In this post, I’m breaking down long vowel sounds (or long vowel words) to help you teach them when working with struggling readers and spellers.
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What is a long vowel sound?
Long vowel sounds are vowels that are pronounced the same as their name. You’ll often hear teachers say that long vowels “say their name”.
Long vowels are very common but they can be tricky because there are so many spellings for each long vowel sound.
There are actually 4 ways to make long vowel sounds:
- Vowels at the end of a syllable make the long sound. For example, in the words me and halo (ha-lo) the vowels are all at the end of a syllable so they make the long sound.
- Silent e makes the previous vowel long. The words bike and phone have a silent e at the end that makes the previous vowel long.
- Vowel teams can make the long sound. Vowel teams work together to make one sound, and usually, it’s a long vowel sound. For example, boat and meat both have vowel teams that make the long sound.
- I or O can be long when they come before two consonants. In words like cold and mind, i and o make a long vowel sound.
Long Vowel Words
Long vowel sound words are words that have vowels that say their name. Below are a few examples:
- Long a – baby, cake, rain, day, they, weigh
- Long e – me, eve, hear, meet, piece, candy
- Long i – silent, bike, light, my
- Long o – go, home, toe, boat, snow
- Long u – music, mule, pew, feud
Long A Sound
The long a sound can be represented by 8 different spelling patterns:
- a – baby
- a_e – cake
- ai – rain
- ay – play
- ei – reindeer
- eigh – weight
- ea – steak
- ey – they
Long E Sound
The long e sound can be represented by 8 different spelling patterns:
- e – be
- e_e – eve
- ee – meet
- ea – beach
- ei – protein
- ie – piece
- ey – key
- y – candy
Long I Sound
The long i sound can be represented by 6 different spelling patterns:
- i – silent
- i_e – shine
- ie – pie
- igh – light
- y – my
- y_e – type
Long O Sound
The long o sound can be represented by 5 different spelling patterns:
- o – go
- o_e – phone
- oe – toe
- oa – boat
- ow – snow
Long U Sound
The long u has two sounds: yoo and oo.
sound can be represented by 7 different spelling patterns:
- u – music
- u_e – mule
- ue – rescue
- eu – feud
- ew – few
- oo – food
- ou – soup
Tips for teaching the long vowel sounds
Teach one spelling pattern at a time!
I don’t mean one vowel sound, but just one spelling pattern. So for example, if you’re working on long a, you would work on the spelling pattern a silent e (cake, same, cave) until students have mastered it, then move on to ai, and so on. You should not be teaching multiple spelling patterns together, even though they make the same sound.
I know that most programs out there combine all the long vowel sound spelling patterns into one lesson, especially in spelling lists, but this does not work for struggling readers. You need to break it down for them and only do one at a time.
Teach the syllable types.
Because syllables have a lot to do with whether vowels make the short or long sound, if students do not already know the 6 syallable types then teach them along with the long vowel sound.
Here are resources for each syllable type:
- closed syllable
- open syllable
- final silent e syllable
- vowel team syllable
- r combination syllable
- consonant le syllable
Use a variety of activities to practice each spelling pattern.
Games, dictation, word sorts, memory or matching with flashcards, word hunts, textured writing, body spelling, and bingo are all fun ways to practice the long vowel sounds.
The main activity that is often overlooked is dictation. It seems so simple but the task involves listening to a word, deciding on the spelling, and transferring that info to written form. These are all skills that struggling readers need to practice.
Teach the spelling generalizations.
Some of the long vowel spelling patterns are spelling rules that make it easy to remember.
For example, ai is found at the beginning or middle of a syllable, and ay is found at the end of a syllable. [Examples: rain, aim, play, daytime]
Here is another example with long o: oa is found at the beginning or middle of a word, and ow is usually found at the end. [Examples: boat, coach, snow]
Long Vowel Word List
I made these word lists to help teach the long vowels. I find it handy to have these on hand when playing phonics games or planning activities for long vowel lessons.
Grab them for free by joining my list below!
If you’re looking for more tips on teaching reading to struggling learners, check out these other posts:
- Phonemic Awareness Strategies & Activities For Struggling Learners
- The 6 Syllable Types
- Why You Should Switch To A Sound Wall
- Reading Strategies for Struggling Readers – Elkonin Boxes
- Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies – My Secret Tip To Improve Reading Comprehension
- Multisensory Strategies for B & D Reversals – Dyslexia Intervention
- Multisensory Spelling Strategy for Struggling Learners – Dyslexia Spelling Strategy