Teaching Students about the Schwa

In their introduction to the 2015, Perspectives on Language and Literacy Journal, Berg and Buckerfield introduced the issue with, Vocabulary Research Meets the Classroom. They stated, “the examination of how to effectively teach vocabulary so that our students are equipped with the word knowledge necessary, not to simply survive, but to thrive in the new landscape of complex text, occupies the minds of many researchers, parents, and educators.” Hence, teachers who want to effectively teach vocabulary are on the right track, as “a focus on vocabulary has the potential to support much of the other learning students do in school” (Rasinski, et. al., 2011, p. 9).

Vocabulary learning lies amidst the labors of decoding and the multi-layered processes of comprehension. By focusing on decoding, students are learning not only how to call the word, they are also learning how the word looks and what the word means. Because many speakers of English have different dialects, teaching decoding and encoding can get a little tricky. I decided to teach my Grade 4 students about the schwa. According to the Merriam – Webster Dictionary, the schwa sound is an unstressed mid-central vowel (such as the usual sound of the first and last vowels of the English word America). Since it is unstressed, the vowel can be pronounced as short u or short i.  In this podcast episode, students discover the schwa sound.


Berg, M. and Buckerfield, S., (2015). Theme Editors’ Introduction: Vocabulary Research meets the Classroom. Perspectives on Language and Literacy. Retrieved from https://mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?i=269375#{%22issue_id%22:269375,%22page%22:0} on July 8, 2018.

Rasinski, T. V. (2011). Greek & Latin roots: Keys to building vocabulary. Huntington Beach, CA: Shell Education.

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