Pin-Pen Merger is most common.

Arlene Wilson

says:

Thank you. God bless all you do for us

Renae

says:

I am working through this confusion in spelling right now with my son. Thank you for the additional tips for helping. I know time will help him as well.
Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Renae. Time, in the form of a lot of exposure to these words with both reading and spelling, will definitely help as well.

K. Hunter

says:

Do you have anything for the e/a confusion? I try to tell my daughter that “e” is a bit shorter but that does not help her at all. I’ll def try your activities for “e”/”I”. I do exaggerate when dictating those words. Thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Are you referring to the short e and long a sounds? They are more typically confused than the short e and short a sounds.

In some parts of North American, long a and short e are commonly interchanged in words. Egg may be pronounced aig, for example. If this is the case, pronouncing for spelling is the way to go. Explain to your student that the way you normally pronounce this word doesn’t reflect how it is spelled, so you will pronounce it for spelling. Then, transition to you saying it as you normally do and having your student pronounce it for spelling before spelling it.

While it is helpful for students for you to exaggerate sounds when they are first learning to spell words, the goal is to get them to the point where they can spell without help. Your student will need to be able to think of a word in the normal way she speaks and know how to spell it. This will require her to start to take on the responsibility to pronounce for spelling herself.

On the other hand, if she is having trouble between short e and short a, you may want to work with her on segmenting words to clearly hear the sounds. Short e and short a aren’t a pair normally difficult for native English speakers. However, they can be a problem for English learners, and this video explains in great detail how these sounds are formed and give examples of “minimal pairs” (words were only one sound is different) to practice with. This video is very detailed, so it will be more helpful for you to watch and then teach your daughter from what you learn from it.

Does this help? Please let us know if you have further questions or need more help with this.

Kathrin

says:

Wow. Thank you for this detailed info. We have not encountered difficulties with short e / long a sound.
Her problem is the short e / short a sound. We do have keywords for it but that doesn’t help her. Especially when followed by a “l”.
I’ll def watch the video. She is bilingual and grew up learning German before English (though almost simultaneously). Interesting to hear that English speakers rarely have issues with this. Maybe it’s my wrong pronunciation (though i hardly have an accent, English is my second language).
Thank you again for your wonderful insight.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Interesting, Kathrin.

Typically in English, a short A before the letter L has more of an /ah/ sound, such as ball. Is she confusing short A with short E or more of the /ah/ sound (the third sound of A)?

It may not be your accent that is the problem; I know German has some sound differences from English that just may take her longer to master each separately. Vowels can be tricky. Do let us know if she doesn’t show improvement with these sounds after reviewing and working with them.

Christy

says:

I love this! I always feel like I’m cheating when I pronounce for spelling but it really helps my eight year old because he still has this trouble. I sound more like the gal from Wisconsin when I say words. I make a special effort to do this for the vowel sounds. Thank you so much for your programs. I love them and so do my boys.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Christy,
You aren’t cheating when you pronounce for spelling, but rather you are providing a scaffolding to help your student. The goal, however, is to get the student to hear the word as you normally speak and then pronounce for spelling himself. After a few times of you pronouncing for spelling, let your student know that you will be saying the word normally for now on and he will need to pronounce for spelling. Then keep the word in review until he both pronounces it for spelling and spells it correctly without difficulty.

Sherry

says:

This is so timely! We live in the beige area but I find my son struggles quite a bit with i and e sounds. Some words do sound so similar! Thank you for this great resource. I am printing the review pages to use tomorrow.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sherry,
I’m glad this was timely and helpful for you!

Colleen

says:

The maps were my favorite part.

Colleen

says:

I loved the maps. Thanks!

Mary Rogers

says:

Your resources are amazing. Simple, uncluttered and easy to read and implement.
Thank you for sharing.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Awww, thank you, Mary!

rebecca walters

says:

We do not live in the blue area but I have personally found that there are words I pronounce differently compared to how they are spelled, milk…we say mElk…it has caused some confusion but having the suggestion “pronounce to spell” has helped my children.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rebecca,
Every regional accent has its own spelling troubles. “Pronounce for spelling” is very effective for many words, but at times other approaches may be easier. My children and I have difficulties with the Cot-Caught Merger, where the short o and the au or aw sound are identical. We are so thoroughly ingrained into this merger, that we struggle to even hear the difference between the sounds let alone pronounce them differently. So, instead of “pronounce for spelling”, we approach au and aw as other ways to spell the short o sound, just as there are multiple ways to spell the long a sound. This has worked well for us.

Anyway, if you run across a pronunciation difference that makes spelling difficult for your child and would like some ideas on how to approach it, just ask.

Sally Chancellor

says:

Yes, we live in the blue, and this has been so frustrating! Thank you for the tips :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Sally. Dealing with a sound merger can be frustration, but with some work and patience, it can be overcome! Please let us know if you continue to have frustrations or if you need further help.

Susan Rice

says:

Thank you so much…just what I was looking for! I have a student that confuses short “i” and short “e”, both with spelling and reading. Watching the mouth shape when pronouncing the sounds should help, since he has trouble heaingr the distinction.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Susan,
Problems with short e and short i are common, but with practice they can be overcome! Let us know how it goes or if you need further help.

Brenda Green

says:

This one!

Krista

says:

My child has troubles with this. We are doing level two and did words like spent and blend. When I say them naturally it sounds like the ‘i’ sound, so I try to pronounce for spelling. I wonder how this is going to translate into spelling for her writing though. She might memorize the words that we practice, but if there are other words that she does not know how to pronounce for spelling (words not part of AAS) it will probably be a problem. Any suggestions? Thank you.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Krista,
Learning to spell words with the pin/pen merger, or other tricky patterns, is a slow process over time. Student’s build up a visual memory for which words truly have a short /i/ and which ought to have a short /e/. Initially, you will pronounce for spelling for your child, but over time your child will start pronouncing for spelling for herself.

As the map in the article suggests, huge numbers of people pronounce short /e/ as a short /i/, yet the vast majority of these people learn to spell the words correctly long before adulthood. Reading such words helps to build a visual memory for them, and misspelling them and then having to correct them does as well. You will likely have to point out that it’s an e and not an i on and off for a long time, but she will master it.

If it becomes a large issue or if she doesn’t show at least some improvement over time, let us know and we’ll help come up with ways you can reteach the issue and review it weekly (or even more often). However, I don’t think that will be necessary, as children that struggle with the pin/pen merger and other tricky patterns typically master the words slowly as they come up over time.

Krista

says:

Thank you, that is good to hear and encouraging. I will have to keep reminding myself to give it lots of time. :-)

Krista

says:

Thank you for the encouraging response. I will have to keep reminding myself to just give it time. :-)

Robin

says:

I may have to do some of these suggestions myself. I live in a purple area and have always pronounced the words like this with a short i sound. Even when I attempt to pronounce for spelling it doesn’t always sound right.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Robin,
If you can read and spell these words yourself, you don’t necessarily need to change your usual pronunciation. Yes, you may need to pronounce it for spelling for your child, but not in every day speech. Everyone has a regional accent that affects how they pronounce words; it isn’t right or wrong.

Deborah

says:

Thank you, Marie, for the time you spend on your interesting, informative, and most helpful blogs. I was especially fascinated by this post on short “i” and short “e” because of: 1. My personal interest in linguistics & languages, and 2. I am frequently correcting my children in this area of pronunciation! Now the mystery is solved for me, and I know that it is a more common occurrence than I realized. My husband and I grew up on the Illinois side of the metropolitan St. Louis area (white on the map), but several of our children were raised in south central Illinois (purple, or right near the dividing line of purple and white on your map) where we relocated 12 years after marriage. Now our family lives in NE Oklahoma, and we are tickled by the locals’ perception of our “northern accent” — noticing especially how we say words like “bag” and “root” and how the locals pronounce these words. Fascinating!!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Deborah,
I find such things very interesting too. I have some family that have roots from Oklahoma (most moved westward during the Depression), so I am very familiar with the OK “rut”. :D

katie

says:

Our family moves every couple years for military. We have been all over south from deep Cajun country to cities. We have merger problems with most vowels. I am excited to try this for i and e. Is there a special post that deals with o’s and u’s at all? My youngest especially changes things like the word problem to problum. We spend lots of time breaking words into syllables to try to hear the correct vowel. When I say pronounce for spelling it falls on flat ears, he has no idea why he would say it different while spelling.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Katie,
Saying problem as “problum” isn’t really a merger issue, but rather is a schwa issue. Every vowel can make the schwa short /u/ sound in an unaccented syllable. Here is a blog post on Making Sense of Schwas.

Since he doesn’t understand the concept of “pronounce for spelling”, start by building the word for him with tiles. Divide the word according the syllable division rules, and have your son read each syllable. Talk to him about how the word is spelled prob-lem, but when we speak normally our tongues get lazy and we muffle the short /e/ sound. It becomes short /u/, and we say prob-lum. However, in order to spell this words (and many others) correctly, we most learn to pronounce it the way it is spelled when we need to spell it. This is what “pronounce for spelling” means. When we want to spell problem, we need to say “prob-lem”, not “prob-lum”. You may need to repeat this for a couple words a day for a while before he really masters the idea.

When you get to the point where you are doing the review cards, then tell him, “I’m going to say these words how we normally say them. I want you to pronounce them for spelling, and then write them.” If he struggles to remember pronunciation, give that to him, have him repeat it, and then write the spelling. Only when he can both pronounce them AND spell them correctly without hesitation is the card moved to mastered.

I hope this helps. Let me know if there is anything further I can do for you.

CabotMama

says:

This explanation helps a lot! I too have a ten year old boy who balks when I ‘pronounce for spelling.” Not until his eight year old sister starting doing better at spelling such words did he decide maybe he needed me to pronounce for spelling after all. However, I did not go the extra step and begin saying the words normally and have him remember the spelling pronunciation. That extra step sounds vital to independent spelling mastery. I’ll begin adding it.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you found this helpful, CabotMama!

Many kids will just naturally do this “pronounce for spelling” themselves, often internally, and they will easily master such words. However, some have to be taught to do this and then must review and review and review before they become independent in spelling these words. It sounds like your 8 year old is on that did it naturally, and your 10 year old is one that has to be taught explicitly.

katie

says:

Thank you this did help! Today we slowed down a bit and just worked on words he says with a stronger accent. He already has a better understanding and less frustration, which was wonderful to see.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

This is great, Katie!

Melissa D

says:

In the Deep South the distinction is still preserved somewhat– the short-e words get elongated into pen=”pee-yen”… As in, “Bee-yen, hand me that pee-yen and put it in the ben. (Ben, hand me that pen and put it in the bin.)

I hear this a lot from my NC friends as well as from south GA. (We’re in Atlanta.)

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
Interesting. Thank you for sharing this distinction.

Thank you for this. The e/i struggle is real for my little man. If I give him both words side by side he can get it but not independently. I’ll definitely have him start practicing in the mirror!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Tiffany,
Have fun with the mirror, and be as silly as you can stand. It makes it more fun. :D

m.l.

says:

This is a particular issue in our home. It is very common in our area for these short vowels to sound alike, but my son also receives speech therapy for speech issues. He not only deals with the regional sounds but because he has such difficulty saying them himself and hearing himself say the words properly, his spelling is affected. It is a challenge and he is easily frustrated with short e/i but also bossy r’s. Thanks for the suggestions, I will continue to work on this with these ideas.

Jennette Gaudern

says:

My son struggles with the merger. We live right on the border line in kansas. Since we discussed the issue he asks which letter I or e with almost every spelling word.

Rachel Gray

says:

Interesting!

Meagan

says:

Thank you for this! We are from south Mississippi and my 4 year old and I have been really struggling with this. If I really exaggerate the E sound in hen/men/pen, he looks at me like I’m crazy because that’s obviously not how we say it :)

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Meagan,
He may just need more time reading such words, before he begins to understand that your usual pronunciation doesn’t reflect how the word is spelled. Then he can begin to understand the strange pronunciation needed for spelling.

Jessica

says:

thanks for this article – we’re struggling with this!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jessica,
You’re welcome. I’m glad it is helpful and timely for you.

Brigitte

says:

This is so interesting! I’m a military brat and my husband is from the Texas panhandle. We say many things differently. I’m curious to find out how my children will sound as they get older.

Tara

says:

I love this. I currently live in the south and I also grew up here. However, everywhere I’ve lived or traveled out of the south, people are always surprised that I don’t have a “southern” accent. My mom loves language and it must have rubbed off on me. The southern accent is familiar to me, but I’ve always wanted to understand and use the English language as best I can. Love this post!

sara beyda

says:

Hi and thank so for this post-we live in N.j. and have heavy N.Y. accents. I purchased your program recently and would like input in this subject-for I am teaching my kids english. For instance we say “how are you”? sounds like howa you? or” give me that” sounds like gime that or “I want to go” sounds “I wanna go”. How do I teach them that we spell differently than we speak?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Sara,
This is one of the reasons why we recommend waiting to start spelling until the child is reading. Even though many of us say “I wanna go”, once a child starts reading they see that it is “I want to go”. Then, when they beginning spelling, they know what they need to spell. We recommend starting All About Spelling Level 1 after the child has finished All About Reading Level 1, or the equivalent reading level. This article, The Right Time to Start, explains this further.

Many regions have heavy accents that on the surface would seem to make learning to read and spell very difficult. Yet, the vast majority of people in all those regions still learn to read and spell, and most of them learn with methods that aren’t nearly as researched based or complete as All About Reading and All About Spelling. You can do it too.

If your kids struggle with a specific sound or pattern, email us for specific help. We have lots of tips and techniques available for this sort of thing.

By the way, I think a little kid speaking with a NY accent is about the cutest thing ever.

Christine Adams

says:

At first I thought it was funny when my daughter pronounced “pin” for word “pen”. But after a while, it was no longer so humorous. Now, that I see your map, I understand why she has such difficulty. Although, my husband and I are originally from the northeast, our children have been raised in the south, deep in the heart of the purple area indicated on the map. Now, that reasons behind the mispronunciation, we can begin to address it.

Thanks for the insight

Janette

says:

Thank you for all the helpful blog posts!

Diana

says:

This is soooo true. I read my daughter words from a list and she spells them. The ones she gets wrong we use as spelling words for the week. After getting became gittin and breakfast became brekfist, I realized I needed to learn to pronounce them correctly!!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Dianna,
Breakfast is one that I find easier when taught the history of the word. It is a compound word, break-fast. It refers to fasting (not eating or drinking) overnight, so in the morning we break our nightly fast with a meal. That meal became called breakfast.

Ruth

says:

Funny to read this, as my husband is from the south and I’m from the north. We were just talking this morning about how this spelling distinction is tricky for our first-grader! :)

Sarah Bridwell

says:

Very interesting! I’m in that small little dot in Cali ;)

Is that the Central Valley? I couldn’t quite pin (wink) it down.

Lauren

says:

What a helpful article! We live in TN and there is definitely a lack of distinction between short e and i.

Lori G

says:

This has always been an issue for us and we are in 9th grade now! I usually have him say the word back to me. It just seems like he has to work really hard to hear the difference. Thank you for the great information & it’s helpful to know it is a common hurdle for some.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Lori,
Yes, it is a common hurdle for many, and it is one that is really difficult to overcome if you don’t know what to do. The activities in this blog post are great, but for some students it might take reviewing the concept for a few minutes daily for quite a while before they master it.

Enlightening, informative reading!

Sara

says:

Good tips to use!

Amy

says:

Leaving in GA we notice this difference and my kids often notice it too.

Megan

says:

Oh my goodness! I thought it was just me. Thank you for all the great tips. Figures I would live in the one small purple dot in California.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Megan,
Well, someone has to live in that dot. ;). And it most definitely is not just you; lots of people struggle with the pin/pen merger.

Danielle

says:

As a new homeschooling mom, all of these amazing hands on tools look amazing. Thanks for such amazing resources!

Lacey

says:

As a homeschool mom, my most daunting task is teaching my kids how to read and spell. Thank you for coming alongside us and giving me the tools that I so desperately need.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Lacey,
You are welcome. :D

mary jones

says:

I do (NC). I am from MD and my husband relocated to NC from NY as a teenager. Neither of us pronounce “pen” as “pin,” nor do our children. Whoohoo! Interesting post.

Melissa M

says:

I’ve lived in both areas. lol The only thing I noticed was Southerners calling soda Coke and Northerners call it pop. I just call it soda now. Maybe I just don’t pay enough attention to pronunciation. I’ll have to try these exercises with other words. I started my son with AAS, but then switched him to Sequential Spelling because I thought AAS was too easy for him, but I’m going to switch back because he does better with rules and phonic spelling. He’s got a pretty good ear for it and he’s a really good reader for an eight year old. I’m hoping his siblings go the same way. :-)

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
We do recommend moving faster for children that find the spelling easy. While your son isn’t what we would call an older student, you can use the techniques outlined in this article to fast track him through the lower levels.

Melissa M

says:

I’ll do that. I’m going to have some extra money in my budget in the beginning of next month, so I was going to buy the second level. He really enjoyed it, especially the letter tiles. Using SS can be like trying to take a cat for a walk sometimes. lol

thriftystayhomemom

says:

So nice to know this is has a “REAL NAME”. My dad was in the military and I grew up smack in the middle of the blue area of your map for some of my early formative years. (ages 4,5,6) and of course just “hearing” him speak at home. I have ALWAYS said jokingly if I had learned to “talk” right, I could spell right!! How can “pillar & pillow” be pronounced the same (“piller”), and then expect a kid to ever learn to spell correctly. I am 50 and STILL struggle with some spelling. But as a homeschool mom…I get to re-learn so many things. Thanks for making spelling easier for OUR kids!

Cristina

says:

Oh the sounds of words…
Thanks for the always-helpful-tips Marie! Lord bless you!

Priscila Estrada

says:

My first language is Spanish. All About Reading is helping my first grader and momma.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Priscila,
We have heard from a number of parents that are not native English speakers, and all have told us that All About Reading and All About Spelling gave them the help they needed to teach their children well. I’m glad you are having the same experience.

Anna

says:

By the way… Is there ANY place where “get” isn’t prounced “git”?

Autumn

says:

We say “get” in Southern California. I never hear anyone say “git.”

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Anna,
Ummm, lots of places. Out west here it is typically “get”, although the word get is not usually stressed in a sentence, so the sound is more muffled and subtle.

I tend to say ‘get.’ I’m from Illinois/Michigan/Minnesota/Missouri originally.
I also say ‘cot’ and ‘caught’ differently.

Anna

says:

What?!?! There’s a cot/caught merger?! (But they ARE the same sound. I KNOW I’m right!) Just kidding.
This article is timely for me too. I have a new 3rd grade student with this pin/pen issue. I will definitely be using this, along with the auditory processing information. Thank you so much!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Anna,
Yeah, I was completely shocked to learn that the aw sound was supposed to be a different sound than short o. Even after studying it and helping others, I still find it almost impossible to even say the sound differently.

I’m glad to hear this was timely for you. You are welcome

Linda

says:

My son is dyslexic, and distinguishing the i and e give him fits. Thanks for the tips. We are plugging along, and his spelling is much better than a few years ago. I appreciate your approach that works for older students without being babyish for them, but still lets me add fun stuff for the younger students. Blessings to you!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Linda,
Blessings to you! It is good to hear that spelling is much better for your son than it was a few years ago.

Jenn

says:

Love this article! I think our guys have this, even though we live in Indianapolis…My name is Jenn, and my hubby’s oldest sister’s name is Gin (Virginia). So we make sure to drag out the I when say GIn and the E when we say JEnn.
I don’t think the map is quite right, because my hubby and dad, both from Michigan, say melk instead of milk. LOL.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jenn,
I do think the map is more of a generalization, but in the region of the map the tendency is to say short i for all short i and short e sounds (the infamous “git” instead of “get”). So, your husband and dad saying short e in place of short i isn’t exactly the same.

The longer answer is that every region as it’s own pronunciation bugbears. I have literally spent hours studying them, and still feel like I’ve barely scrapped the surface.

Jessica P

says:

This is a great article! I grew up in Minnesota, and my husband grew up in south Florida. We are always having these debates. Good information!

Jessica P

says:

This is a great article! I grew up in Minnesota? And my husband grew up in aouth Florida. We are always having these debates. Good information!

Saph

says:

Very helpful tips! My daughter hasn’t had any trouble but will keep this handy in case my younger one does.

Kortnei V

says:

Great information! My 8 year old son was running into issues today like this in our home schooling!

BreAnn Loveland

says:

I was just talking to my husband a out this last night!

betsy eash

says:

Oh this looks very good

Donna Louis

says:

Very helpful.

N Laine

says:

Very helpful tips! My toddler is quickly progressing with his vocabulary and we are working on practicing correct pronunciation early.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

I do think that will help at least some. Teaching my older two kids to read and spell made me much more conscious of how some words are pronounced. Because of that, I began pronouncing pretty as it is spelled rather than purdy, and I clearly say the t in often. Well, when we got to these “rule breakers” in AAS this last week (two different levels with two different kids), they weren’t rule breakers. Both boys couldn’t tell me which letter or letters were breaking the rules, because they normally pronounce the words as they are spelled.

Still, there are some pronunciation habits I just can’t seem to break. I still say “aigs” for eggs, and I often catch myself asking for my red “pin”. Oh, well.

angie

says:

I am with you! My papaw always called me “Aingie” not Angie. It’s difficult to teach these words to my son bc I make no distinction with the pin/pen words. They sound absolutely foreign to me when I try to say them correctly! But I’m trying…I will try this exercise with my son and hope it helps us both!

Bethany

says:

Great tips!

Elisa

says:

I love all your tips, thank you so much!!!

alicia

says:

Thanks for the wonderful tips!

Brenda F.

says:

My kids were born in the south, but my husband and I are from the north. We live in the south and my kids all have trouble reading and spelling the /i/ and /e/ sounds. I already do half of your suggestions. I want to try the worksheet soon and see how much that helps. Thanks!

I’ve been trying to find a video of my grandson (at about age 5) in which he demonstrates some linguistic flexibility.
Mom: “What do you call the place Grama puts her car?” D: The gaRAGE.
Mom:What do you call the place where you put your bike at Uncle P’s house (uncle is British/Irish)?
D: The GERHage.
Cracks me up every time I watch it.

Merry at AALP

says: Customer Service

That sounds so cute!!

Barbara

says:

Thank you Marie for all your words of wisdom! I am slowly understanding some of the difficulties that my son experiences in differentiating sounds as well as printed words. Your posts relieve some of my “flipping-out” tendencies in response to his not “getting it” when all my other children have understood phonics and can read. This post will help as we continue to distinguish all the vowel sounds.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Hi Barbara! Thanks for your comment! This post on auditory processing disorder may also be helpful to you: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/auditory-processing-disorder/

Becca

says:

This is great! You guys have to do more blogs about how to compensate for other American accents! I drive my husband nuts with my rural Ohio accent. I grow up with everyone saying “puh-tata” for potato. Then, because of his Chicago accent, my kids hear “tr” as “ch” and can’t seem to grasp the “th” sound (Da Bears!)

Merry at AALP

says: Customer Service

Oh Becca, I feel your pain! When I first married my husband (also from Chicago), I remember coaching him on how to speak at interviews–everything was “deese, dem, dose, dat…” He has a huge vocabulary (knows many more words than I do–I learn a lot from him!) but the pronunciation of simple words hurt my ears! Now he reserves his “d’s” for football–da coach!

Did your husband ever talk about a “frunch” room? I couldn’t figure out why all these homes had “French” rooms until I asked, and found out it was actually a FRONT room!

The chr/tr confusion is one I hear about fairly often. The pattern chr actually never occurs in English, unless the ch is standing for the hard /k/ sound, as in Christmas etc… There are no /ch/ sounds before the /r/ sound in English. So when they hear “chr,” let them know that it’s always going to be a tr. If they are only hearing a /ch/ sound with no /r/ sound, then I would show them the words with tiles first and have them practice segmenting and reading the word (point to each sound, say the sounds, then blend them into a word).

If you think about how we make the /t/ and /ch/ sound, they are almost identical. We tend to use a bit more of the tip of the tongue to make the /t/ sound, but it’s close. Then if you make the tr blend slowly, you can see how similar the tongue feels to the /ch/ position. You might talk your kids through this and have them feel how close the positions are–or even get silly in front of a mirror together. Sometimes it can help to get in front of a mirror together and be silly as you make the sounds, so the child can both see and hear how to make the sound, then try to imitate it and feel the difference in their own mouths.

Here is a short, 5-minute video put out by Rachel’s English on tr vs. chr sounds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jK7o49tFylM

She does videos for people learning English as a second language, but I find them very helpful for understanding why kids make some mistakes like these–she clearly shows the mouth and lip positions, and it’s information you might be able to draw from when you explain to your kids how to make the sounds (and therefore how to hear and spell them). (The video is mainly for you–most kids wouldn’t be too interested!)

I hope this helps.

Rachel

says:

Hello again, just reading about the ch sounds and others. My 17 year old son is dyslexic but he can now read at a grade 6 level fairly fluently. When he first was learning the sounds the letters made he couldn’t understand why he should circle truck or train for the sound “t”. It sounded to him like chruck and chrain.
Rachel

Becca

says:

Thank you Merry! All of this will really help us out! :D

Anne

says:

I’m a Pennsylvanian living in Canada where my husband (a Michigander) and I are planting a church for Chinese immigrants. We lived in Beijing for almost 2 years, so we understand how it feels to have our Mandarin pronunciation corrected by people who speak with different accents! But I LOVED your post because we had a little girl from Taiwan staying with us this summer to practice her English. I used AAS to teach her, and she made great progress. It was so much fun! The trouble we ran into was that she couldn’t distinguish between spelling short words with /e/ or /i/. It seemed that she always picked the opposite one, and it was so frustrating for her. When I explained the trouble to her cousin (an adult who has lived here since she was 14), she said, “I STILL have trouble with that.” When I asked her how she handled it, she said sheepishly, “I just guess.” I think your handout may be a help. Thank you!

Rachel

says:

Me again. I wanted to suggest “My Fair Lady” as a good movie to watch. It really does help people understand the differences in the way people speak the same language.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Ooh, that’s a great suggestion! Thanks, Rachel! :)

Merry at AALP

says: Customer Service

Ay not I, O not Ow, Don’t say “Rine,” say “Rain”…

LOVE My Fair Lady!

Rachel

says:

Hello Marie: I am a Canadian married to a Barbadian and living in Barbados for 28 years. Both countries are part of the Commonwealth so I have “spelling corrections” to do in the American books I use. Obviously, Canada being so far north and Barbados being in the middle of the earth there are a lot of differences in the way words are pronounced. My biggest problem is hear, ear, and hair; and beer, bare, and bear etc. Barbadians think these words are homophones!!!! They can’t hear the ee at all. Of course, Canadians say “been” rhymes with “seen” not “bin” and “shone” rhymes with “on” not “bone”, so I guess it just depends on where you live.

Merry at AALP

says: Customer Service

How interesting, Rachel! By the way we do have some suggested adjustments for those using “British” spelling and pronunciation–feel free to email us at support@allaboutlearningpress.com for a copy.

Regina Bonnette

says:

Thank you for this! I laughed hard when I read the pen/pin merger. I was raised in Texas with Texas parents until I was 13 and moved to northern Minnesota. To say the least, people could not understand me when I used these words! Now I have a 6 year old who was born in Texas and we just moved to Florida where I am homeschooling her. Hopefully we can divert this issue!

Kim

says:

Thank you so much for this post. I was raised in Central Illinois and I never realized before trying to teach my children spelling, that I can not say pin and pen as different words. Thank you for these tips and for making me realize that I’m obviously not alone in this.

Helen B

says:

Thank you so much for this blog post! I was born in Floridia and lived there until I was 7 years old when my family moved to New Zealand. I was home educated so I haven’t lost all my accent. But every now and again I would be given a bit of grief over this exact thing. I say pin when I mean pen. More recently I’ve been asked why I spoke like this and I didn’t know. I assumed it was a family thing. So thank you. Now I know. I will say my mixed up accent is cause trouble with my kids when it comes to spelling. : )

Merry at AALP

says: Customer Service

It IS interesting what moving around can do to one’s accent!

RoseAnn

says:

I love this! We live in the purple area, but I am originally from the white area, so our children are exposed to both Pin-Pen! I look forward to using this worksheet.

Rachel

says:

Oh YES! This is a real problem here in Mississippi!!! We also run into short-a sounds like short-e when before /n/ Like Andrew and egg have nearly the same beginning sounds. I’ve finally just told my kids that we speak Southern and we just have to learn the spelling in the context – so funny because I’m often asked where I’m from and told I don’t have a Southern accent. :)

Merry at AALP

says: Customer Service

LOL, Rachel!

Nikki

says:

I grew up in Northern IL and my husband grew up in OK, I give him a hard time about it (until now) and fear our children are going to pronounce things like him. Thankfully we live in Southern CA so it’s not what they hear on a day to day basis in our community. Thank you for this post.

Aimee

says:

I am in Wisconsin, and here the trouble is between the /a/ and /e/ sounds. They pronounce flag as fleg around here. I am originally from Nebraska where we say it flag, so those 2 letters have caused us some trouble in phonics and spelling, as my children are picking up what they hear the most in our region and I am trying to teach them the correct way!

Melissa

says:

We live in North Carolina and we pronounce everything like the short /i/ and never even realized it until we began using All About Spelling. It is quite difficult to remember to stop and think how to pronounce it correctly for my son who struggles with dyslexia. Often I don’t realize my mistake until I see that he has spelled the word incorrectly. It can be frustrating for both of us, but you have done a great job in distinguishing the difference and this curriculum has helped my son son tremendously. Your work is greatly appreciated and though It has been slow and labor intensive for him, progress has been made and he is now in level 3 in both spelling and reading. I think I have learned as much as he has! :)

Merry at AALP

says: Customer Service

Hi Melissa,

It sounds like you have both worked hard. Congratulations on his progress!

Esther

says:

What about children who can’t seem to hear the /ng/ sound? For a long time I thought it was only a pronunciation issue, (“Mommy, I was sinnin’.” “You were…oh, you were SINGING!”) but I’ve recently realized that she really doesn’t HEAR the difference. I know there are some regions where the g is frequently dropped, but we don’t live in one of those regions! :-)

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Esther,
My first question is how old the child is. Some sounds take longer for a child to master. However, ng in sing is a fairly early one, so if she is above 4 or so, I would expect it to no longer be a problem. Also, does she have trouble with other sounds as well? You can refer to this chart for an idea of which sounds most kids can say at which age.

For n versus ng, take a look at this video. Depending on your daughter’s age, this video will be more for you to understand the differences in the mouth as the sounds are produced and then for you to explain and show her. Take her in front of a mirror and have some silly fun as you say lots of words. The difference is subtle, but working on it in the mirror and with eyes closed to really feel the position of the tongue and jaw may be just what she needs.

After she has a better understanding of the difference, I would use the kind of activity explained in this blog post. Say words that end in ng and words that don’t but otherwise sound the same, and see if she can point to the n tiles for the ones that don’t and to the ng tile for the ones that do. Word pairs could be sane and sang, sin and sing, tin and ting, song and son, and many more. Note, if she is younger and does not yet know letters, you could change the activity to her pointing to the front of the mouth or the back of the jaw. It may take playing like this for a little each day for a while before she really starts to self correct her own speech.

Evelyn

says:

Thank you very much for publishing this article! A few months ago, I called the AAL learning office and asked about this very topic. The information above has been printed and is already waiting for our next spelling lesson. Have a wonderful week.

sabrina

says:

We have had some difficulty with words like pin/pen and get. My grandmother was from England and spoke every word very crisply. Though I’m not like her having been raised in Eastern Virginia, I thought my pronunciation was very good…Until I started teaching and realized that I said things like, “git,” instead of “get,” as well as the tin/ten, pin/pen words. My son gets them correct when I am careful to pronounce them correctly. Love the materials and the help!!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Sabrina,
But don’t assume your English grandmother pronounced everything correctly. The English often put an /ar/ sound in place of a short a that comes before s, f, and th. Bath becomes barth. Depending on where she was from in England too, she likely dropped h from the beginning of words and/or added an r to the end of them (such as elp for help and idear for idea).

Every regional accent has it’s issues. No one of them is “right” for every word.

Patricia Eleftheriou

says:

Being raised in the south, I certainly understand the confusion. Some one once gave me this little sentence to help tell the difference. “You wouldn’t call your friend Peg a pig.” Don’t know if it will help anyone else. Love your materials and blog!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Patricia,
I love your Peg/pig memory help! Thank you for sharing.

This is timely! I have a new student who definitely has this problem! But he’s a smart cookie so I think this will really help him.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Nancy,
I love when our posts are timely for someone’s needs!

Amelie

says:

We live in NJ, where it should not be a pronunciation problem, but my son never really conquered the short e/short i difference. He has severe dyslexia and also seems to be unable to differentiate other sounds as well.

As much as I love phonics, I don’t think it is as effective for him as it should be. Could it be that some students will always struggle to learn to read by learning the sounds?

Now that he is 13, his reading is better, but not very strong. He does better with the visual configuration of the word than with the sounds. He just cannot hear the difference!

Leanne

says:

We are also from the North, but are dealing with the same issues of dyslexia and being unable to discern the sounds of short e and i.

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Amelie,

I’m sorry that your son is struggling. This sounds like he also has an Auditory Processing struggle along with the dyslexia (which is somewhat common). This article has some tips that can help: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/auditory-processing-disorder/

Both of my kids dealt with some auditory processing struggles. One really had trouble hearing consonant blends (such as the ending of bent or beginning of plan) which affected both reading and spelling for a long time. The other struggles (as I do) with separating spoken words–the words run together and don’t make sense. Slowing down and adding visual reinforcement can really help.

When a student struggles with auditory processing, it’s all the more important to use multi-sensory methods. You want to strengthen the weaker pathway while also including their stronger pathways. This article on the SMI Method (Simultaneous Multisensory Instruction) has more information: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/the-smi-method/

That article is part of a 5-part series on memory issues that I highly recommend reading if you have time. It completely changed how I homeschooled my kids. (The other articles in the series are linked at the bottom of that one.)

Back to reading and visual methods–most students who rely on purely visual methods will bottom out at some point at a middle to upper elementary reading level. (Think about memorizing thousands of telephone numbers visually–that’s what trying to read without understanding sounds would be like). This article on word-guessing has more info on students who rely purely on visual methods: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/break-the-word-guessing-habit/

We’ve had students even with severe dyslexia (including Marie’s son) succeed with AAR and AAS. It can take a lot of work, but be encouraged that you can help your son. You may want to check out Marie’s story:

http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/our-story
http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/about

I hope this helps! Please let us know if you have additional questions.

Amelie

says:

Thank you for all the tips you gave. I will peruse the links given. This site has lots of helpful information. I appreciate it!

Jennifer Huffman

says:

Thanks for posting this! I have wondered about this and my son who is on level 1 is always asking me, “Is that a rule breaker.” This will help us both. Thanks!

Jennifer

says:

We live in South Georgia and I have already begun doing some of the things listed above…glad to know I am on the right track! Thank you for the additional activities and tips! My little girl is just in kindergarten, but is doing really well so far, with reading and the activities that go along with it. I’m wondering when spelling is typically taught? I thought it was first grade, but I’m wondering if I should go ahead and teach it as a separate subject now?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
We recommend starting spelling after the student has completed All About Reading 1, or the equivalent reading level. While learning to read, students will pick up the basic skills that will allow them to spell more easily. This article, The Right Time to Start, explains this further.

I have a student who regularly mixes up short i and short a. Can I use the same process with him?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Renee,
Definitely. You’ll have to come up with your own words for the practice activities, but the options outlined here are will work.

I haven’t heard of short i and short a mix ups. Is it possibly in just a few words, or a few patterns, and not across all words? I ask because we (live in Arizona) shift short e to long a in front of the letter g, such as egg becomes aig and leg becomes laig. However, bed is bed and not bade and men is men and not main. If the problem is just in a very few words, or in just a specific pattern, it may be better to focus on just those words or patterns, and not words that your student does fine with.

Let us know if you need specific help with how to cover this with your student.

Thank you for the response. This boy mixes i and a consistently. He is home schooled, but I have him an hour a day for reading. Both his mother and I use the All About Learning tools(she – reading for a younger brother; me – spelling). She asked me about this confusion and I told her I had already noted the same confusion. I will share this process with her and hopefully between the two of us, we can cure this!

Maryandra

says:

Thanks so much for posting this! My 7 yr old an I were just struggling with this today. She has so much trouble hearing the difference in these two short vowel sounds. I was at a loss today as to how to help her. We will definitely be using your tips and activities tomorrow and probably a few days before we move on. Thank you!

Maryandra

says:

I forgot to add that we are in the purple area – north Alabama, but I’m from South Africa so I don’t have problems with these vowels and it is hard for me not to over correct my whole family. My precious little southern girls are definitely needing more help in spelling. LOL

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Maryandra,
Awww, but a South African accent has it’s own issues with pronunciation and spelling, such as tendency to say /ar/ when a short a is followed by s, f, or th. Each regional accent has it’s own struggles. I have learned so much about regional accents and how they relate to spelling since working for All About Learning Press. It’s fascinating.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Maryandra,
I love when our blog posts are just in time to help someone! You are welcome.

Rena

says:

Thank you for addressing this! We are in OK and I’ve noticed my 2nd grader is having this problem.

CabotMama

says:

My fifth grader will be so relieved to learn this issue has a name other than the one we coined back in 1st grade: Southern Accent Disorder. :) We encountered it with the word “get.” After struggling for weeks, I overemphasized the pronunciation for spelling: “g-e-e-e-t”. And then “g-e-t”. My son stared at me and said, “Mom, no one says that! It’s “g-i-i-i-t”!!!” And that was pretty much the end of the spelling lesson for the day. He was done.
We later explained he needed to learn the other pronunciations so he could be understood if and when he travelled. We have made progress … but distinguishing the two sounds remains a struggle. And it runs in the family. His three younger siblings are struggling with these two sounds. I look forward to using these strategies.

Kim

says:

Yes, unfortunately I say git for get also. I’m trying so hard to change my habit so that my children learn the word correctly.

Christine

says:

I am dealing with this right now with my second grader. Actually we ran into it last year and I thought it was an age/new speller thing. I spent my first 8 years in Florida (purple) and then the rest in Washington State (white) and now we live in Arizona (white), so I now realize that it is me and the way I pronounce my words; not her. I think the good thing is she will clarify, did you say “pIgpEn” and emphasize the I and E sounds and I say, “yes”. So she discovered a way to get around my pronunciation. I also like the idea of using the word in a sentence so she knows which vowel to use in context, which will be the way she uses the word most of the time (except with a spelling list, ha).

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Christine,
I actually think this pin/pen merger is a bit more widespread than the purple suggests. I grew up in Northern California and my husband grew up in Southern California and Southwest Arizona. We live in Southwest Arizona, and my kids have all struggled a bit with short e and short i, especially in front of nasal consonants like m and n and in unaccented syllables.

The word dentist has been a terrible struggle for all of my kids. Is it dentest, dintist, dintest, or dentist? They have tried every way. I actually had to get into morphology with 8 year olds because of this word. (Dentist is formed from the root dent, which means teeth, such as dental and dentition. I told them that “teeth make dents.” Then the ist ending means “one who does something”, like artist, chemist, and racist.)

Anyway, all that to say it’s not necessarily you. Plus, out West here we are famous for an entirely different merger, the cot/caught merger. For most of us Westerners, the short o sound and the aw and au sounds are the same.

Katie

says:

Yes! We live in south Georgia and have struggled with this.

Jenbulpitt

says:

I grew up in Texas but we live in Maryland and my first grader has already run into this issue. I suspect it is because of the way I speak to her. We are taking time to pronounce as we would spell but I imagine it will take a bit of time before she can easily distinguish the difference.

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