It is not uncommon for students, especially younger students, to have difficulty pronouncing and discriminating between /f/, /th/ and /v/ which then has a flow-on impact on spelling words containing these graphemes correctly. If students pronounce ‘with’ as /wif/, it is then not surprising that they spell the word ‘wif’.
F, th and v are easy to mix up because they sound very similar.[divider]
One strategy for students having this difficulty is to get them to focus on how each sound is produced. Ask students to look at their mouth in a mirror. Demonstrate and describe how each sound is formed. Students then attempt to make the sounds while looking in the mirror.
To make /f/. Rest your teeth on top of your bottom lip and blow. You shouldn’t hear any sound, but you should feel air if you put your hand in front of your mouth. Once students can pronounce /f/ in isolation, ask them to say words beginning with /f/ (fun, fist, fat, fantastic). Then ask them to say words ending with /f/ (off, huff, stiff) and then words with /f/ occurring in the middle (coffee, puffing, stiffen).
There are two ways of pronouncing ‘th’ – the voiceless /θ/ like in ‘three’ and the voiced /ð/ like in ‘them’ and ‘mother’.
I tell my students that these are the rudest sounds in English because you need to stick out your tongue. To make the voiceless /θ/stick out your tongue, rest your teeth gently on your tongue and blow. You shouldn’t hear any sound, but you should feel air if you put your hand in front of your mouth.
To make the voiced /ð/ keep your tongue poking out and keep your teeth resting gently on your tongue. Now say /ð/. If you put your hand in front of your mouth, you shouldn’t feel any air. Again, once students can produce the sounds in isolation, have them say words containing the sounds at the beginning, then the end and then in the middle of the word.
To make /v/, rest your teeth on your bottom lips and make a sound. If you put your hand in front of your mouth, you shouldn’t feel any air. Again, practise in isolation and then at the beginning, end and middle of words.
The next step is for students to be able to apply this knowledge to reading and writing ‘f’, ‘th’ and ‘v’. Minimal pair activities, in which there is only one sound different, is a useful strategy (e.g. fan/van/than or thee/fee/vee). The Sound Hearing book includes minimal pair activities for many letters and/or sounds that students commonly confuse.
For free games requiring students to discriminate between f, th and v, download Tiny Tap. The games are FREE so although you need to sign up, you do NOT need to pay Tiny Tap to access the games.
You can also email the link to your iPad to open. Once you have opened the game you can download it to play it off-line. Click here for downloading instructions.
If students have difficulty producing these sounds, it is preferable that they be on-referred to a speech pathologist.