Teaching Vowel Sounds

In a phonics lesson, vowels are introduced as letters that are not consonants. The definition is then followed by a review of “A, E, I, O, U”. The lesson may get more complicated once a student asks why the letter “y” sounds like an “e” in a word like “funny”, and then changes to or makes the sound of an “i” in a word like “by”! In the English language, vowels are a bit more complex than the “A, E, I, O,U and sometimes Y” rule. Teaching vowel sounds at young ages helps to build a strong foundation for spelling, reading, and vocabulary skills.

Vowels are sounds produced without closing any part of the mouth or throat. They are the principal sound in syllables. In English, there are five letters that represent vowels, which sounds like a simple rule. However, there are actually 12 pure vowel phonemes, or units of sound. When factoring in diphthongs, there are a total of 20 vowel sounds to master. Our long and short vowel practice lists include a variety of words that use several pure and diphthong formed vowel phonemes.


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Reaching Vowel Sounds

Words With Short Vowel Sounds

What are short vowel words?

Short vowel sounds do not sound like their corresponding letter names. The short vowel sound generally occurs when there is one vowel in a word, either at the beginning of the word or in between two consonants. When teaching vowel sounds, try using examples such as “if” and “elk” or “fit” and “flat”.

A typical short vowel pattern is called the consonant vowel consonant pattern, or CVC. Words like “pin” or “bug” are short vowel words. CVC words are usually introduced in primary grades, starting as early as kindergarten or first grade. These words are typically taught as word families, which are groups of words with a common feature or pattern. For example, short vowel “a” is found in the “-at” CVC word pattern, like “cat”, “bat”, and “hat”. Word families help young readers identify predictable patterns within words.

VocabularySpellingCity has created CVC short vowel word lists to supplement phonics instruction. Short vowel practice lists can be paired with interactive phonics and spelling games for student use during literacy centers. Students can practice CVC word family patterns with Word Unscramble. In this game, students hear a word read aloud and spoken in a sentence, and must then rearrange the letters accordingly.

Words With Long Vowel Sounds

What are long vowel words?

Long vowels are pronounced the same as their letter name. The concept is often explained to students as “the long vowels say their name”. Long vowel sounds are typically produced when a single vowel is found at the end of a word or syllable, such as “go”.

Another rule to mention when teaching long vowel words is simply stated in the rhyme, “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.” If there are two vowels in a word or syllable, the first vowel is usually long and the second vowel is silent, like in “boat” or “rain”. When this occurs, the set of vowels is referred to as a vowel digraph. It is important to note that there are exceptions to the rule, like “said” and “shoe”.

Silent “e”, sometimes referred to as magic “e”, is an additional long vowel word rule taught in the primary grades. Students learn that adding a silent “e” to a CVC word can change the word’s meaning and vowel sound. Adding silent “e” to the word “can” turns it into “cane” and “kit” turns into “kite”. Short vowel sounds transform into long vowel sounds.

VocabularySpellingCity offers long vowel practice lists to accompany long vowel lessons. Pair long a, e, i, o, or u vowel word lists with engaging learning games and activities, perfectly suited for independent student practice during literacy centers. With FlashCards, students have the opportunity to hear long vowel sounds as each word is spelled and read aloud.