Unlike many skills that young children learn on their own, just by being exposed to them, like language, for example, reading requires to be taught.
Reading and writing are part of a very complex process, called emergent literacy, that starts in very early childhood. Being exposed to speaking, reading, writing, listening and various objects related to literacy (crayons, paper, pens etc) children slowly start building an understanding of letters, phonological awareness, representation of symbols, and so on.
Today we are going to discuss an important step in teaching kids to read, namely CVC words. But first…
What are CVC words?
A CVC word is made up of 3 letters that follow the pattern: consonant, vowel, consonant. So, for example, words like hen, bed, cat, fan are CVC as they have the pattern mentioned above.
In CVC words, each letter makes its own sound which means that, for a beginner reader, this is easy to decode and sound out.
Why is it important to teach CVC words?
CVC words are the first step into the wondrous world of reading. It is a very important step that, in my opinion, shouldn´t be skipped.
Here are some reasons why CVC words should the taught:
- CVC words are easily decodable
- Children have a feeling of accomplishment when they manage to transform simple sounds into words thus boosting their confidence.
- CVC words are the perfect place to start practicing the vital skill of blending sounds together in order to form short words
- CVC words prepare them for later when they start reading slightly more complicated words that contain blends, digraphs, long vowels, etc.
- CVC words will introduce students to the idea that words have a beginning, a middle, and an ending sound.
When should you start teaching CVC words?
You can start teaching CVC words once kids can recognize the letters of the alphabet, they understand that each letter makes a sound and can sound out each letter. If they have trouble doing this, allow more practice time on letter recognition before moving on to teaching CVC words.
Also, they are able to recognize at least the first and last letters when the word is pronounced out loud.
*Many students who have an auditory intelligence ( read more about Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory), will have no problem identifying the middle sound as well.*
Another important aspect to consider before teaching CVC words is whether the child is familiar with the 5 vowels of the English language and their sounds.
Some teachers and homeschooling parents, especially those following the Montessori method, choose not to teach the whole alphabet before diving into CVC. Instead, they make sure the child is comfortable with two vowels and three consonants which then can be combined to form CVC words.
How to teach CVC effectively
I wish I could give you a recipe with the exact quantities that will help you make the magic dust of teaching CVC words effortlessly. As a teacher I had my method and favourite activities when teaching CVC words, but so did my colleagues. The truth is that the magic dust recipe doesn’t exist. However, from my years of experience in the classroom, I can tell you that the most effective activities are hands-on, interactive, and fun.
Below I will share some simple strategies that will make teaching CVC words easier for you and your students. It is not a step-by-step guide, so the following ideas don’t follow a particular order.
1. Segmenting and blending the sounds
This is a strategy used by one of my teacher friends that I´ve tried myself and it works. Basically, before students can blend the sounds together, they first need to segment them. So, when introducing CVC words focus on the first letter sound. For example, if we have the word “dog”, you will ask your student(s) to listen closely to you pronouncing the word and telling you what sound they hear first. Practice the beginning sound of words with students through fun activities until they become comfortable with recognizing the initial sound of words.
Once this is achieved move on to the middle sound (vowels can sometimes be tricky for some students so they might need additional practice) and then to the final one.
Once the child is able to identify each of the three sounds, it´s time to put them together and blend them into a single word.
Always show your child the steps needed to read a CVC word and then ask them to repeat.
So, for example, if we have the word “jar”, we´ll start by identifying each letter sound out loud and slowly: /j/ /a/ /r/. Then, we´ll start saying the segmented sounds quicker and quicker and start blending together naturally. /j/ /a/ /r/; /jjj/ /aaa/ /rrr/; jjjjaaarrr.
After each stage ask the child to repeat after you. You will only have to do this at the beginning as your little learner will get the hang of it and do it on his/her own.
3. Choral repetition
Segmenting and then blending each letter chorally is a great way to encourage and support even the shyest students.
4. Introduce movement and sound
Introducing movement and sound will make learning CVC words much more interesting to your student(s) and you will give bodily-kinesthetic and auditive learners the chance to thrive.
For movement, it can be anything, from clapping hands for each letter to stomping, touching a different body part for each sound, jumping, and so on.
For sound, you could rap each sound out or use a high-pitched voice for the first sound, a low-pitched voice for the middle one, and again a high-pitched voice for the last sound.
Talking about movement and sound, I found this list of CVC word videos that kids will surely enjoy.
5. Introduce props and manipulatives
Like with movement, for many kids, using their bodies helps them remember things more easily.
Working with manipulatives to practice CVC words will make your lesson a lot more entertaining. Use play dough, cloth pins, coins, crayons, magnetic letters, stickers, fly swatters, lego bricks, wands and the list can go on.
6. Games, interactive activities, and fun worksheets
Sitting on a chair and endlessly drilling letter sounds and words is boooring! Children love games so using them in your classroom or for homeschooling will only make learning more effective.
The internet is literally full of games, activities, and interactive worksheets for learning CVC words.
Check out some fantastic CVC words activities you can do with your child
7. Associate the word with an image
Helping students make a connection between the written word and the image will greatly support visual learning.
8. Making sentences with the words
This is an activity one of my teacher friends used to do with her class and said that it helped put the words that they were sounding out into perspective not to mention that it´s good practice for language skills.
She simply asked the children to think of a short sentence with the CVC word that they´ve just decoded and say it orally. As you can imagine, some of the sentences were hilarious.
9. Practice and Patience
Learning CVC words is no easy business for our little learners. Some kids will struggle a little to get the hang of it while others will breeze through reading the words.
Whatever type of student you have, make sure that you offer them plenty of opportunities for practice and arm yourself with lots of patience.
Hopefully, these tips and tricks along with the Fun Activities and Free Worksheets will help you make teaching CVC words a joy both for you and your student(s).
If you found this post useful, be sure to share it with your friends so they can benefit from it as well.
Mom of two wonderful children, dedicated teacher and book lover.