The Schwa Sound

Apparently I am NOT smarter than a third grader!  Today I stumbled upon something that not only had I not heard of it before, but I thought it must have been a typo by the program creator.  Jayden has been doing a grade 2 spelling program, but the words are too easy.  I did not want to switch to the grade 3 program because it is written in cursive and I have not started cursive with him.  Today he insisted he wanted to try.  I told him if he could read the cursive then he could do the grade 3 spelling.

So I went into the program and printed out the Unit 16 grade 3 spelling for him.  After reading and printing all 15 words he went on to try the online games.  The first activity is always Word Sort.  This games takes all the words and has you separate them into 2 or 3 categories like “begins with short a”, or ” ends in i consonant e”.  Well this one asked us to sort them into words that started with the “Schwa sound”, words that had the “Schwa sound” in the middle and words that have the “Schwa sound” at the end.  Ok, so I am stumped!  What is “The Schwa Sound”?
A schwa sound is when a vowel is pronounced “uh” or “er” instead of with its short or
long sound. For example:
seldom . . . we say “seldum” not “seldOm”
doctor . . . we say “docter” not “doctOr”
In each of the following words, an unstressed vowel makes a schwa sound (“uh” or “er”).
In dictionary pronunciation guides, the schwa sound is represented by this symbol: Ə.
Write each of the words below and replace the Ə symbol with the vowel that makes the
schwa sound in that word.
d i r e c t Ə r     v i s Ə r                  Ə g a i n
Ə g r e e             Ə l a r m                 c h i n Ə
s e n s Ə r          Ə c c a s i o n        a n t e n n Ə
So there you have it!!  I have learned something new from teaching my children at home.  I have never heard of this “Schwa Sound” but it does exist.  A friend of mine who is a substitute teacher said she did not know what it was until she recently subbed in a class that had this as an extra credit question on their test.  Clearly it was not something that I was taught, or that my mother had heard of, and she is the resident English guru!  Now I would like you all to go out and spread the word about this wonderful new knowledge you all have! 🙂