It’s not unusual to see students coming into fifth grade making the following spelling errors: <workt> instead of <worked> and <happend> instead of <happened>. I asked my students if they would be interested in teaching a lesson on this important suffix to third graders. They were enthusiastic! (I was glad because this opportunity would also solidify an understanding for MY students) We wanted the students to notice two things about this special suffix.
First we wanted them to notice that when adding the <ed> suffix, three things can happen.
1) Sometimes the single silent <e> on the end of the base is dropped. An example of this is the word <like>. A word sum looks like this: <like/> + <ed> –> <liked>. The <e> on the based is dropped.
2) Sometimes the final consonant is doubled. An example of this is the word <stop>. A word sum looks like this: <stop(p)> + <ed> –> <stopped>. The <p> is the final consonant of the base word <stop> and is doubled when adding the <ed> suffix.
3) Sometimes there is no change to the base word when adding the <ed> suffix. An example of this is the word <wish>. A word sum looks like this: <wish> + <ed> –> <wished>.
Secondly we wanted them to notice that we don’t know how to pronounce the <ed> suffix until we see it in a word.
1) It could be represented by the phoneme /t/ as in the word <jumped>.
2) It could be represented by the phoneme /Id/ as in the word <painted>.
3) It could be represented by the phoneme /d/ as in the word <grilled>.
While watching myself in this video, I caught myself falling into old habits. I had asked a student how a word would sound once the suffix was added. Well, I’m making a big change in the way I talk about letters and words with my students. The truth I have recently learned is that words and letters don’t make sounds! The truth is that a single letter, digraph or trigraph can represent several sounds. I think that established readers recognize that, but how confusing is it when we teach young children that a letter makes one sound, and then later we expect them to realize that it can represent other sounds as well. This idea of letters making sounds feeds into the whole idea that our spelling system is crazy and illogical. We have come to rely too heavily on sounding words out based on the limited letter/sound combinations we have been taught. This is why students misspell <worked> and <spilled>. It is time to teach that letters, digraphs and trigraphs can each represent several phonemes and that the phonemes represented by some digraphs need to be flexible within word families (heal and health; real and reality). This is why I wanted to have my students teach this lesson. What they teach to others, they will need to understand themselves.
Enjoy the following video excerpt from our lesson.