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 have difficulty producing these sounds, it is preferable that they be on-referred to a speech pathologist. It is also important to know that /th/ is one of the later developing sounds and it is not unusual for children to have difficulty producing this sound accurately up until around 8 years of age.
For students who can produce the sounds but are having difficulty with discriminating between them, then there are a few steps you can take which might help resolve the problem:
- Using a mirror, make sure the student can see how the different sounds are produced with a focus on teeth, lips and tongue positions. /f/ and /th/ as in ‘three’ (θ) are voiceless sounds and consequently you shouldn’t hear a sound but rather if you place your hand in front of your mouth, you should feel air. /v/ and /th/ as in ‘that’ (ð) are voiced and consequently you should hear a sound, but feel no air.
- Students need to be able to firstly discriminate between the sounds in isolation, then in the initial positions in words, followed by the final position in words and lastly in the middle position in words.
- A really good test of a student’s ability to be able to discriminate between the sounds is to use minimal pairs. This is when just one sound in a word is changed (e.g., three/free, vat/fat).
- You may find the Tiny Tap F Th V Discrimination activities and the Sound Hearing book useful resources.
Note: Tiny Tap is a free app to download and although you need to sign up you do NOT need to pay to access the F Th V Discrimination game as it is free. Once you have opened the game you can download it so it can be played offline. Click here for instructions.