Long vowel sounds can be confusing for young readers and writers, because of the multiple ways of spelling them. But practicing long vowel sounds doesn’t have to lead to long faces.
Start with the basics. Introduce the vowels one at a time. Once students are familiar with the vowels, you can introduce various spellings. Try this simple 6-step process.
- Say three words with a long vowel sound. (I’ll use A as an example.) Lake, pail, hay
- Ask: What vowel sound do you hear? Students should recognize the long vowel sound you are working with.
- Write each of the words you said on the board—lake, pail, hay.
- Underline the long A digraph—lake, pail, hay.
- Explain that there are different ways to spell the long A sound.
- Ask if students can think of other words with the long A sound. Write them on the board, grouping them with the correct spelling pattern.
Once you go over the basics, there are a lot of activities and games to keep practice fun!
13 ways to practice long vowel sounds
Use these phonics activities and games focused on long vowel sounds for small group work, a literacy station, independent work, or homework to consolidate skills.
1. Match up
Give students pages with images that show words with long vowel sounds and the words themselves. Have students draw a line to match the word and image that go together.
2. Sort the words
Give students a set of word cards, or give them a sheet with all the words and have them cut out the words. Then have them sort the words based on how the long vowel sound is spelled. They can do this by putting cards with the same long vowel spelling together.
Another way to sort words, which gives students more practice writing the words is to have them sort into a grid. Create a grid with the different spellings at the top. For example for long E you would write:
e ea ee ey y
You can print these on a worksheet or set up individual white boards. Give students a list of words and have them write the words in the correct section.
3. Draw the words
Divide a paper into 4–8 boxes. Print one word from your long vowel word list in each box, leaving plenty of room for a drawing. Then ask students to draw a picture to represent each word. If any pictures seem way off the mark, ask students to tell you about the picture to make sure they understand the word.
4. Draw and match
Read each word aloud and give students time to draw the words. Then give them a sheet with all the words listed. Have them cut each word and glue it next to the correct picture.
5. Choose the correct spelling
Write two or more spellings for words with a long vowel sound on the board. For example, write:
rane rain rayn
Ask a student to circle the correct spelling. Repeat with another set of words. As you find correct spellings, you can also sort them according to how the long vowel sound is spelled.
6. Complete the word
Say one of your long vowel words. If you’re working on long O, try this list: old, gold, domino, broken, boat, goat, coat, soap, loaf, snow, bow, arrow, pillows, bone, rose, globe, hose, home, toes, Joe.
Write the word without the long O digraph. Have students complete the word. They can do this on the board, paper, or individual whiteboards. I like using individual whiteboards, because it is easy to scan to see if students are struggling.
7. Word hunt
Create a word search using the long vowel words you have reviewed. Online word search creators make it easy—just enter the words you want to use and the tool will generate a word search for you.
8. Read and write
Make a worksheet of a short list of long vowel words you want your students to practice. Have students read the words, underlining each sound as they say it. Then have them say each sound as they write it. Finally, have them write and say the full word.
9. Finish the sentences
Write several sentences, each with a blank for the missing word. Students should complete each sentence with one of the words from your long vowel word list.
10. Fluency board
Create a fluency board using long vowel words. Time your students for 30 seconds and see how many words they can read in that time. If they finish reading the board, then they read it again until the time is up. Get them to record how many words they read in the time.
11. Sound bingo
This is a great alternative to spelling tests! Create a bingo board with alternate spellings of the long vowel sound you are working on. Then as you read your long vowel words, students write them in the correct box. Once they get a full row, column, or diagonal they get a Bingo!
12. Round and round word sort
This game is for a small group. One student chooses a long vowel word from your list and writes it on their whiteboard or paper. The next student chooses another word that has the same spelling pattern for the long vowel. So if the first student said bike, the second student could say line. Each student should say and write the word. When students have no more words for a particular pattern, the next student starts with a new word with a different spelling of the long vowel.
13. Unjumble the words
This is a good activity when students are familiar with your words. Scramble the words and have students write the word correctly. Unjumble the words worksheets are great for independent work, phonics or literacy stations, or homework. For a whole class activity, try writing a jumbled word on the board and having students unjumble it onto their own whiteboard.
Many of these activities can be done on the board as a whole class activity or with individual whiteboards. You can create bingo boards or worksheets with jumbled words or fill in the blank sentences. But there’s an easier way. I’ve put together activity packs for all the long vowel sounds: long A, long E, long I, long O, and long U. Each pack comes with posters and word wall cards, plus 10 activities and 3 games—all ready to print, copy, and laminate as needed.
If you’re after more phonics activities, The Complete Phonics Kit has you covered. You get:
- All the long vowel sounds kits
- 8 CVC word activity and game sets
- 2 sets of consonant blend cootie catchers
- 10 digraph activity sets
- 2 sets of one sound many spelling cootie catchers
- 3 sets of one sound many spelling phonics games
- Writing prompts
In all, you get more than 1100 pages of activities and games to support you in teaching phonics!
The Complete Phonics kit is ready for download—get yours here now!