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How do you teach words with the schwa sound?

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Quick Answer

Teach words with the schwa sound by first isolating and uttering the unaccented vowel by itself. Have students speak and sustain the sound, which sounds like "uh." Next, point out where in words the unaccented vowel is found. A schwa sound may preface a word, as with the first vowel in "adept," or be the final vowel as with "medium." Have students practice saying words such as "frozen," "harmony" and "about," quizzing them on which vowel carries a schwa sound.

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Full Answer

A schwa is an unaccented and primarily unstressed vowel sound in the English language. It generally appears as one of the vowel sounds in words with multiple syllables. The schwa sound is represented by an upside-down rotated "e" in the International Phonetic Alphabet of linguistic symbology, though in practical spelling the sound is represented by any of the six vowels of English. It can also appear as combinations or omission of letters, as with "ai" of "mountain" or the latter vowel sound in "rhythm."

The schwa is the most common vowel sound of English, explained linguistically as neutral, unrounded and mid-central. The latter term notes the vowel height and "backness," describing the position of the tongue in utterance. As an unrounded sound, the lips are relaxed when speaking it.

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