I was recently working on spelling with a third grade student who cannot hear the difference between the phonemes: /t ɺ/ and /ʧ/. He is not alone, as many of my students struggle with these phonemes. For example, when given a word beginning with /t ɺ/ as in <trap>, my student will write the graphemes <chr>. So, <truck> becomes <chruck>*, <trip> becomes <chrip>* and so on. I decided to use Word Searcher to find words that start with <chr> and here is where I found a way to help him (at least, I think I have a helpful solution.) Many of the words beginning with <chr> can be traced to Greek and have the pronunciation /kɺ/. We discovered words like <chrysalis>, <chrome>, <Christmas> and <chromosome>. With this new awareness, my third grade student is now watching out for the <chr> graphemes which he now understands will be /kɺ/. When spelling, he has been able to self correct and write the correct <tr> graphemes instead of the incorrect <chr>. Please offer feedback if you see an error in my approach!

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Wow Ginger. This is really wonderful. Brilliant how you made dealt with the abstract concept (a phoneme) and offered a meaningful context to make sense of it. And most importantly you ensured that the message that the students got was that the spelling system makes sense and is interesting to investigate! Hats off!

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Gail, Thank you for the reassurance that I was on the right track! I live in San Ramon, CA and work at a private school, Valley Montessori School in Livermore. I am really enjoying learning from/with this community. Thanks again for your feedback.

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Ginger, where do you live and work?

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I think this was absolutely the perfect thing to do! Brilliant! There is nothing wrong with your student's hearing of phonemes. He was doing exactly what he's been told to do- spelling a word exactly as he hears it. And how many teachers would try to get the student to pronounce <tr> "more clearly" or "more slowly" so that he wouldn't write <chr>! You, by contrast,used this opportunity to help your student to discover some true and useful things about the writing system - that <chr> only and always represents /kr/ and in words of Greek origin, and that you can't reliably spell English words based on what you "hear".

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