|Which letters of our alphabet are voiced? Which are unvoiced?|
Phonics is about the basic elements of written words. Connecting letters to sounds and vice versa can be challenging for adults who are learning to read. So, as new people join us, we review what we know about written language.
Sadly, our learners often don't know the answers to these simple, basic questions.
As a tutor, these answers should
just be part of who you are.
Let's find out.
Here are 5 questions I ask to get us talking. See how well you do. (The answers are at the end of the questions.)
Question 1. How many letters are in our alphabet?
Hint: I get a range of answers even when the alphabet is staring them in the face and I suggest that they count them.
Question 2. How many vowels are in our alphabet?
Hint: Even people who think they know the alphabet often get this answer wrong. If you said 5, then you missed the other two vowels that are often overlooked. You'll remember them when you repeat the oft used expression "- a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y and w."
Question 3. How many consonants in our alphabet?
Hint: This answer is more straight forward - count all the letters except a, e, i, o, and u. Y and w get counted both as vowels and consonants. Note that y and w are consonants whenever they are the first letter of the word. (Yes, I know there are exceptions, like Ypsilanti - a town in Michigan. These exceptions are few and typically associated with proper nouns.)
Question 4. Which single letters share sounds with other letters?
Hint: Answering this question is a challenge. Here's where you've got to think about all the letters and how they are used.
Question 5. Which letters of our alphabet are voiced and which are unvoiced?
Hint: Before you answer, let me explain. Each letter in English has a sound (even if the sound is not unique to itself, such as "c"). When the letter sounds are made, a vibration will or will not occur in your throat.
- Voiced. If you feel the vibration (by gently placing the palm of your hand around your throat as you say the sound), then the letter is considered "voiced." For example, press your lips together and say /m/. Feel your throat as you say /m/. Do you feel the vibration? Of course you do, meaning the sound of "m" is voiced.
- Unvoiced. If the letter sound doesn't give off a vibration, then that letter is "unvoiced." For example, blow air through your teeth for the /s/ sound. Feel your throat as you say /s/. Do you feel a vibration? Of course not, meaning the sound of "s" is unvoiced.
Your turn. Which letters fit into each category?
Answers. Compare your answers here:
(4) 5 - The letters are c, g, q, x, and y.
- The two most common sounds of c are: /k/ in cat and /s/ in city. Less common is when c sounds like /sh/ in ocean, /ch/ in cello, or /ts/ in currency.
- The two most common sounds of g are: /j/ as in age and a unique "hard" sound as heard in get. G can also sound like /zh/ as in genre /zhon - ruh/.
- While q most often sounds like /kw/ in quit, q can sound like /k/, as in antique.
- Here are a few of x's sounds: most common is /ks/ as in extra, /gz/ as in exact, and /kz/ as in exam. When x is the first letter of a word, x usually sounds like /z/, as in xanthan (/zӑn' - thӑn/). X can also be silent, as in faux (pronounced /fō/).
- Y has 4 sounds: At the beginning of a word, y is a consonant and sounds like the /y/ in yellow. Most often y is not at the beginning of words and acts like a vowel. For example, y can sound like the long "i" in try, long "e" in baby, or short "i" in bicycle.
(5) Voiced (a, b, d, e, g, i, j, l, m, n, o, r, u, v, x, y, z);
Unvoiced (c, f, h, k, p, q, s, t, w, x)
How did you do?
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Guest blogger - D. Young. This article first published in Adult Literacy: Issues, Instruction, & Impact.