Ahhh, there’s nothing like a short vowel, is there? Short vowels are one of the first sounds that students learn. After the kiddos practice short vowel sounds, maybe you sandwich them between two other consonants to make CVC words. Once you have those down, you weave their sounds into your lessons from dawn until dusk. They’re part of your whole group phonics routine. They’re part of your transition times. They’re hung upon your walls. Students soon become masters of the short vowel and things are lookin’ good. Then the sneaky Silent E words come along, throwing that wrench into things. 😉
It can be difficult for students to get out of the short vowel routine and understand that actually, these amazing letters can make two sounds. Understanding the rule of Silent E is essential to reading, but it can take some work training their little brains to switch over to the long vowel sound. But, no need to fear, because I’ve got some quick, fun activities that will make learning Silent E words a breeze! And besides, once kids learn that the Silent E is actually magical, and not tricky, it becomes fun – not frightening.
The Job of Silent e
Before we get to the activities, let’s chat a little bit about the job of the Silent E. This versatile little guy has lots of jobs. It can make a “c” and “g” soft (like France and charge). It can also help demonstrate that some words ending in the /s/ sound aren’t plural (tense, rinse, etc.) The ever-so-helpful Silent E also prevents letters like u, i, and v from being the last letter in a word (glue, tie, and live). There are actually a number of jobs that the Silent E does to help out the English language – and those are just a few! But today, we’re going to focus on the most common job that the Silent E does, which is make vowels say their long sound.
Students normally first learn that a vowel says its short sound, and then these vowels are typically practiced with CVC words like “cat”, “man”, and “fun.” Once those are mastered, students are then ready to invite the friendly Silent E to tag along. When an “e” is added to the end of the word and a vowel precedes it (with a consonant or two in the middle), that Silent E makes the vowel say its name. Words like “fin”, “rat”, and “cut” become “fine”, “rate”, and “cute.”
Sounds simple, right? Well, as simple as it is, this doesn’t come easily for lots of students. Since kids are so accustomed to hearing a vowel’s short sound early on in their reading journey, making the switch to the long sound (and learning when) can feel complicated. But there’s no need to shake in your boots, because I’ve got five fun activities that will make it easy to introduce and practice reading that Silent E with your kiddos!
5 Activities for Silent e Words
1. Make a Real Word
Materials: white board and dry erase markers
How to Play: First, write a variation of CVC words up on the board. These CVC words should be words that make a new word when a Silent E is added, and words that don’t make a new word when a Silent E is added. For example, the word “bit” makes the word “bite” when a Silent E is added, but the CVC word “hen” doesn’t make a new word when you add a Silent E.
Students come up one at a time to the board. They take a look at the word options and choose a word that makes a new one when the Silent E is added. They say the original word out loud, add the Silent E at the end, and finally say the new word. They then pass off the marker to the next student. Play continues until all students have had a chance up at the board.
Materials: dry erase boards for each student and dry erase markers
How to Play: This activity is a great group activity everyone can do together. It also provides a safe space for kids who need more practice with the Silent E. Kids will do a “switch-a-roo” with the CVC words to make a new one. As the teacher, it’s your job to provide a sort of “call and response” in this activity, and it’s the students’ job to write what you’re requesting.
In this activity, students will change CVC words to CVCE words on their marker boards. First, you say a CVC word out loud and wait for the students to write it down. When all students have written the word down, then you say, “becomes.” When you say “becomes”, kids will add the Silent E onto the word and, as a group, say the new word out loud.
(Students write down the word “nap”)
(Students add the Silent E)
In the beginning, it’s best to stick with CVCE words that are real words so that students recognize them. If you want extra practice after you think they’ve got the hang of it, you can choose to do nonsense words (cate, hite, pute, etc.) for a funny twist and extra practice recognizing a Silent E after a vowel.
3. Magic E Stickers
Materials: Sticky Tack (circle stickers work well, too), the Magic (Silent) E, and some CVC words.
How to Play: There isn’t a kid I know who doesn’t love using something sticky! Students are given some Sticky Tack and a set of Magic E’s (these are best laminated for future use. To make the Magic E’s magical, consider placing them inside a star or some other fun shape). Students will receive a list of CVC words (this can be a list or individual pieces). Students will say the CVC word out loud, then add the Magic E onto it by sticking it on the end of the word. Then, they say the new word out loud with the long vowel sound.
For example, if a student gets the word “cub”, he or she will say it out loud, then stick a Magic E onto the end of the word to make the word “cube.” It’s important for students to say out loud both the original CVC word and then the new long vowel word so that they can hear the difference. This activity can be done individually, in partners, or makes for a great literacy center!
4. Silent E Find and Write
Materials: a list of CVC and CVCE words spread out across a paper and a writing sheet for each student.
How to Play: This one is short – but sweet! Students get a copy of the CVC and CVCE word list and their own writing sheet. This word list can simply be an actual list, or they can be spread out throughout the entire paper as a “search.”
Students go through the list, circling all of the CVCE words and then write them each down on the writing sheet. The writing portion to this activity is particularly helpful, as it reinforces the Silent E at the end.
5. Pocket Chart Sort
Materials: Pocket chart and notecards
How to Play: Take two notecards and write “CVC” on one of them and “CVCE” on the other and place them at the top of the pocket chart. Then, on the other notecards, write one CVC or CVCE word on each of them. Try to do a healthy mix of both!
Hand out a few notecards per student. Taking turns (or any which way you’d like), students come up to the pocket chart and sort their cards under the appropriate headings. Of course, no one has a pocket chart this big for all students to display all of their cards (though wouldn’t that be nice!?), so halfway through you may need to start with a clean slate. Or rather, this activity can also be done on a white board, taping the notecards up instead of inserting them in a pocket chart. This activity is easy to differentiate, as you can give more or less cards to students, depending on how much practice they need.
Added fun: For a little challenge, consider writing nonsense CVCE words on the notecards, such as “fite”, “doge”, or “fune” and a heading card labeled “nonsense.” This will create three columns to choose from for an added twist!
Silent e Reading INtervention Mats
Materials: Silent E Reading Intervention Mats (yep – that’s all the supplies you need!)
How to Play: So you know I love saving the best things for last! My Silent E Reading Intervention Mats are the perfect compliment to any Silent E activity because they’re so fun and so versatile. All you need to do is print out the mats and watch the students make their way through the activities on each one. You may choose to laminate these mats for extra longevity. These fit perfectly into a binder for an easy-to-grab literacy center, too!
More on These Mats:
These mats make the perfect Silent E activity because it’s less prep for you and lots of learning for students! This is because each mat holds so much possibility. On each mat, students will focus on fluency in isolation, decoding, phonemic awareness, writing, and comprehension. That’s a lot of reading components on one page! As students make their way through these mats, they’ll sound out words containing the Silent E. And each mat follows the same format for consistency. This way, after a few mats together as a class, students will gain independence with them for centers and partner work.
Moreover, these mats provide a great source of confidence for readers. These mats are designed to help students succeed. With each small activity on the mat, readers can build confidence by working through each component of literacy. With this resource, you’ll get 45 mats that focus on all of the long vowel sounds.
Literacy specialists, classroom teachers, special education teachers, tutors, and yes, parents, too – I’m lookin’ at you! This resource is for educators of all types to enjoy with their students. As previously stated, these mats are great for centers and partner work. But they’re also good for using as transition activities for some students to use while others are finishing up class work. By laminating these mats (or slipping them through a dry erase pocket), you’ll add longevity to these mats and can use them over and over again.
If you’re wanting to cover a variety of patterns (and we mean a lot), then check out my Reading Intervention Mats Bundle that keeps growing and growing. When you purchase this bundle, you’ll gain access to not only a wide range of other phonics patterns, but future ones as they are added. And because learning to read is complex and follows a scope and sequence, this awesome bundle covers everything you need to equip your little readers with success all throughout their reading journey.
Some people will tell you the Silent E can be tricky, but with these activities and resources, they don’t need to be. When you’re equipped with the right tools for teaching, you’re ready to tackle any complex phonics or reading pattern. And I plan to be here for you, filling your toolbox along the way.