Logo Homeschool World ® Official Web Site of Practical Homeschooling Magazine Practical Homeschooling Magazine
Practical Homeschooling® :

Teaching Long Vowels

By Sam Blumenfeld
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #46, 2002.

Teaching your little one to read the traditional intensive phonics way - learning the long vowels.

   Pin It

Sam Blumenfeld

One of the reasons why children have so many spelling problems is because of their shaky knowledge of how to spell many of our long-vowel words. The big problem with long vowels is that there is more than one way to spell the same sound. For example, long a can be spelled simply a as in apron, agent or April; or a-consonant-e, as in ate, page, or fame; or ai as in rain, waif, or maid; or ay as in day, gray, or play; or ei as in vein or rein; or eigh, as in eight or weight. Notice that in ei and eigh, there is not an a in sight.

And that is why in my own phonics program I deliberately left the learning of the long vowel spelling forms to the last part of the instruction. I believe the child should first be taught the short vowels and consonants, the consonant blends, and finally the long vowels. Because the learner has become competent with the short vowels, consonants, and consonant blends, he or she can now concentrate on mastering the long-vowel spelling forms.

There is more to phonics than merely learning to spell words phonetically. That's the way words were spelled before the advent of dictionaries. If you read documents written during the Elizabethan era, you will see the variety of spellings that the writers used. Words back then were written in a variety of phonetic spellings. The dictionary established correct or final acceptable spellings.

That is why spelling bees can be so difficult. They insist on correct spellings, not merely phonetic spellings.

Parents often ask me how to help their children improve their spelling. I tell them to have the child copy correctly spelled text, an article or essay on a subject of interest to the child. Good texts can be found in publications like the Reader's Digest or in encyclopedias. Constant copying of correct spelling produces good spellers.

Long e, like long a, has its variety of spelling forms. There is simple e as in ego, E-Bay, or Eton; double ee as in feet, feed, and feel; ea as in meat, mean, and meal; ie as in field, yield, and shield; e-consonant-e as in eve and Steve; y as in many and funny; ey as in key, monkey, and valley.

We find the same variety of spellings for long i. There is simple i as in idea, item, ideal, kind, child, and find; i-consonant-e as in dive, prime, smile, and bride; ie as in lie and pie; y as in by, cry, and shy; igh as in high, sigh, right, and bright.

Long o has its different spelling forms: simple o as in go, old, open, cold, and sold; o-consonant-e as in cove, stove, code, and stone. In that spelling form you have many irregular words, such as love, move, come, gone, and one. Then there is oa as in coat, boat, foam, and coal; ow as in low, crow, slow, and snow; ough as in though. The rest of that spelling family includes such irregular words as tough (tuff) and thought (thawt). Also, when o is followed by r as in born, sort, and cord, the o sounds almost like au as in haul.

Finally, long u can be spelled as simple u as in unit, utility, union; u-consonant-e as in use, fume, tune, cube; ui as in juice, fruit, cruise; ue as in blue, cue, glue; ew as in new, flew, crew; and eu as in feud.

There are other vowel sounds in our language besides the short and long vowels. There is the au sound as in tall, dawn, faun, Maud. There is the oy sound as in boy, boil, join, toy. Then there is the ow sound as in cow, loud, mound, shout. And there are the two vowel sounds spelled with oo: good/hood and food/mood. That same sound is also spelled ould, as in could and should.

We should remember that of our 44 sounds in English, about 20 of them are vowel sounds, although we only have six vowel letters: a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y. And, of course, we have many more than 20 spelling forms for these vowels. That's what makes English spelling a bit of a challenge. Teach the words in their spelling families so that the irregular words are easy to identify and learn.

Of course, many foreign words in our language have their own spellings that must be learned. They are usually spelled in accordance with the rules in their own language: adieu, rendezvous, champagne, souvenir, sabotage, fiesta, latte, facade, etc. That is why learning French or Spanish can actually be of help in learning to spell foreign words used in English!

Was this article helpful to you?
Subscribe to Practical Homeschooling today, and you'll get this quality of information and encouragement five times per year, delivered to your door. To start, click on the link below that describes you:

USA Individual
USA Librarian (purchasing for a library)
Outside USA Individual
Outside USA Library

University of Nebraska High School University of Nebraska High School
Free Email Newsletter!
Sign up to receive our free email newsletter, and up to three special offers from homeschool providers every week.

Articles by Sam Blumenfeld

The Whole-Language Boondoggle

High School for Freedom!

Dyslexia: The Man-Made Disease

Teach Reading to the “Learning Disabled”

Uncle Sam Wants Your Child on his National Database

Why the Internet will Never Replace Books

Teach Reading to the "Learning Disabled"

Homeschooling and Charter Schools

Homeschoolers and Vouchers

The History of Public Education

College At Home

Learning from The "Old Dead Guys"

The Meaning of Educational Freedom

The Importance of Rote Learning

The Exodus Continues

A World Without Public School

The Benefits of Teaching History at Home

How to Tell Real from Phony Phonics?

Getting Started in Arithmetic

Teaching Arithmetic

Teaching the Alphabet

Teaching the Alphabet Sounds

Teaching Blends

Teaching Long Vowels

The History of Geometry Education

Never Bored Again

Learning Greek

How and Why to Teach Shakespeare

How to Get the Most Out of Homeschool Conventions

Forgotten American History: The Barbary Wars

Forgotten American History: God's Providence in the American Revolution

Forgotten American History: The Spanish-American War

Forgotten American History: The Great Awakening

Forgotten American History: Puritan Education

Colonial Education: The Free Market in Action

America Started with Educational Freedom

How Harvard Became Liberal

The Glory of the Alphabet

19th Century Communists & the Origin of American Public Education

The Benefits of Cursive Writing

It Pays to Know Your Legislator

Intelligent by Design

Teaching Kids to Enjoy Classical Music

Before Compulsory Education: The Private Academies

What Schools Teach: Then and Now

The Real Meaning of Easter

The Truth About Independence Day

The Benefits of Reading Biographies

Why We Celebrate Veterans Day

The Purposes of Education

Why Homeschoolers Should be Book Collectors

How History Was Taught Back Then

The American Almanac: A Great Learning Tool

The Fun of Going to an Antiques Auction

Politics and Homeschoolers: A Primer

A Novel Suggestion

Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Why Homeschoolers Should Learn Public Speaking

The Presidency

Party Politics in the United States

The Road to an American Independent Nation

George Washington: Our First President's First Term

George Washington: Our First President's Second Term

Celebrating Flag Day

Going to School Back in the Great Depression

Middle School During the Great Depression

High School During the Depression

Inventions and Progress

On Falling in Love

A Taste of the Old Days

The True Root of American Freedom

Classical Gems on YouTube

Curing Dyslexia

How to Increase Your Vocabulary

The Joy of Journaling

Popular Articles

Character Matters for Kids

The Gift of a Mentor

Give Yourself a "CLEP Scholarship"

Montessori Math

Bears in the House

Myth of the Teenager

A Homeschooler Wins the Heisman

How to "Bee" a Spelling Success

Getting Organized Part 3

Start a Nature Notebook

Can Homeschoolers Participate In Public School Programs?

Getting Organized Part 1 - Tips & Tricks

The Charlotte Mason Method

Classical Education

How to Win the Geography Bee

Combining Work and Homeschool

The Charlotte Mason Approach to Poetry

Joyce Swann's Homeschool Tips

The Benefits of Cursive Writing

Who Needs the Prom?

Discover Your Child's Learning Style

Critical Thinking and Logic

Saxon Math: Facts vs. Rumors

Whole-Language Boondoggle

Narration Beats Tests

AP Courses At Home

Teaching Blends

Getting Started in Homeschooling: The First Ten Steps

Advanced Math: Trig, PreCalc, and more!

The Benefits of Debate

Don't Give Up on Your Late Bloomers

A Reason for Reading

Teach Your Children to Work

Montessori Language Arts at Home, Part 1

University Model Schools

Art Appreciation the Charlotte Mason Way

Patriarchy, Meet Matriarchy

Top Jobs for the College Graduate

The Equal Sign - Symbol, Name, Meaning

The History of Public Education

Laptop Homeschool

Shakespeare Camp

Phonics the Montessori Way

What We Can Learn from the Homeschooled 2002 National Geography Bee Winners

Interview with John Taylor Gatto

Columbus and the Flat Earth...

I Was an Accelerated Child

Why the Internet will Never Replace Books

Top Tips for Teaching Toddlers

What Does My Preschooler Need to Know?

Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
Copyright ©1993-2021 Home Life, Inc.