Let’s read, write and spell with Schuyler

  • Published on November 5, 2017

I don’t normally post twice a week, but this post is really an addendum to the previous post What’s in a name? Teaching phonics, syllabification and more! so I decided to break with tradition and share it.

For the inspiration for this post and the resource it describes, I must thank Pamela Wight, who featured in the author interview last month.

In commenting on the What’s in a name? post, Pamela mentioned the awkwardness of singing and spelling her grandson’s name – Schuyler, a name with which I was unfamiliar. I joked to Pamela that I’d thought of recording a few names, innovating on the tune of BINGO, to show how “easy” it might be. Pamela suggested I should, even though I explained that my singing voice is anything but, and she told me the pronunciation for Schuyler: Skylar. Well, I couldn’t help myself. My head started racing with ideas of incorporating Schuyler’s name into reading and writing lessons teaching phonics and spelling skills. The result is the resource Let’s read, write and spell with Schuyler, 

read spell write Schuyler

and the recording.


Although the activities in the resource (outlined below) are based on Schuyler’s name, they are intended as examples only and can be easily adapted to the names of children in any class. There are too many suggestions for just one lesson, and activities should be spread out over a number of lessons.

Grapho-phonics: matching letters and spelling patterns to sounds

Brainstorm words that begin with ‘sk’ like Schuyler and write them on a chart.  Some words begin with ‘sch’ like Schuyler and school, some begin with ‘sk’ like skill and skate, and some begin with ‘sc’ like scar and scream. Do not comment on the spelling at this stage. Wait until all suggestions are exhausted, then read the words to the children, asking them to join in. Ask children what they notice about the way the words are spelled. Hopefully someone will notice and comment on the three different ways of spelling ‘sk’. The words can then be listed accordingly.

sk words

Writing with Schuyler and ‘sch

Write a sentence on the chart using words that begin with ‘sch’ like Schuyler; for example:

Schuyler had a scheme to change the school schedule.”

Note:  If you don’t pronounce schedule with the ‘sk’ sound, you may wish to use a different word. Alternatively, depending on the children’s development, it could be introduced as an irregular spelling pattern.

The sentence could initiate quite an energetic discussion about what the children, starting with Schuyler, might like to change about the school schedule and why. The discussion could lead into some very excited and purposeful writing. You never know, the children may come up with some wonderful suggestions like, “I would make time for more play because it’s fun and we need it.” (Early childhood teachers and children unite!)

A story starter incorporating all of the ‘sk’ spelling patterns

The process of writing following discussion could be repeated  with a sentence containing words beginning with each of the ‘sk’ spelling patterns; for example:

 “Schuyler was in the skate park near the school when he heard a scream.”

This time the scream would be the discussion starter for children to brainstorm ideas for writing; for example: who may have screamed, what may have happened, why did the person scream, what will happen now. Children will come up with wonderful ideas for stories they can write and illustrate.

Children could also be encouraged to use words from the lists to construct other sentences containing at least one word with each spelling pattern. These could be written on the chart as a class activity, or children could write and illustrate their sentences independently, even using their own sentences as story starters. How creative could they be?

What rhymes with Schuyler

The resource also suggests activities involving rhyming words, including the words beginning with ‘sk’ in the previous sentence. Once again, children could be asked to compose sentences containing two or more of the rhyming words; for example:

Schuyler and Tyler visited the hair styler.

These and other suggestions in the resource are just a few to get you started and demonstrate that it’s really not that difficult to teach literacy skills using names of children in the class. I’m sure you will think of many more ways to do so.

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    Norah, this lesson is nothing short of amazing! As someone who has struggled with pronunciation and spelling, this all congealed and made sense. Had you simply told me how to pronounce Schuyler I would have forgotten. I have shared this post with enthusiasm because I can really say it works for adults, too! What great technique for business professionals who meet people around the globe. You are such a creative and skilled teacher! And I love your voice, singing BINGO. You make it sound so dignified.

    Thank you for your enthusiasm, Charli. I’m pleased that you found the post helpful. I wonder how you would have pronounced Schuyler. I was pronouncing it Shyler until Pam told me the right way. Now, I still have to remind myself of the correct pronunciation. It’s hard to change a habit. 🙂 I notice that a contestant in the Carrot Ranch #FFRodeo has Schuyler as a last name. I wonder how he pronounces it.

    Hi Robbie, I’m pleased you enjoyed the post, and look forward to hearing how Michael goes with spelling his name (though I assume he can spell it now) and other words. It is often helpful to have a mnemonic of some kind. I added a recording of Michael to the resource page in case you wanted to hear how I would “sing” it. You can listen to it here.
    Sometimes to read and spell longer words, as I showed in the post and in the resource, it is good to break words into syllables. Each syllable can be read like an individual word. I’m not sure what level Michael is at, but he could possibly use a pen to highlight the second, fourth and sixth (assuming he reads about dinosaurs) syllables. That way it becomes easier to see the syllables as distinct from each other, but still part of the same word.
    What I love about Michael’s name is the use of ‘ch’ to spell the ‘k’ sound, as in Christmas, chorus, chemistry and technology – also in stomach ache, which is not so much fun!
    It would be fun to do a scan of some text to find words with ‘ch’ and list the ones that have Michael’s ‘ch’ sound and ones that have Sir Chocolate’s ‘ch’ sound. 🙂

    This is brilliant! And so sweet of you to use my grandson’s name Schuyler. I admit, I did give you a challenge with using Schuyler in the song Bingo, and you met the challenge and succeeded. (By the way, your singing voice is good – much, much better than mine). My kids (and grandkids) beg me to stop when I start singing. (Of course, that doesn’t stop me at all….) Thanks for the great phonic ways to use children’s names.

    Hi Pamela, I’m so pleased you like it. I really enjoyed thinking about ways I could use Schuyler’s name to teach literacy skills. Using their names makes learning the skills, which are often taught in isolation (which is no fun) much more meaningful and memorable for them. Actually I had another thought this morning (I can’t stop once I get going!) about the ‘uy’ in Schuyler. There’s another lesson or two in there. Of course the ‘uy’ spells the long i sound, as in ‘buy’ and ‘guy’. What a great opportunity for investigating words with the long i sound. I actually wrote a post on NorahColvin blog about spelling the long i sound recently in a post entitled A piece of pie.
    I’ve always loved language and love encouraging children to take an interest in it and see how much fun it can be when we appreciate the foibles as well as the rules.
    About the singing – thanks for your kind words, but my grandchildren are a bit the same as yours. One day my granddaughter asked me if I knew how a certain song goes. I said I did and “sang” a few bars. Her response: “But can you sing it?” LOL You’ve got to love their honesty. I do!

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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