30 Days Has September Rhyme

calendarseptember30School children learn a rhyme to remember the months of the year and how many days each month has.  Learning rhymes help children learn early phonics skills, improve vocabulary and learn the pitch, volume and rhythm of English.  Learning common children’s rhymes will also help ESL students improve English.

As an adult I still hear the 30 Days Has September rhyme in my head (I memorized this as a child) when I’m trying to remember how many days are in the current month, and when the first day of next month will be.  Here’s the rhyme:

30 Days has September,

April, June and November,

All the rest have 31,

Except for February,

which has 28,

and 29 in each leap year.


Click here for a Youtube video clip with “30 Days has September.”


Two THs!

“There are two THs?” a student exclaimed today!

I was teaching a lesson on sounds of English.   “What’s the difference?” my student wanted to know.  So we talked about “voiced TH” and “voiceless TH”.  The difference is some TH sounds do not vibrate your vocal chords, and some TH sounds vibrate your vocal chords.  Spelled exactly the same, but pronounced differently, she wanted to some practice words of the different TH sounds.

Voiceless TH:

  • thank  think thick thin thumb therapy
  • with bath tooth teeth
  • math myth youth warmth

Voiced TH:

  • mother brother father
  • the this these those them there
  • feather farther clothing
  • bathe breathe smooth
Keep these two sounds separate and different and you’ll improve your American English accent.

See, Hear, Do – How Kids Learn

Have you watched your kids to see HOW they learn? Researchers tell us that kids (and adults) learn the best in one of three ways-visual-auditory-kinesthetic

learn by seing

Visual learn by seeing. Does your student just need to see something to understand it or remember it? Do they prefer pictures, colors, maps? Will they absorb and remember what they read? Then they learn by seeing. They are visual learners.Visual Learners have a good spacial sense and a good sense of direction. They understand and like charts. They like colors pencils or highlighters for note-taking. They may be good at spelling.

learn by hearing

Auditory learn by hearing. Will they remember or understand it best if they hear it? Does your child learn things he’s not supposed to when he’s heard it (like swear words)? Is your child musically inclined or apt to appreciate music and other sounds? Can they remember a list of facts they learned in a song but not recall other information? Then they are auditory learners. Auditory learners are not afraid to speak up in class and they do well in study groups. They may be  good at grammar and foreign language.


See Hear Do - How Kids LearnKinesthetic (movement and touch) learn by doing.  Can they remember or learn it well if they move around? Do they enjoy hand-on activities? Do teachers call them “fidgety”? Do they sometimes pace to concentrate? They are kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic learners work well with their hands, can be well-coordinated and can have a strong sense of body movement and timing. These learners usually like adventure books and movies, and they can build models and will enjoy dissecting in science lab. When learning something new, they like to jump right and get started instead of listening to the instructions.

So help your student to learn new things by using his best way of learning-Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic.

Pronunciation – Begin at the Very Beginning

If you are learning English and you want to improve your pronunciation, you start by learning all the SOUNDS of English.  Your ESL teacher will go over the English alphabet, and talk about the 26 letters of English.  You also need to learn additional sounds to develop the 40 (or so) sounds of English. For example, TH is spelled exactly the same for both the TH (voiced) as in “brother” and TH (unvoiced) as in “bath”.  These are pronounced as two separate sounds.  NG is also a separate sound in English.  It is important to remember that we do not pronounce it as N + G, but rather it is a completely separate sound NG as in the word “sang” or “ring”.

Along with knowing all the consonant sounds, it helps to know all the vowel sounds of English, and there are about 15 of them. There are about 6 ways to pronounce O and OO.

/oʊ/ (long o) go, nose

/ɑ/ (short o) hop, not

/ɔ/ (aw) dog, long

/ə/ (schwa) above, mother

/u/  (long u) boo, moon

/ʊ/ (oo) good, book

See the O and OO worksheet here. Listen to the O and OO sounds here.

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At our ESL class, all students review these sounds, from beginner to advanced.  Here’s a worksheet that lists all the English sounds for practicing.

A Speech Therapist’s Early Phonics Lesson

When teaching the very beginning students we have at ESL class, I have very simple phonics lessons.  I use a version of  Trend Enterprises Phonics Flash Cards that I adapted myself. Many ESL teacher don’t realise that when they teach the alphabet, or traditional phonics, they are missing 13 sounds we use in English.  Furthermore, they often repeat teaching sounds which confuses ESL learners.  To make an SLP-friendly set of phonics cards I tossed out any cards that repeated a sound.  They included:

  • “Cc Celery” (soft C) which is the same sound as “Ss Soap”
  • “Cc Cow” which is the same sound as “Kk Kitten”
  • “Gg Giraffe” (soft G) which is the same sound as “Jj Jacks”
  • Also threw away “X” (it’s the same sound as “K+S”) and “Qu” (it’s the same sound as “K+W”)
  • Chucked the blends and digraphs (I kept “th” but threw away “ph” which is the same as “Ff”)

Next to complete the flashcard set, I made 8 new cards to represent the missing sounds in most phonics programs.  For the 8 missing sounds I googled pictures and located simple drawings of words with those sounds.  These are the sounds and pictures I added (no words because I’m teaching the students who aren’t reading or writing English yet):

  • zh “measure”
  • th (voiceless) “bath”
  • ng “sing”
  • aw “walk”
  • oo “book”
  • ow “cow”
  • oy “boy”
  • er “shirt”

That completes the 40 (give or take) sounds of American English.  I use the flashcards in class as a teaching lesson, showing the cards and having the students read or repeat the sound.  Sometimes I pass out the cards and students read their sound and name the picture, or even make up a new word with their sound. More advanced students can use their sound in a word, then put the word into a sentence.


Best Thing about the U.S?

At the start of ESL class, I interviewed a lady who fled Viet Nam in 1981 to come to the United States. Here are a few of the questions and her answers:

Teacher:  What is the hardest thing about being in the United States?

Student:  Learning English.

Teacher:  What the best thing about the United States?

Student:  Freedom.

Share your thoughts!  What do you find best about the United States?

Watch Your Voicing

“Voiced” and “voiceless” came up in class today.  What do you need to know about voicing?how to demonstrate voicing

Voicing is when the vocal chords vibrate.  Touch your fingers to the front center of your neck.  Start out saying “SSS”.  Now without stopping or breaking say “ZZZ”.   You’ll feel the “voicing” or the vibration.  All vowels are voiced (have vibration).  Most consonants are voiced (have vibration).  Only a few consonant sounds are unvoiced (have no vibration).  They are

  • p
  • t
  • f
  • k
  • s
  • th
  • sh
  • ch

Be careful to use voiced (have vibration) and voiceless (no vibration) sounds at the right time.  Or you run the risk of saying “peach” instead of “beach” (Did you really sit on the peach?) or “chains” instead of “jeans” (Did you really buy a new pair of chains?)

Dump Sports and Go for Drama

Drama Club for Asperger StudentsAspergers* kids have difficulty with social skills, and parents frequently make the effort to get their student involved in team sports. They think the “team” part of team sports will help their student to improve their social skills. One big factor parents of Aspergers kids forget is that they may be uncoordinated, clumsy, slow to react and not able to keep up with the fast pace of sports.   These physical limitations will exacerbate the difficulty of fitting in when the team members, parents and coaches expect more from them.

When our son was younger, we had him try a number of  sports, including soccer, baseball and tennis. I had hope that Little League would be an inclusive experience. But where we lived, the team coaches and parents clearly wanted superior athletes. They had little tolerance for kids who needed help, or stood out as different in any way. What a disappointment!

There is another area of school extra-curriculars that may be a very good match for your Asperger student. And that is DRAMA. Participating in drama productions involves many strengths Asperger kids have. Memorization is usually something they do very well. Also following a script is easy for kids who struggle with social skills. The play is planned out, word for word, the action is rehearsed, the lines the same with every production. Last week our school held auditions for You Can’t Take It With You, and my son got a part in it. I have a feeling that he’ll fit right in with the kids from drama club. He can memorize great. He has a booming voice (sure to be heard even in the cheap seats). He has a part that when he does it well, will bring acceptance and pride among his peers,  a sense of inclusion that team sports never offered him.

So what’s the take-away?  I say dump team sports and go for drama!

*Aspergers syndrome is a form of autism. It is a developmental disorder that impacts the individual’s ability to communicate and socialize. It begins in childhood and persists through adulthood and affects the way the person reaches “common sense” perceptions, and processes information related to other individuals. People with Aspergers syndrome find human interaction challenging, and may interpret creative thought and use their imagination in different way from others.

That Crazy English Pronunciation!

“I take it you already know of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Some may stumble, but not you, on hiccough, thorough, slough, and through?
So now you are ready, perhaps, to learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word, that looks like beard, but sounds like bird.
And dead, it’s said like bed, not bead; for goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat. (They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.)
A moth is not a moth in mother, nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there, nor dear and fear, for bear and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose – just look them up – and goose and choose
And cork and work and card and ward and font and front and word and sword
And do and go, then thwart and cart, come, come! I’ve hardly made a start.
A dreadful language? Why man alive! I’ve learned to talk it when I was five.
And yet to write it, the more I tried, I hadn’t learned it at twenty-five.”

– loved this poem from a teacher at islcollective.com.  Try reading it outloud!


When to Swallow the Vowel

My students are not aware of a common American English pronunciation.  We “swallow” some vowel sounds following a T.

Let’s look at the word “patent” (def.- a grant made by a government that confers upon the creator of an invention the sole right to make, use, and sell that invention for a set period of time).

In “patent”, we stress the first syllable.  We fully prounounce /pat/ and the vowel sound after the T is swallowed (not literally swallowed, of course, but it does become very quiet and short) .  We pronounce the /nt/ fully.

“patent” sounds like /pat   nt/

This word and a related word “latent” follow the rule we looked earlier with “Pronouncing Mountain”.