Whether you call it VCE, Magic E, or Silent E rule, it’s a phonics rule that makes a huge impact on decoding. It opens up SO many more words to decode for students used to reading simple CVC words.
It’s also my favorite phonics rule to teach!
In this post, I’ll explain what the Silent E rule is, an engaging way to introduce it, and some fun activities for extra practice.
What is the SILENT E Rule?
When students start to decode (read), they usually start with VC and CVC words, which are closed syllables. In a closed syllable, vowels usually make their short sounds: mat, pin, top.
VCE stands for Vowel, Consonant, E. When a word ends in one vowel, one consonant, and the letter e, the E is silent and the vowel makes its long sound. This rule is often called the Magic E or Silent E rule and it creates a VCE syllable.
- the second syllable in cupcake
To learn more about syllable types, be sure to read this post: Tricks for Teaching Syllable Types and Syllable Division.
Introducing the Rule
My students LOVED learning about the silent e rule because I showed them the “magic” of it! Before my lesson, I wrote a list of CVC words that would be real words when I added an E to the end.
Then, I used a white crayon to write a letter e at the end of each word. I also wrote MAGIC E at the top of the chart in white crayon.
We read each CVC word, then I told the students there was something magic about the chart. I whipped out my watercolor paints or markers and asked a student to paint just after the first word, revealing the e. They were in awe! I then colored over the top of the chart to reveal the MAGIC E heading and explained the rule.
For each word, we read it before and after the silent e reveal, then discussed how the e changed the vowel sound.
Of course, every student wanted a try, so I made a little slip, and we all added the white Es together and revealed it with our paints or markers. Students each had a different word and they drew a picture for each word to show they were able to decode them.
You can grab these free pages here to try with your students!
- Magic E Wand- Make little wands to practice adding the e to CVC words and changing the vowel sound. Just cut out yellow stars and make an e with glitter for some extra bling. Glue to the end of a popsicle stick.
- Read the Room- Use the magic E wands to read the room! Tape CVC word cards around your classroom and have kids walk around using their wands to make and read new words.
- Make strips of paper and write CVCE words on them. Fold back at the E and have kids read with and without the silent E.
- Use magnetic letters in your small groups. Dictate a CVC word for kids to build, then change the vowel sound and have them add the e. Alternate short and long vowel sounds to practice identifying when to use the silent e.
- Word Hunt- Have students find VCE words in their books or around the room.
- Word Sorts- You can practice sorting short and long vowel words (CVC and CVCE) or words within the same word family (-AKE, -ATE, for example).
Resources to Practice the Silent E Rule
Here are some resources to help your students practice this phonics skill. I’ll link the individual resources to my Tots shop, but you can also find them in my TPT store here.
PHONICS-BASED LABELING PAGES are great because they target a phonics skill while incorporating writing skills, like labeling and sentence-writing.
Common Mistake Kids Make When Learning the Silent E Rule
As with many concepts, there are misconceptions kids often have that need addressing. One issue that may arise is kids not knowing which vowel sound is ‘short’ and which is ‘long.’ Here are some quick tips to reinforce this:
- Remind kids the long sound is when the vowel says its name- the short a sound doesn’t make the name of the letter.
- Have students say the long vowel sound slowly and feel how their mouth changes slightly to complete the sound. For example, to make the short a sound, the mouth has only one position, but the long a sound requires the jaw to move down and then up.
- Make it a game: “When I say the short sound, you say the long..” Go through the vowels and have kids echo your short sound with the long one.
- Associate a keyword for each long vowel sound, ex: cake.
One thing I found when my students learned the silent e rule is that they then sometimes applied it to CVC words, making the long vowel sound when unnecessary. Here are some activities that helped:
- Word ladders or blending drills. Write a list of words, alternating between CVC and CVCE words, and have kids practice reading them.
- Mark up words- teach students how to “mark up” words, crossing out the e to show it is silent, and marking the long vowel. When reading words, have them point to the e right away and finger-trace a scoop back to the vowel to remember the e causes the long vowel sound.
Turn it into a game! Write words on cards and have kids read them and keep if read correctly.
Overall, the key is repetition and practice. Kids will eventually learn to distinguish the sounds and identify when each is made, but it takes time and reinforcement.
The silent e rule is a key skill in a phonics scope and sequence. When kids understand this rule it helps them read and spell a wide variety of words and lays the foundation for more advanced reading skills.
The best way to help them remember this rule is to make it fun and engaging, so have fun with magic e!
What are your best tips for teaching this important phonics skill? I’d love to know! Comment below and share.