What's a Schwa Sound Anyway?: A Holistic Guide to Phonetics, Phonics, and Spelling / Edition 1

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To many teachers who began their careers with basal readers, the schwa sound was part of what led them to whole language in the first place. If they didn't even understand linguistic terminology themselves, how could they be expected to teach it to kids? Yet many teachers still wonder about letters and sounds and phonics. What role does phonics play in learning to read? Does it still have a place in classrooms where children are becoming literate through rich experiences with literature and writing? Why have the debates about phonics continued and in some ways grown more heated?

In What's a Schwa Sound Anyway? Sandra Wilde answers these and many other questions related to phonics and its relationship to learning to read and spell. She makes a forceful case that teachers who have a working knowledge about the English sound system are not only more powerful observers of students' reading and invented spelling, but also more informed participants in the current debates about the role of phonics in learning to read.

The first part of the book is a lively exploration of the English sound system and its relation to written language for both reading and spelling. This mini-course in linguistics is reader friendly and accessible to even the most linguistics-phobic classroom teacher. Of special interest to those who work with diverse populations is a chapter-length discussion of language variation such as Black English and its role in learning to read and spell.

The second part of the book helps readers apply their new knowledge about sounds, letters, and the relationship between them to the classroom. Chapter 5, "Skills and the Big Phonics Debate," applies theory, research, and common sense to debates about the role of phonics in learning to read and spell. The next two chapters take a close look at a number of writing samples and reading miscues, illuminating how a knowledgeable teacher can appreciate "error" as a reflection of children's developing understandings of written language.

Sandra Wilde's work with invented spelling has helped us discover that the better we understand what children are doing, the more responsive and creative we can be as teachers. What's a Schwa Sound Anyway? continues this work by helping teachers deepen and extend their knowledge base about written language and the way children perceive it, always with the goal of helping children continue to grow and develop as readers and writers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Working with the concept of invented spelling, Wilde helps teachers discover the better ways to help children develop as readers and writers.”–Writing Teacher
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780435088651
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 4/21/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 155
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Wilde, Ph.D., is the author of numerous Heinemann professional books including Quantity & Quality and Funner Grammar as well as the firsthand classroom resource Strategic Spelling. She is widely recognized for her expertise in developmental spelling and her advocacy of holistic approaches to spelling and phonics. She is Professor of Curriculum and Teaching at Hunter College, City University of New York. She is best known for her work in invented spelling, phonics and miscue analysis. She specializes in showing teachers how kids' invented spellings and miscues can help us work with them in more sophisticated and learner-centered ways. Looking at what kids do as they read and write is at the heart of Sandra's presentations and workshops. She can do lively keynote presentations that highlight the interesting things that we can learn by paying close attention to students' invented spellings and miscues, as well as workshops of varying lengths that focus on student-centered teaching of spelling and phonics. She has recently begun offering workshops that focus on understanding students' miscues as a guide to appropriate instruction, particularly for struggling readers. She lives in New York City. Sandra is quoted in this Huffington Post article about trends in grammar instruction in the Common Core era.
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Table of Contents

The Sounds of English

Phonics Rules

Spelling Rules

The Speakers of English: Issues of Language Variation

Skills and the Big Phonics Debate: A Whole Language, Commonsense Perspective

What Does Invented Spelling Tell Us About Kids' Knowledge of Phonics?(And What Should We Do About It?)

Miscues: What They Tell Us About Children's Use of Phonics When They Read

Epilogue: Where Do I Go From Here?

Appendix: Phonetic Symbols Used in This Book

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