Heart, Head & Hurt Are Not Phonetic

My ESL students have trouble pronouncing many English words because they are not spelled phonetically.  That is, you don’t pronounce them the way they are spelled. Heart, head and hurt are like that.  So I put two columns on the board.   “Spell” and “”Say”

Spell       Say

head         hed (like fed or red)

heart        hart (like part or art)

hurt          hert (like her or sir)

When learning to pronounce new words, write them out the way they sound.  That will help!

Winter Clothes Lesson

One of my students is language-delayed. She is in a Korean-American bi-lingual home and is having difficulty using either language. Despite all her parent’s help, she is not learning vocabulary and grammar as quickly as other children her age. This week we worked on a DLTK’s Make Your Own Book called “Winter is Here”  . I hoped that she would understand and use the vocabulary words – hat, boots, mittens, scarf, etc. but she was not really able to do that when we tried coloring the pages and putting the book together.

So I dove into my closet and pulled out all the clothes were were talking about. I started putting the clothes on, the hat, the mittens and the scarf! Then I put more clothes on her. When I put the hat on her head, I said “Hat!”, with the mittens, “Mittens!” with the scarf, “Scarf!” She and I were having so much fun! She started to name the clothes too. Next I encouraged her to step into the boots. She did and with our winter clothes on, we began to march around the room. I chanted “Winter is here, and I’m wearing my ____.” She pointed to her hat, and said “Hat!” “Winter is here and I’m wearing my _____.” She held the mittens up, and said “Mittens!” “Winter is here and I’m wearing my _____. ” She looked at her boots, and said “Boots!” She did this for all the winter clothes.

After our dress-up activity we looked at our book again. She understood the things in the pictures now. She patted the hat on her head and the hat in the book. She said “Hat!”

Language-delayed students needs lots of practice with words. A  child needs to hear a word over 30 times to remember it, AND then needs to practice saying it over 30 times to understand it, and really have it as part of their language vocabulary! This week my student got her practice time and learned some great new words!

Pronouncing Mrs., Miss or Ms?

In English it’s easy to address a man.  It’s always Mr. (pronounced “mister”).  But what about ladies?ladies

If it’s a married lady, we call her Mrs. (pronounces “misiz”).

An unmarried lady is called Miss (pronounced “mis”.)

A more modern moniker for a lady when you don’t know her married status is Ms. (pronounced “miz”).  A lady with Ms. could be married or unmarried.   The fact is you don’t know.  It’s actually a term that can be traced back more than 100 years in the United States, so “modern” is really relative!

Powerful R

muscle_strong_armIn English, the sound  R has the power to change other sounds.  Look at the word “rare”.  When we pronounce it, we add a little sound right before the second R.  We say [ra yer].  Speech teachers call this “vowelized R”.   This change happens often with words that have long vowel sounds. We often hold it out so it sounds like two syllables, and a y sound is added.   R is powerful!  R changes the word, forcing news sounds into it and making it longer.  Listen to these R words:

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rare  [ra yer]

stair [sta yer]

fair [fa yer]

tire [ti yer]

fire [fi yer]

choir [kwi yer]

near [nee yer]

peer [pee yer]

dear [dee yer}

Good job practicing your English!

Changes on Valentine’s Day

Our school has mostly boys. We have new students in all my classrooms this month, but no class was disrupted more than when a GIRL arrived on Valentine’s Day. This young lady is TBI (traumatic brain injury). With brain operations to stop cancer, and several months in the hospital, she got knocked off the graduation track at her home school. That’s how she ended up in our class on Valentine’s Day.

teenagers disabilty hormones

She is a lovely young lady, pretty, nicely dressed and well-groomed. Almost immediately the boys in class fell over themselves trying to get near her. She’s very quiet, likely because the operations on her brain caused significant cognitive and memory problems. She can’t repeat 4 words in a row (one of her speech goals). But our boys, autistic or learning-disabled, interpret her silence as interest, and they spent most of the day following after her like love-struck puppies. Particularly appropriate given that it’s Valentine’s Day.

A class full of boys is interesting, but rather predictable. It’s pretty much the same thing every day. Until today. When a girl entered our classroom, you could practically hear the hormones come to life inside those four walls. She got excited at recess and decided to run the perimeter of the playground. Two boys joined in to jog with her. She liked the picnic table outside our classroom, and brought her lunch out there to eat it. Three boys followed her to the table with their lunches. One boy who never smiled at school was smiling for most of the day. I don’t know what’s coming next, but whatever it is it’s sure to be exciting!


How to Pronounce “Child’s”

We’re talking about parent-teacher conferences in ESL class.  But everyone struggled with the same word  – “child’s”  like in “my child’s classroom” or “my child’s teacher”

The thing you need to know about child is the American L is very powerful, and it actually changes this word by adding a syllable.  You need to say it in 2 parts:

“CHI”  and then “ULD”.  (the U in ULD is like when we say the words “null” or “gull”    Say these 2 parts together.  Adding a linking “Y” will make it easier to pronounce.  Try saying it like this:

“CHI  –  YULD”

Practice this pattern with other English words:

mild           MI – YULD

wild            WI – YULD

filed            FI – YULD

To add the final sound, add a “z” sound, because the last sound in child is a voiced sound (vocal chord vibrate) and the ending (Z) needs to be voiced too – “CHI – YULDZ”

Good luck and keep practicing your English!


My Child's Teacher

My Child’s Teacher



R – The Pirate Sound

And so, R comes up again in ESL class!   Teaching the R sound, I tell my students they need to think of a pirate.  Most come up with Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean.  We often hear a pirate say “Arrr!”

Making the American R means you tighten and pull your tongue back and up.  You hold you tongue tense, and the back left and right sides of your tongue should be pressed up against the inside of the top teeth in the back of your mouth on the left and right.

Try practicing with these words

  • arr
  • bar
  • far
  • jar
  • star

Some students can make a good R with these words (it’s ok to say it like two syllables and add the Y sound)

  • ear (ee – yer)
  • beer (bee – yer)
  • fear (fee – yer)
  • cheer (chee – yer)
  • near (nee – yer)
Just for fun, learn more about pirates or check out International Talk Like a Pirate Day September 19th, 2013.



Chemistry and The Mole

My son’s chemistry teacher sent home an extra credit project.  They are studying molar relationships and stoichiometry.  The project was  “Make-a-Mole”.   The students were to sew together a fabric “mole”, a mascot to remind them of the mole concept in chemistry (molecules, molecular, etc.)   Teacher sent home a single page of written directions (no pictures) and a single page of a pattern.

My son is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and I knew making this “mole” would be pretty difficult for him.  There were no pictures. No visuals puts him at a disadvantage right away.  Kids on the autism spectrum do best when they see a picture of what they are trying to make.  SuperMom to the rescue!   I made copies of the pattern  because as soon as he started cutting the pattern the instructions on the other side of the page would be lost.  We got fabric, pom poms, googly eyes, and yarn.  Knowing my son (he learns by doing and he can copy a model), I began to make a “mole” for myself.

My mole

I gave him a few sparse directions but didn’t really tell him what to do.  He never looked at the instruction sheet.  He watched me and wanted to jump right in.  He even had all sorts of interesting ideas to make his mole unique.

My son’s “Dragon Mole”

He made his a dragon mole with wings and a tail like the one in How to Train Your Dragon.  When I finished a part on my mole he followed and did his part.  There was no struggling with this school project, but I believe that’s because I provided the support that was unique to him.

Do you know your students unique strengths and weaknesses?  Are you giving it some thought, and planning ahead when he has to tackle something new, or challenging?  Can you help break it down for him?  Deliver it in a modality that is his strength (visual)?  Consider these supports when working with your autistic student and it will make a big difference.

Groundhog Day, a Quaint Tradition

Today is one of my favorite holidays – February 2nd is Groundhog Day!  It’s not a legal holiday like the 4th of July or Veterans Day but it’s a holiday that is a quaint tradition!

It began as a charming tradition in 1887 by a editor and a congressman in Pennsylvania.  In the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, groundhog “Phil” pops out of his burrow every February 2nd, and predicts the coming of spring.  People come from miles around to see him and to celebrate!

If he sees his shadow he goes back in his burrow and there are 6 more week of winter.

If he doesn’t see his shadow, spring has arrived early!

Sometimes he is right  and sometimes he is wrong, but the town loves him and the Groundhog Day celebration is always fun!

For added fun, and to improve your English, watch the 1993 American movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell (rated PG and suitable for families).  This is a fantasy about a man who lives Groundhog Day over and over again many times, while the other characters in the story never remember the day before, they only remember the current Groundhog Day.  The man learns  he has been selfish and concerned about meaningless things.  By the end of the story, he learns to behave well, cherish his friends, and do good in the world.