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Flip the Sound

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Flip the Sound

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Flipping the sound is a clever strategy created by Joan Moser and Gail Boushey in their CAFE system. Please refer to their book The CAFE Book and the Ready Reference Guide for a detailed description.


Flipping the sound is a strategy to help students navigate the many varied sound patterns found in the English language. The heart of the strategy is to flip or try out different sounds until the word make sense. 

Good readers stop when they read a word that doesn’t make sense. They think, “Can I trade or flip to a new sound or letter that will help the word make sense?


To introduce this strategy, we start by showing a pancake flipper or spatula. We ask the children if they know how to use this tool. Model the action of flipping if students need a clue. Ask the children to try it using their hands. Explain that flipping sounds can be a handy tool in reading.


Because this strategy works so well with long and short vowels, it’s a good place to begin. Read a sentence off a sentence strip such as, “I want chocolate cake for dessert.” Only pronounce the short /a/ in cake instead of the long /a/. Ask the children if that makes sense. Then say, “I think I’ll try flipping the sound.” Repeat using the hand motion while rereading with the correct sound. Ask students if that makes sense this time. Have children join in with the motion and continue with other sentences for additional practice. 

      ......I like to play hide and seek. (Say short /i/ in hide)

      ......Let’s go to the park. (Say short /o/ in go)

      ......What game do you want to play? (Say short /a/ in game)      

      ......The chick said cheep. (Say short /e/ two times in cheep)

Be sure to continue to reinforce that reading must make sense while discussing each sentence.


Once children become familiar with “Flip the Sound,” silently use the flip signal as a respectful suggestion to try something different when conferring with students. The flip signal is a bit of clue but still requires the child to do the thinking and fixing.

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One very common mistake of early readers is reversing b and d letters. Reversing the letter means the corresponding sound is also reversed. Meaning breaks down as the child reads words using the wrong letter and its sound. In this instance, we flip the letter instead of the sound.


As students begin to read more sophisticated text they will regularly encounter many letter patterns that combine two letter sounds into one new sound. Beginning readers become confused as they try to say the sound of each letter separately. It can be helpful to demonstrate

2 for 1,” circle both letters and flip to 1 new sound.

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