Bogging A-Z: X is for /ks/. Yep, bring your hands up like claws, make a snarling face, and go /KS/ like a cat! Louder! That’s one way I help kids learn the /ks/ sound. If you consult an ABC poster, you’ll find “xylophone” and “x-ray” as the top choices representing the letter X. Apart from X-Men on a lunch box, most young kids aren’t going to run into words beginning with ‘x.’ Dr. Seuss really helped further the renown of the ending sound of /ks/ in his “Fox in Socks” book (customer image below from Amazon):
I also like the above book because it illustrates the most common way to spell /ks/ in closed, single syllable words (-ks). Kids who struggle with reading and writing often have trouble with syllables like “ex.” The short e is not really distinguishable from some consonants that follow (n, m, p, l, s, f), as in exit, enter, empire, and escape. I work with a fifth grader who still spells closed syllables without a vowel, because all he hears is the consonant. For that reason, it’s important to teach kids that vowels rule, consonants drool. You know what I mean: we can’t have a syllable without a vowel. In the southern part of the US, once you draw attention to the missing short e, many kids will substitute a short i instead. Many adults do the same thing around here. “Do you write with a pin or a pen?”
Back to X. Once you teach the hissing cat sound with lots of drama, that /ks/ is firmly memorized. If you’re going alphabetically, you know the problems we encounter with W and Y. Many kids get totally undone by these two letters. After all, there’s a pattern of similarity between the NAME and the SOUND of most letters. But W becomes “duh” as in ‘duh-ble-u” and “wuh” is the letter sound for Y (why? why?). There’s something to be said for teaching letter sounds “out of order” for kids who are showing signs of reading problems. If not, they guess at letter sounds for W and Y by trying to follow a familiar pattern. Then practice makes permanent. Speaking of practice, show me your sharp claws, your sharp cat teeth, and HISS! /KS/! Great!