Mona Voelkel

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Learning about Articulation

“The favored explanation is that teaching beginners to monitor mouth positions served to activate the articulatory features of phonemes in words as students practiced reading them. This strengthened phonemes’ connection to graphemes and better secured spellings in memory for reading the words. Findings suggest the value of teaching beginners to monitor mouth positions and sounds during phonemic segmentation instruction.”

From Linnea Ehri’s “The Science of Learning to Read Words: A Case for Systematic Phonics Instruction (Reading Research Quarterly, 30 August 2020)

Recent research has indicated that helping students understand the correspondence between phonemes, including how they are physically articulated in the mouth, to graphemes helps with unitization, the process by which all identities of a word (spelling, meaning, pronunciation) are immediately accessed from memory.

In order to deepen my understanding of articulation and the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), I have been taking a class called “Fun with Phonetics” with Patti Bottino-Bravo, MS, CCC-SLP. I highly recommend this class! I am deepening my understanding of articulation, phonetics, the vowel quadrilateral and the International Phonetic Alphabet. Patti is a wonderful teacher and the information is very well-organized and expertly paced. I had hoped to be able to quickly transcribe speech into the International Phonetic Alphabet and, thanks to this class, I am well on my way.

Going forward, I wanted a reference where I can quickly refresh my understanding about the articulation of targeted phonemes as we map phonemes to graphemes. I created a Google Slides deck that explains where particular phonemes are produced and also provides a link to a live articulation (Sounds of Speech, The University of Iowa Research Foundation. NB: This website is slated to end in 2020 and will be replaced with an application. ). It would be the live articulation, not the slides, that I may share during the process of helping students “feel” the phonemes by placing their hand on their cheek or in front of their mouth as they say a word.

Creating the slides helped deepen my understanding of Structured Word Inquiry, along with phonetics. I made so many new connections as I explored the meaning, relatives, structure and phonology of this new vocabulary. The process of creating the slides emphasized once again how the SWI process supports understanding.

Is there some new vocabulary you would like to learn? I think my next exploration will be about the etymology of flower names as I was so fascinated by the etymology of <dandelion> and <nasturtium>; two flowers that surfaced during this phonetics vocabulary inquiry. Feel free to create your own slides! You can share your creations or contact me with any questions at

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