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A Handy Guide to Long Vowel Sounds

When you teach reading and spelling, it’s a good idea to have a general overview of long vowel sounds. Let’s dive in!

A long vowel is a vowel that is pronounced the same as its name. For example, the word emu starts with the long E sound.

Seems pretty simple, right? But did you know that long vowel sounds can be spelled four different ways and that each way follows a specific spelling pattern?

The overview that follows will help you see the big picture about long vowel sounds as you teach reading and spelling. Read on to discover these useful patterns!

Four Ways to Form Long Vowel Sounds

A vowel at the end of a syllable can be long.
In the word we, as in We love emus, the vowel E is at the end of the syllable and says long E. In these words, the vowel at the end of a syllable is long: hero, hi, music.


Silent E can make the previous vowel long.
In the word cute, as in Emus are cute, the long U sound is formed by adding Silent E at the end of the word. Here are more words in which Silent E makes the previous vowel long: tape, shine, code.


Vowel teams can make long vowel sounds.
Vowel teams are two vowels that work together to make one sound. For example, in the word eat, as in Emus eat seeds, vowel team EA says long E. These words have vowel teams that make a long vowel sound: mail, sheep, soap.


I or O can be long when they come before two consonants.
In the word stroll, as in The emu went for a stroll, the letter O comes before two consonants and says its long vowel sound. In these words, I or O are long before two consonants: kind, gold, child.

So there you go—the four basic patterns for spelling long vowel sounds!

Let’s Dive in a Little Deeper

The chart below illustrates the most common ways to spell the long vowel sounds.

Click to Download a Printable Chart!

Seeing these spellings all gathered in one place is enlightening for those of us who are already proficient readers and spellers. But I would only recommend using the chart for reference, or with an older student who has already mastered most of these phonograms. I would not recommend overwhelming a beginning student by teaching these spellings all at once. Instead, teach these basic patterns to students incrementally, one at a time.

Activities to Teach Long Vowel Sounds

Are you interested in seeing how we teach the four long vowel patterns in All About Reading and All About Spelling? Here is a sampling for you to download and enjoy!

Cute emu holding a preview of Be a Hero

Download “Be a Hero” Activity
(Vowel at the end of a syllable)

Cute emu holding a preview of Find Gold

Download “Find Gold” Activity
(I and O are long before two consonants)

The Bottom Line for Teaching Long Vowel Sounds

When it comes to teaching long vowel sounds, here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Long vowel sounds can be spelled four different ways, each following a specific pattern.
  • Teach these basic patterns to students incrementally, one at a time.
  • Keep it fun! Use a wide variety of interesting activities to help your student learn the four patterns for forming long vowel sounds.

All About Reading and All About Spelling walk you and your student through all the steps needed to help your student learn to read and spell. The programs are multisensory, motivating, and complete with everything you need. And if you ever need a helping hand, we’re here for you.

What’s your take on teaching the long vowel sounds? Do you have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

long vowel sounds pinterest graphic
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Michele Papierniak

says:

We love AAR and AAS. My daughter has dyslexia and the reading program has really helped her progress.

CabotMama

says:

We have been an AAS family for many years. My fourth grader is in Level 4 and struggles with applying the various ways to spell long vowel sounds. She wishes it was always done with a Silent E on the end!
Last night, we were reading “Noah Webster’s Fighting Words” (fun picture book we highly recommend – even my 12 year old loved it!). When we reached the part where Noah is using many different dictionaries from various languages to trace the history of each word, my fourth grader exclaimed, “no wonder our spelling is so mixed up!! Why didn’t we just choose one language and stick with it?!” When we read about vowel teams, she said, “ugh! He should’ve just made them all with an e on the end!!” And she was so disappointed to learn that he championed changing the spelling of “is” to “iz” yet lost. She completely agrees with him about that one!
I think she is almost ready for the chart included in this post. How do I help her with the difficulty of remembering when to apply an option? “Ea” or “ee” or “ie”. Review, review, review?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

CabotMama,
Review is a big part of the answer, but not only with the word cards but with word banks as well. Your daughter needs to build up her visual memory of these spelling patterns to the point that it rarely is a problem. She needs to do this before moving forward as well, as more ways to spell long e are coming. There is a total of nine ways to spell the sound. They are: e, e-consonant-e, ee, ea, i, y, ie, ey, and ei.

Although, if she is still in level 4 she has not been taught ie yet and when to use it. It is a tricky phonogram, and is covered extensively in level 5. Do not hold her accountable for any word that uses ie yet. If it comes up in something else, just give her the spelling and move on. Let her know she doesn’t have to worry about that word because she hasn’t been explicitly taught that phonogram yet.

Only hold her accountable for the ea and ee words at this point, and revisit the level 2 and level 3 word banks to help her develop a better visual memory for the ee and ea words. Have her slowly read through a word bank each day, focusing on the spelling pattern in the word bank and reading each word distinctly. Also, use the word banks to make up a dictation sentence or two each day using the ee and ea patterns. If she confuses these phonograms in words more than once in a while, then only work with the ee phonogram and the ee word bank for at least a week or two. You want to have her really master that pattern before starting to work with ea.

I hope this helps, but please keep us informed in how it goes. We want to help you help your daughter to master long e. And if she agrees with Noah Webster she would love George Bernard Shaw’s alphabet. He proposed an entirely new alphabet with one sound equals one letter, with no exceptions and no multiple sounds per letter or multiple letters per sound. (Note, Shaw’s alphabet reform ideas were interesting and compelling, but many of his other ideas and politics are not. If you talk to her about Shaw, distil the information yourself. I wouldn’t want to turn a 4th-grader loose to learn about eugenics or some of his other ideas.)

Jayce Layman

says:

This is an excellent resource!

Adra Bouren

says:

Would loved to have had this with my older two children and look forward to starting level one with my younger two!

Allison

says:

The multisensory approach that AAR uses is great for my PreK student just beginning his reading adventure! He really enjoys learning pre-reading skills through direct instruction and activities. As a former teacher, I find that the manual includes activities that I would have considered good practice and used in my own classroom for reading instruction. We are excited to use AAR Level 1 next year!

E

says:

My children really enjoy all of the hands on activities!

Lisa

says:

Thanks for the long vowel ideas! My Kinders are ready for this!

Kirsti Smith

says:

The All About Spelling and All About Reading curricula (books and materials) have been part of our homeschool and part of our family’s culture for over ten years. Our oldest child took a year off but has requested on her own volition to begin the last book in the AAS series in August. That was a pleasant surprise! Our youngest is presently working through AAR Level 1. We appreciate the incremental, set your own pace, mastery based, light hearted approach to a process that could otherwise be rather daunting and confusing. Step by step our youngsters have made outstanding (in our opinion) progress in spelling and reading.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kirsti,
Thank you for sharing how All About Spelling and All About Reading has helped in your homeschool!

Denise

says:

Great tips and resources on your site!

Amberly May

says:

AAR & AAS are such a wonderful curriculum!

Rebekah M

says:

Thank you for this article and resources. Sometimes my children can get confused about long vs short vowel sounds in words. This has opened my eyes to help them.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Rebekah. I hope you find this helpful in teaching your children. However, if they have further questions, just ask.

Teresa

says:

Am I the only person to mispronounce “hero”? I say it like “here o” not “he ro”

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Teresa,
No, you aren’t the only person to do that. I do too.

However, if we divide the word her-o, then the first syllable would say /h/-/er/ and that isn’t what we are saying. We are saying a long e sound and the only way for the e to be long in this word is for it to be at the end of an open syllable. This shifting of where the consonant goes when we pronounce the word happens fairly often in speech. I like to describe as our mouths are lazy and just say things the easiest way.

Tina

says:

My children love all the fun games!

April Rollins

says:

My daughter went from sounding out every word to now having the confidence to read more efficiently and without so much effort. Thanks AAR!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

April,
This is wonderful!

Chelly

says:

Sar has been a blessing to our family. My significantly delayed learner is mastering reading thanks to this program.

Chelly

says:

That should have been a at. My.son loves the program and it is working!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Chelly,
Thank you for letting us know that your student is mastering reading with All About Reading!

Bonnie

says:

My girls are doing great with AAR! Thank you:)

shannon

says:

Excellent!

Bridget

says:

We are hoping to win the AAR level 2 so we can learn the long vowel sounds!

Laurie

says:

Very helpful information – will be printing off the chart for sure. Thank you!

Ashli Butler

says:

This is GREAT! I can’t wait to get started this started with my littles! Phonics is where it’s at ; )

Stephanie

says:

This is great information.

Jennifer

says:

The colorful chart will be handy to use. Thank you!

Rachel W.

says:

Your posts always have good ideas. Thank you.

Kim

says:

I’m looking forward to using AAR with my son!

Alison De Sota

says:

Great Resources! We are just on PreReading Level right now but all of these sneak peaks and resources get m quite excited for the othe levels. There is so much to delight in in AAR!

Bee-Bee Liew

says:

This is very helpful, and I will definitely use it to teach my child.

Theresa

says:

Thank you for your hard work.

Alison DeJong

says:

We just started with AAR and I am shocked in the short time the progress. My son would learn things but they would never stick long term. I am so impressed with the quality and ease of use in this program. And the results so far are amazing!

Alison De Sota

says:

Wow our names are similar! That’s wild :-) I wonder what else we have in common ;-)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Alison,
Thank you for letting us know how well your son is doing so far!

Aly Anderson

says:

That emu is too cute!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Aly!

FELICIA ALEXANDRA WIDERLEWIS

says:

I like this information. It is very useful for my students.

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