Teaching Short & Long Vowel Sounds

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  • 0:03 Short and Long Vowel Sounds
  • 0:50 Recalling the Rules
  • 1:53 Practicing Through Play
  • 2:55 Practicing With Literature
  • 3:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Part of learning to read is learning to distinguish sounds from one another. In this lesson, you will learn how to teach students the different sounds that vowels can make in English. You will also review some rules about how to know when the vowels make certain sounds.

Short and Long Vowel Sounds

One of the challenging parts about learning to read and write in English is that one letter can make different sounds depending on its context. Vowels, which are generally understood as the letters A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y, are particularly complex. Each vowel has at least two possible sounds it can make. Short vowel sounds are the sound the 'a' makes in apple, the sound the 'e' makes in bed, the sound the 'i' makes in sit, the sound the 'o' makes in otter, and the sound the 'u' makes in umbrella. Long vowel sounds are the sounds of the vowel's name, like the a sound in cake. As you teach children to read and spell, you will need to teach them the rules regarding when vowels make which sounds, and you will need to give them plenty of practice working with these distinctions.

Recalling the Rules

Many of us learned the vowel rules so long ago that we could use a refresher before we teach them to children! Here are some of the most important rules about vowel sounds:

  1. When there is one vowel in a word and it's not at the end of the word, it will make the short vowel sound, as in the 'o' in 'lot.'
  2. When there is one vowel at the end of a word, it will make a long vowel sound, as in the 'o' in 'go.'
  3. When there is an 'e' at the end of the word, the vowel preceding the 'e' will make the long sound, and the 'e' will be silent, as in the 'a' and 'e' in 'cake.'
  4. When there are two different vowels together in the word, they will make the long sound of the first vowel, as in the 'ai' in 'rain.'
  5. When there is one vowel following by two of the same consonant, the vowel will make its short sound, as the 'u' in 'running.'
  6. When there is two of the same vowel, the vowel makes its long vowel sound, with the exception of the double 'o' (as normal in the 'ee' in meet, or as in the exception 'oo' in 'book').

Practicing Through Play

That's a lot of rules for kids to learn! With children learning to read or write, you will generally want to teach these rules one at a time and give children plenty of opportunities to practice. You might even spend an entire week focusing your literacy instruction on one particular short vowel sound. One of the best ways to get children to practice phonics is by using playful strategies. For instance, you can:

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