Account
Contact
Search Blog 
658

When Two Vowels Go Walking

Catchy rhymes can be a fun and easy way to remember some of those pesky phonics rules. Have you heard of this one?

When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.

It’s a cute rhyme that’s easily remembered, and most teachers simply take it for granted that it is true, especially if their phonics program includes the rule as fact. And for the sake of convenience, it would be wonderful if this rule were true—teaching reading and spelling would be much simpler. But this “rule” is actually false 60% of the time.


When Two Vowels Go Walking . . . Not!

Red 'myth' stamp

To test the rule, I took the 1,000 most common words and analyzed them by applying the rule to each one. I discovered that, contrary to the rule’s claim, only 43% of the words actually followed the rule, and a stunning 57% of the words did not! When I analyzed the top 2,000 words, the percentage shifted even further—only 36% of the words followed the rule, and 64% did not. So much for this oft-repeated phrase!

This is not to say that the rule is entirely invalid. There are many cases in which two vowels “go walking,” including ai, au, ea, ee, ei, ie, oa, eo, oi, oo, ou, and ui. And when a pair of vowels appears in a word, it is often the first vowel that “does that talking,” as represented in words like green, sea, hair, coat, clean, rain, and peach.

However—and this is the important part—these same vowel teams also exist in many words that don’t follow the “when two vowels go walking” rule, including good, about, earth, bear, noise, author, and friend.

Instead of relying on the incorrect guidance of this (fake) rule, teach your students the sounds of the letter combinations (called phonograms). Your student will learn important and fundamental concepts, such as ai says /ā/, au says /aw/, oa says /ō/, and oi says /oy/. This knowledge will give your students some real tools to work with—and there will be nothing to unlearn later!

Vowels A and I walking on a bridge

Were you ever taught that “when two vowels go walking, the first does the talking?”


Free Spelling Rules Posters

Share This:

< Previous Post  Next Post >

Leave a Reply

Noella Tesheca Robinson

says:

Please send me more tips on Spelling, Phonics and Grammar notes this would help with 5th Grader.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Noella,
Please sign up for our email newsletter for weekly tips on reading and spelling.

Also, you will find lots and lots of information on reading here and lots of articles and tips for spelling here. Note, All About Learning Press does not cover grammar except as it relates to reading and spelling.

If you have specific concerns or questions, I would be happy to help.

clara

says:

Thank you ma’am

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Clara.

Poorvi

says:

Nice information

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Poorvi!

Mary Oelschlager

says:

Thank you! Thank you for taking the time to research this. I’ve been tripping over this rule for years when teaching young students because there are so many exceptions!
I absolutely agree, teaching phonogram “chunks” is the way to go.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Mary. I’m glad this will be helpful for you and your students!

Amanda

says:

Very helpful! Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Amanda! Glad it was helpful!

Frolline

says:

Thank you . I seen this song on a cartoon and it confused me when I seen two vowels walking and they pronounced it wrong. So I decided to check out the song only to see that I was correct.thank you this information was very helpful.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful for you, Frolline! You’re welcome.

Anne Rogers

says:

I just learned this in a workshop I took through ReallyGreatReading. I was taught this…but wow! the percentages make perfect sense when I think of how often I hear or say…”What about this word?” (Just another rule breaker!!) Too many rule breakers….I haven’t often recited this jingle to my students because of the constant explanation, but it’s 100% dumped now!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful for you, Anne!

Barbara

says:

Interesting info!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Barbara.

Lisa

says:

I have volunteered to be a reading tutor for an adult. Having great tips on reading and spelling would be so appreciated and useful, I think.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lisa,
If you have specific questions or need anything, we’re happy to help! Just ask.

Brett Hickman

says:

when playing the letter combos from the graph, the speaker will say o, two letters o, what does he mean by saying two letters?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great question, Brett.

The phonogram OA and the phonogram OE both have just one sound, the long O /ō/ sound. Our programs teach children to say OA says “/ō/ – two letter /ō/ that we may not use at the end of English words” and OE says “/ō/ – two letter /ō/ that we may use at the end of English words”. This distinguishes between the two phonograms that have the same sound.

In short, the “two letter /ō/” part is not part of the sounds, but part of how the phonogram is written.

Jesse Rebekah Robinson

says:

Thank you for sharing.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jesse.

Sarah C

says:

So good! I have 4 kids, 3 went to public school for kindergarten/1st grade. Only 1 of them was taught phonograms in school. He has such a better sense of words than my older two, it’s crazy words he can figure out. When we decided to homeschool my youngest was starting kindergarten and I knew I had to find the same approach. Now we’re finishing up AAR3 and I can’t believe how simple and fun and successful it’s been!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing your observations on what a difference phonogram knowledge can make to children, Sarah! I’m pleased to hear your youngest is doing so well with All About Reading!

Anita

says:

Thank you this is Nice

Raquel Cook

says:

I have a kindergarten boy who has a short attention span but he loves technology! Sometimes he likes the cute rhyming songs and sometimes he’s “too big” for those. Any suggestions?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Raquel,
We don’t really have rhymes for reading and spelling rules, but we do have some cute posters! Check them out and see if your boy will like them. Spelling Rules Posters.

Robian Rose

says:

This is so good. Another reason to leave public school

Susan

says:

Very helpful!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Susan!

Dawn

says:

Great tips!

Laura

says:

This!!! So true! No wonder we still get confused on spelling certain words and have to think of special songs or rhymes we came up with to remember the correct spelling of particular words.

Nikki

says:

Or I before e, except after c. Quite a few words that one doesn’t apply to, either (weight for example).

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nikki,
Yes, this rule as it is usually taught is not reliable. However, All About Spelling limits the rule to only the sound of long E. “When the sound is /ē/, it is I before E except after C.” When you exclude all other sounds (long A, short E, etc.), the rule is very reliable with only 10 common exceptions (and either is one of them). AAS teaches these exceptions in two silly sentences that make them easy to remember.

Laura

says:

This is a good thread.
The full rhyme is
“I before e, except after c
or when sounded as a
as in neighbor
or
weigh.”

My student love to show off that they can spell ceiling, and neighbor and weigh.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Laura.

However, All About Spelling teaches this rule differently to minimize the number of exceptions. In All About Spelling, the rule applies only to the sound of long E and the phonograms EI and IE, so AAS teaches the rule as, “When the sound is /ē/, it is I before E except after C.”

Words like neighbor and weigh use the phonogram EIGH, which only says the long A /ā/ sound. There is no phonogram IEGH, so there is no confusion with the EIGH phonogram.

Melanie Nygaard

says:

I have heard both “either” and “neither” pronounced by some with a long i sound, so that’s how I’m teaching my kids to “pronounce for spelling.” Then they aren’t exceptions.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Interesting idea, Melanie! Thank you for sharing it.

Pamela

says:

Thank you!

Holli W.

says:

Oh yes, I remember learning this rhyme as a student! This makes so much more sense! Thank you for your helpful teaching tips!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Holli! I’m glad this makes more sense to you.

YANET

says:

I had noticed that already. Thanks for clarifying it! Great advise!

Lehrer

says:

“Advice” is correct here. “Advise” is pronounced “advize” and is a verb.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Yanet.

Jana Waiser

says:

Personal names with certain nationalities may pronounce differently. Our name is from German decent, Waiser, but we pronounce the second vowel, “i” as with my maiden name. I had the “ie” after the first consonant and we pronounced the “e”. I’ve been told it’s a German thing.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Interesting, Jana. Yes, we have to remember that words from other languages will follow other rules. (I have been told that it is a fairly reliable rule in German that when there are two vowels together the first is silent and the second is long.)

But names! Name can break every rule and pattern. Not only do people happily come up with new and unique spellings for the names of their children, but traditional spellings are often odd as well. Why does Thomas have an H? Shouldn’t Robin have a double B to protect that short O? Why does Anne have a silent e (some of the time)? Sigh.

Faith Whitley

says:

I have used this rhyme many times. I was surprised how often it is wrong, and I am glad I read this post. Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Faith.

Sylvia

says:

Yes, and I’ve been guilty of teaching it along with experiencing frustration when it isn’t helpful. I’m so glad to know this alternative now. Thank you!! 🤯

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this alternative will be helpful, Sylvia! You’re welcome.

Sara Matthews

says:

Good resource!

Amanda B

says:

Thanks for the great tips!

Mabel

says:

Thanks a lot for this

Jennifer

says:

Love the phonogram tip. I can’t wait to see more blogposts like this one!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad you like it, Jennifer. If you aren’t already, you may consider signing up for our weekly email newsletter so you never miss a blog post!

Sarah Layne

says:

Wonderful explanation. Thank you for the resource!

Kristina A.

says:

This is so true! Just when you think your emerging reader has their long vowel words down…the English language throw a curveball!