Why? - Tip Sheet

Cover page for the book titled "Why?" showing a small baby skunk on a grassy background


Why? - Teacher Tip Sheet

Blue Series - Book 6 - Why?

Grapheme/Phoneme Correspondence

Tips and Activities to Try

Introduced in This Book

  • vowel digraph <ai>/ā/

Previously Introduced


  • all short vowel, <u>/o͝͝o/
  • <o>/ō/, <e>/ē/, <y>/ī/, <ee>/ē/, <ay>/ā/


  • all single consonants and clusters
  • <ng>/ng/, <nk>/nk/
  • <s> /s/ and /z/, <c>/s/


  • <th>/TH/ voiced, <th>/th/ unvoiced, <ck>/k/, <ff>/f/, <zz>/z/, <ss>/s/, <ll>/l/, <sh>/sh/, <ch>/ch/, <qu>/kw/, <-tch>/ch/, <-dge>/j/, <wh>/wh/

Additional Concepts

  • <al> (<a> as short /ŏ/ before <l>)
  • <wa> (<a> as short /ŏ/ after <w>)

Key Concepts to Understand

  • <ai> is pronounced as /ā/ and can be found in initial and medial positions
  • there are many ways to spell /ā/ (e.g., <ay>, <a>, <ai>, <ea>, <a_e>, etc.)
  • <ai> is a digraph, and students should understand <ai> as one unit (therefore one tap when spelling, said quickly together, one Elkonin box, etc.)

Words and Phrases for Reading and Writing

Here is a list of words that can be used for phonemic awareness activities, reading, dictation, games cards, etc.:

  • rain, aid, aim, gain, main, paid, pain, wait, braid, chain, claim, drain, faith, brain, paint, plain, stain, train
  • Note: students may perceive an extra syllable when reading <ai> bases that end in <l> or <r>; reading these words is easier than spelling them until the pronunciation changes that can occur with these “liquids” is explicitly taught
  • liquids are consonant speech sounds where the tongue creates a partial closure - the air flows either to the side of the mouth (/l/) or still forward and over the tongue (/r/) - this creates a vowel-like sound
  • liquids tend to be among the later-developing speech sounds in children - can be difficult to pronounce and spell
  • List of words for reading only: chair, snail, tail, fail, pail, fair, hair, pair, trail

The Homophone Principle → Where two or more words have different meanings, but identical pronunciations, there will usually be different spellings to reflect the different meanings when possible.

  • Studying homophones is an excellent way to demonstrate that meaning is the primary focus of spelling. As students may not have practiced reading/writing words with “marker <e>” you can ask them orally if they know another kind of pail, fair, hair, tail, etc. You can show them how these words are spelled differently.

Here is a word chain you could complete with blending cards:

  • brain → drain → rain → main → mail → fail → pail → pain → paint → faint → quaint

Here are phrases that can be used for reading and/or dictation practice. These phrases can be combined to create sentences. *Note: there are some “liquids” in the following phrases.

Noun Phrase

Verb Phrase

Prepositional Phrase

the train

painted the stain

on the gray deck

a pair of snails

fell by the rail

off the main path

the quail

waited on the runway

next to the chain

a big rain

drained the bathtub

by the train track


You can differentiate for your students by dropping some of the words in these phases (e.g., “painted the stain” can just be “painted”).

Orthographic Conventions/Patterns and Generalisations

Tips and Activities to Try

  • complete English words do not end in <v>, so a “marker <e>” is added

Key Concepts to Understand

  • “marker <e>” has many uses
  • one use is to ensure that <v>s do not end complete English words → this explains the spelling of have and give


Tips and Activities to Try

Previously Introduced

  • suffix <-s> third person singular, plural, and possessive
  • suffix <-ing> as present participle
  • suffix <-ed> as past tense of a verb
  • compound words

Key Concepts to Understand

  • Note: It is important to ask students to cover the suffix with their finger in order to focus on the base when consonant clusters are in final position and have an attached suffix. When reading drifting, ask students to cover the <-ing> and read drift, ask them to release their finger and reread the entire word with the <-ing>, drifting.

High Frequency Words

Tips and Activities to Try

  • ”do”

Key Concepts to Understand

  • do is best taught with to and who

Comprehension Corner - Why?

Vocabulary Development

  • Which living things were discussed in this book?
  • What does it mean to flex? Can you think of another word for flex? 

Making Connections

  • Did you learn anything new about living things in this book?
  • What new information did you learn?


  • Why do you think humans don’t have tails?
  • Why do you think humans have toes?


  • What is your favourite page in this book? Why?


Tip Sheet written by Shari Kudsia and Helen Maclean - April 2023 - ©SyllaSense Inc.