January 13, 2010 It's time! The second graders in my small groups have been hanging in there with me as we look at words that are easily confused with each other and which have strange patterns—ones which make even ME say: GO FIGURE! So, I think it's time I congratulate them for doing so well.
Take, for instance, the words though, thought, and through. If the letters o-u-g-h in though combine to form a long o sound, why do they make a short o sound in thought and an oo sound in through? (That would be oo as in cool, or school—not oo as in book or cook.) And if though sounds like tho, why does bough sound like bow which rhymes with how, not to be confused with the kind of bow you might tie in your shoe string? And why in the world does enough rhyme with puff? And here's one I haven't even told them about—that sometimes slough rhymes with stuff and sometimes it rhymes with stew. GO FIGURE!
Confused? That's just the beginning. Bought and brought actually both rhyme with caught—which gets us to another problem! Why isn't caught spelled cought? Or would we then get confused with cough which rhymes with off? And why then does rough not rhyme with cough instead of cuff? My, oh my, What a lot of stuff to remember! Or would that be stouff? No—that would get us to Stouffers—a whole other issue!
Actually, the kids seem to know most of the ough words already. What we've been working on is turning them into such good detectives that they notice those sneaky little differences and increase their reading fluency all at the same time. One of their favorite activities with me is timing each other on phrase cards—cards which might say: he came though; he came through; she thought; she came through; she came though; etc.. Pretty tricky for anyone—and especially if English is not your first language or grammar your long suit. I added that last little bit because I just recently found out that a couple of the students know way more about horses or oceans than I do. It's just that grammar is difficult for them and easy for me.
Unfortunately, kids, if you're reading this (and you will—because I will bring it to you), you have to learn it, because R-E-A-D-I-N-G is for L-I-F-E!
Willene Tanis is a longtime resident of the Imlay City area and an active volunteer in the community. Many readers find her 'Perspectives' column to universal and uplifting.