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Magic E Sheets

Magic E sheet 1Magic E sheet 1bMagic E sheet 2Magic E sheet 2b

Here are some Magic E worksheets. Magic E is the letter that remains silent in words like cake and bone. Its presence changes the sound of the preceding vowel. But how to describe this change?

Some teachers use the notion of long and short vowel sounds. Author of How Children Fail, John Holt, was critical of this idea. He maintained that it was nonsense as it is a simple matter to vary the duration in time of either a 'short a' (as in cap) or a 'long a' (as in cape) through the use of one's voice. He thought the idea could confuse some students and actually be harmful.

Perhaps a better idea is to use the notion of name and sound, name being the sound of the letter as we say the alphabet and sound being the sound of the letter when we don't. Hmn, that explanation isn't exactly clear either.

Perhaps the notion of round sound and straight sound could work? Certainly with British English pronunciation the 'alphabet sound' is rounder than the non-alphabet sound.

Another problem is, of course, that Magic E isn't always magic - it doesn't always have a magic quality. And moreover, it isn't always E that has this effect. Final, music, ego, emu are just a few of the many words that have a 'whole round alphabetised' sound but without the Magic E.

But E is the most common and Magic E is kind of catchy.

In my experience John Holt is probably right. Suggesting that some sounds are long doesn't really make sense. And when I use this idea it doesn't seem to help much. I've found that referring to the 'Alphabet Sound' seems to offer the most help to Japanese elementary school aged children, provided that they know what the alphabet is, and provided that the pattern is written down for them to see.

When using these sheets I write out the following guide:

a - A - a
e - E - e
i - I - i
o - O - o
u - U - u

For the second set I also write out the following hints:

c ~ s
s ~ z
g ~ j
i ~ y
I ~ y

Sometimes I write out an alphabet and draw lines connecting the letters above. The idea is to help children realise that the sound changes, or rather than the way we pronounce the word doesn't always match the way one might expect to write it.

There are two sets of words and two pairs of sheets (four sheets altogether). The first sheet has the words written out to be traced, the second sheet has no words written. Here are the word lists:

Set One Set Two
base
bike
cave
case
cape
cane
cake
dome
file
game
gate
kite
lake
maze
race
rake
rice
safe
tape
time
wave
cage
dice
face
file
fire
lace
lake
lice
mace
maze
mice
mole
mule
page
pile
race
rake
rice
rose
tire
tyre

Further Thoughts

To help children realise that it is possible to change the sound of a vowel Singing the Apples and Bananas song also helps. I don't know the origin of this song, though Raffi, has a good version of it. It goes like this:

I like to eat, eat, eat apples and bananas
I like to eat, eat, eat apples and bananas

I like to ate, ate, ate ay-ples and ba-nay-nays
I like to ate, ate, ate ay-ples and ba-nay-nays

I like to eat, eat, eat ee-ples and bee-nee-nees
I like to eat, eat, eat ee-ples and bee-nee-nees

I like to ite, ite, ite i-ples and by-ny-nys
I like to ite, ite, ite i-ples and by-ny-nys

I like to ote, ote, ote oh-ples and bo-no-nos
I like to ote, ote, ote oh-ples and bo-no-nos

I like to oot, oot, oot oo-ples and boo-noo-noos
I like to oot, oot, oot oo-ples and boo-noo-noos

getfile: Mage E Sheets

set 1 (with words) (354 KB), set 1 (blank) (296 KB)

set 2 (with words) (351 KB), set 2 (blank)( 291 KB)

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