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vowel digraph "ea"

any ideas of ways to better clarify when the sound will be which one of the 12 different variations? Guest

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The only 'tip' I can give is that we just have to use the context of the sentence. I realize that's not much help to the frustrated student, but it is true for quite a few phonics rules! I've told my kids, and my adult student that this is one of those crazy things that will come more easily the more you read, and I encourage them that it's much easier to read the words in context than a list of words that we sometimes use to practice while we're learning. In real life, we rarely read lists of words, so normally they will have the rest of the sentence to help them know which sound it makes. I just try to give them a little hope that it won't always seem impossible to figure out! Bev


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Hi. There are a few vowel combinations that cause confusion, and /ea/ is definately one of them. The most common sound is long /e/ as in the words 'meat' or 'teach'. /ea/ can also make the short /e/ sound as in words like 'head' and 'bread'. This is the only vowel team or combination that creates a short vowel sound. There is no way for the eye to tell which sound is spelled by a given /ea/. The reader must be prepared to use whichever sound makes sense in the context in which /ea/ appears. /ea/ can also say the long /a/ sound, but this only occurs in four English words: great, steak, break and yea. /ea/ when followed by an 'r' and another consonant will change the /e/ sound to the special English vowel sound of /er/--(this is also known as a murmur dipthong). Examples are words like 'earl' or 'heard' or 'search'. Finally, /ea/ can be broken up in sounds, such as the word 'reality'. This occurs mostly in latin based words. The /e/ is usually long in this instance, and the /a/ can be long, short or have the schwa sound, such as 'theater'. I hope this helps some. Understanding the basic patterns and using context to help determine the correct pronunciation is the best guide. Good luck! Shantell


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