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The Many Jobs of Silent e

By Naomi O'Brien

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silent e

Silent e Makes a Vowel Say Its Name

I think it’s safe to say that all K-2 teachers know that no matter what you call it; silent e, magic e, or sneaky e, a well placed e can make the vowel before it say its own name.

Teaching this rule can be helpful for readers and spellers.

silent e

If a young speller is trying to write the word “like”, it would helpful for them to know that a silent e can help them make the long i sound.

Soft C and Soft G

silent e

Teaching this phonics rule to readers and spellers carries them a long way in the literacy world.

Imagine how difficult it would be to read the list of words below without this knowing about this silent e job:

angel, gem, large, genetics, page, huge, cage, orange, germ, fudge

dance, face, slice, fence, peace, prince, juice, voice, twice, bounce, rice

Consonant + LE

silent e

This silent e job is another important one that is a must for young readers and spellers to know about. Whenever an le appears at the end of word after a consonant, kids need to know that it’s going to make an “ul” sound.

When students are spelling words and the final sound they are trying to spell is “ul”, it’s likely (if it comes after a consonant) that it’s being made by the letters le.

Imagine how difficult it would be to read the list of words below without this knowing about this silent e job:

turtle, circle, bubble, table, jungle, gobble, purple, able, maple, little, wiggle, tickle, bottle, sparkle

Stop Certain Endings

silent e
There are many reasons why it is extremely uncommon for native English words to end in i, u, or v (or j). You can read more about those words here. So, an important rule to teach young spellers is that English words (almost) never end with the letters i, u, v, (or )j.

Voiced TH

silent e

When K-2 educators are trying to go through all the many many phonics rules that kids need to know, teaching the two TH’s should be no exception.

Click on the picture to see the resource.

We can hear an unvoiced TH like in the word tooth, as well as the voiced TH like in the words: clothe, breathe, soothe, teethe, and loathe.

It might be difficult to spell and read well without this knowledge!

Is It Plural?

silent e
If a word ends with an s and it isn’t plural, (and it’s also not a floss word), make sure young readers and spellers know that a silent e should go on the end of that word.

Floss Rule: If a one-syllable word has a short vowel followed by an f, l, s, or z, those letters will likely be doubled.

Examples: moss, floss, fluff, puff, hill, pill, buzz, and fizz

Imagine how difficult it would be to read or spell the list of words below without this knowing about this silent e job:

please, dense, mouse, goose, blouse, and tease

I hope all of this was helpful whether you’re a parent or an educator. It may seem like a lot, but kids can learn these rules and they do benefit from knowing them!

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silent e

If you’ve got phonics covered but you need more ideas to support struggling readers, click here.

Naomi

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Hi, I'm Naomi

I have been teaching elementary students for over 10 years. Effective reading instruction and accurate social studies at the primary level are huge passions of mine! 

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