How To Teach The Long I Sound

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The long i sound can be tricky to teach since it has several different ways to spell it. But with a handy word list, plan of action, and some fun activities you’ll have a much easier time teaching long i words and your students will thank you.

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long i word list

Six Ways To Spell Long I

The long i sound can be represented by 6 different spelling patterns:

  1. i – silent
  2. i_e – kite
  3. igh – night
  4. y – my
  5. y_e – type
  6. ie – pie
4 ways to make long vowel sounds

Spelling Generalizations For Long I

Just I

In open syllables, the long i sound is represented by just the letter i by itself. Most of these will be 2 or more syllable words, such as silent and idea. Students must understand open and closed syllables to be able to apply this.

I alone can also make the long i sound when it comes before two consonants, as in the words pint and kind.

I_E

The i silent e spelling pattern is very common and one of the first students learn. Of course, students should be confident with the magic e syllable. These words are most often one syllable, and the long i sound will be in the middle of a base word or syllable. Some examples of long i words with silent e are mine and hike.

IGH

The igh spelling pattern is another common representation of the long i sound. This spelling pattern appears in the middle of a base word or syllable. Some examples are sight and tonight.

Y

When the long i sound is at the end of a base word, the most common way to spell it is with a y. Examples include: cry and why.

IE Vowel Team and Y_E

Both ie and y_e are less common ways to spell the long i sound. Examples include pie and type.

long i spelling generalizations

Tips For Teaching The Long I Sound

When you start teaching the long vowel sounds, you really have to focus on spelling generalizations, homophones, and homographs. Teach one spelling pattern at a time, and once one is mastered you can add in another. It’s much easier to learn how to read these than to learn how to spell. Since they all sound the same and can appear in the same place, choosing the right spelling pattern can be tricky.

One rule you can teach is that English words do not end in i. So students should know words that end with a long i sound won’t be spelled with just i. There are a few exceptions, most of which are foreign words (chai, macaroni, kiwi) but the one most students will notice is hi, and hi is slang for hello. But you won’t be using foreign words in your instruction so this rule can help students.

Teach the process for deciding on the spelling pattern.

This is what you’ll do for all long vowels, though for long o it is more specific.

Once students are familiar with all the options for spelling long i and they know open syllables and the silent e syllable, you can teach them the process for determining the spelling pattern a word has.

When students come across a word with long i and they need to figure out which spelling pattern to choose, here are the questions they can ask:

  1. Is there more than one syllable?
  2. Is there a base word?
  3. Where is the long i sound in the word?
  4. Could this be one of the less common ie or y_e words?

Students should first break the word into its syllables, and go through the questions.

This will take some practice so try going through a set of words with your students a few times, then have them do some more on their own. This is the same process they will use with other long vowel sounds so it’s a great skill for them to have.

Also, because there are multiple options expect students to get them wrong sometimes, and tell them this! It’s ok if they make mistakes as long as it’s another valid spelling option and not something that doesn’t follow any rules. Through repeated exposure and practice they will eventually internalize the correct spelling pattern for words.

Long I Activities & Lesson Ideas

Phoneme Grapheme Mapping – This is a great activity that really isolates the phonograms for students to practice. You can get the Phonics & Spelling Through Grapheme Mapping book and follow the long i lesson, or use my word list to do the same activity using sound boxes. See below for an example.

phoneme grapheme mapping with sound boxes

Sorting – Sorting is always a good idea when you have multiple options for spelling. You can play matching games like memory, just sort them into piles/columns, or create any game that requires sorting by spelling pattern. This builds phonemic awareness so it’s always a good activity for all students.

SOS – If you don’t already know what Simultaneous Oral Spelling is, then check out this post here. I love this multisensory spelling method for practicing spelling. And you can do this whole class or one on one making it really easy to use in any setting.

Picture cue cards – Create visual graphics of tricky words, homophones, and homographs. These picture cues really help students remember which pattern to use. I suggest you make these using index cards and keep them in a baggie or box for reference. See an example below (it’s for a long o sound but you get the idea).

picture cue cards for homophones

Games – Of course, I always include games because it’s just so easy to add a stack of flashcards to any game and make it educational! Use an easy to play board game where students need to pick up a card on their turn and add a task like reading the word aloud and sorting it, or asking another player to spell it, or even something as simple as having them air write the word after reading it aloud. Or print off a teacher-made game from Teacher Pay Teachers.

Dictation – This is another fantastic activity but I would do this after you have spent some time on long i because it is harder for students. Also when dictating words, give students a clue about the spelling such as telling them it’s a vowel team or open syllable.

Constant Review – Remember to keep these spelling patterns in constant review after they are learned, so they are not forgotten. Using a sound wall is a great way to do this without it taking any extra time.

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If you’re looking for more tips on teaching reading to struggling learners, check out these other posts:

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how to teach long i sound plus free word list pin image

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