Friday, August 19, 2016

Do you teach voiced and unvoiced to your struggling readers?

Or is this something that you have learned about, but have never really felt comfortable teaching?
This was me just last year.
I understood that there were some letter sounds that were voiced and some that were unvoiced, but honestly even trying it myself I was having a hard time figuring out which was which.
Until, I figured out this is one of those thing that you only get comfortable with by doing.
So, over the last year I have been teaching this in my intervention groups and it has made such a difference!

What is voiced and unvoiced?

I'm sure there is a a more technical way of explaining it, but basically some letter sounds are made with your voice box on and some are made with your voice box off.
Try it.
Put your hand on your throat like my son is doing below. (He never wears a shirt)
Make the /s/ sound.
Does your throat do anything?
Try the /m/ sound.
How about now?
Feel the difference?
When you can feel your throat vibrating it is voiced, when your throat does not vibrate it is unvoiced.

This becomes so important in teaching letter sounds.    Th is a good example.  Say this.  Say thin.  Can you tell the difference?  This is something our Speech and Language teachers have been doing for years, with students with speech and language delays.  

I introduce it to my students as a general concept.  This is before I explicitly start teaching letter sounds.  I want them to understand that sounds can be voiced or unvoiced.  When I explicitly teach a sound we check to see if it is voiced and unvoiced so it is important that they have a basic understanding of this.  

I explain what voiced and unvoiced is, and we try making some sounds to see if we can feel the difference.  I have them put their hand on their throat and feel the difference.  I will say make this sound /m/, and have them repeat the sound, rather than saying make the sound that m makes.  We go through and do this for a few sounds.  I made this sort to do together.  Students should not be expected to do this independently unless they know all of their letter sounds.

Get it HERE.

Try it with your students.  Don't worry if you fumble or are unsure.  Students like it when you learn with I included a cheat sheet for you :).

If you try it let me know how it goes!  Come back and leave me a comment or send me an email at


You might also like to read:  Let's Talk About Letter Naming Interventions 



  1. When I used the Wisnia-Kapp Reading Program the first thing that is taught is voiced vs unvoiced. And yes, we do it by touching the larynx while making the sounds. But it starts with a red card and a green card, so kids learn to turn their voice on and off (Think "Red Light, Green Light game). Then, in the beginning, the voiced and unvoiced letters are green and red on cards, then the color cue is faded. It works really well.

    1. What a great idea! Thank you for sharing!

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