The Schwa Sound

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Reading on Strawberry Lane
Grade Levels
2nd - 4th, Homeschool
Formats Included
  • PDF
13 pages
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Reading on Strawberry Lane


The Schwa Sound - The Third Sound of Vowels

This packet will give students a thorough understanding of the schwa sound.

When teaching reading, it is quite common for teachers to not know about the schwa sound and therefore, not know to teach it.  When a student is attempting to figure out the vowel sound in a word, and the vowel doesn’t say either its short nor long sound, then it is chalked up as not saying one of the normal foundational vowel sounds and is considered a vowel sound that does not follow the phonic rules.  When in reality, the vowel is saying the “unknown” schwa sound which is a phonic sound we all need to know if we’re a reading teacher.   The schwa sound is denoted by an upside-down e


It is a lazy sound and will occur on an unstressed syllable, and it’s sound is /uh/.

It is a good thing to know that a vowel sound really has 4 possible options for students to choose from when reading a word.  

The vowel may say its short /i/ sound in bit.

The vowel may say its long /i/ sound in bite. 

The vowel may copy another vowel’s sound such as -i saying long /e/ in “chili”. 

The vowel may say the schwa sound /uh/ in “denim”.

Typically, it is best to teach the schwa sound the second semester of second grade.  By this point, the student knows the 10 foundational vowel sounds - the vowels’ 5 short sounds and the vowels’ 5 long sounds.  Therefore, when it is taught at this specific time, it does not confuse the students. 

The schwa sound says /uh/ regardless if the vowel is -a, -e, -i, or -o.   It usually sounds a little weaker than the short sound of u.  I call the schwa sound the “third sound of vowels.”   I choose to teach the schwa sound when I teach the Open Syllable because it seems to appear in this syllable type quite often.   Also, you will find that the Schwa sound appears in the Closed Syllable quite a bit.

64 word cards are included in this packet, and all of the following words have a schwa sound.  On the key, I highlighted the schwa sound in each word.  

I have only given examples of the schwa sound for vowels -a, -e, -i, -o. I did not give examples of the schwa sound for the short vowel sound -u given the sounds short /u/ and the schwa sound /uh/ are so similar to each other.

Page 4 is a graphic organizer. Pages 5-8 are word cards that can be cut apart. Student are to draw a card and attempt to identify the schwa vowel sound in each word. As students say the word slowly, they will hear the schwa sound. The word then can be written on the graphic organizer and the student can circle or highlight the schwa sound.

Total Pages
13 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
30 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
Identify words with inconsistent but common spelling-sound correspondences.
Recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.
Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
Decode multisyllable words.


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