What is the difference between a smile and a grin? A song and a tune? A frog and a toad? Like most six year olds, first graders in Jodi McMaster’s Harvest Elementary classroom delight in the twists and turns of language. Unlike many six year olds, however, McMaster’s students also can tell you about discrete differences in these word pairs – about relationships between vowels and consonants and about distinctions between long and short vowels.
“The hardest part of teaching beginning readers is getting them to understand the vowels and the sounds they make,” notes McMaster. “I wanted to give my students the tools to figure out which vowels make which sounds.”
After years of witnessing her students struggle, McMaster invented and
refined a proven method for cracking the code of vowel sounds. These strategies make it easy for a child to look at a word and recognize vowels and the sounds they make.
Now, she has published her successes in her first book, Circus Vowels: The Long and The Short Of It. Having taught hundreds of students to read with her decoding strategy, McMaster geared the book to beginning readers, struggling readers, and readers who have English as a second
Circus Vowels addresses words that are:
- Consonant vowel consonant (CVC)
- Consonant vowel vowel consonant (CVVC)
- Consonant vowel consonant vowel (CVCV)
- Consonant vowel consonant consonant vowel consonant (CVCCVC)
Picking up the book is a little bit like walking into her classroom. There you will see students gazing at the word bike. As they read, these students are also listening to vowels. Vowels that yell and scream. Vowels that are too afraid to speak. Vowels, in other words, that become a source of fun, rather than undue confusion.
McMaster’s colleagues in and beyond Saline Area Schools are excited about her publication.
“Circus Vowels is the perfect way to teach children the "magic e" rule! My first graders really understand this rule and I see it carrying over to their reading progress,” notes Bekah Kargel, a first grade teacher at Woodland Meadows. “They love the idea of the naughty vowel kids pinching each other! This concept has really stuck with my students this year.”