Teaching Long Vowels

Long Vowel Tips

  1. Make sure the short vowels are well known, first.
  2. Make sure the child can decode four letter words with consonant blends fairly reliably, since children have a tendency to ignore the silent E at the end. They must be able to monitor more than three letters at once in order to digest the silent E.
  3. You may need to color code either the silent E (to draw attention to it) or the medial vowel to draw attention to it.
  4. Long vowels are introduced one at a time, with many drills for each vowel.
  5. Your exercises shouldn't contain any short vowels at first.
  6. Work with just a few answers at first, gradually raising complexity.
  7. This is an advanced long vowel exercise, so it includes all of the vowels, except for y.
  8. Stop when the error rate nears 30%.

This is an advanced long-vowel, silent-E exercise. The long U has two variants. One variant sounds like ooh as in tune. The other sounds like yoo as in mute. This exercise focuses on the first one (ooh as in tune). The familiar vowel list (ay, ee, I, oh, you) is used to suppress errors, which form counter productive memory and emotion.

Introducing 2 Syllable Words (#1)

Using Color

Color can be used in a hundred different ways. Here we see it used to prevent new readers from being overwhelmed and confused by long words. Green identifies the first syllable, while red identifies the last syllable.

At this age, even a rule as simple as "say the green letters first," is often hard to follow due to the immaturity of the prefrontal cortex. Every correct answer brings the child closer to coping with ordinary black and white text.

This is the fourth time Olivia has seen this exercise. She needed to work through some intermediate exercises in order to cope with this one well.

A child who has seen nothing but one-syllable words naturally tries to pronounce longer words as if they had only one syllable. This is especially true when early training includes many consonant blends and digraphs. For example, splashed is an 8-letter word with only one syllable. In theory, a child who can pronounce tough words like splashed is ready to say any multisyllable word, but in practice, children need practice identifying syllable boundaries. Many children are still learning to read from left to right at this stage. Working with a first color and a last color also helps prevent them from saying the sounds out of order.

The most important factor in any exercise's difficulty is the rate at which the words change. The huge letter variety in this drill makes it much harder than earlier drills which limited letter variety, word length, and other factors. A child who can cope with an exercise like this has actually begun real reading.

Introducing 2 Syllable Words(#2)

Using Color

Here we see color used to help a new reader identify the start of the second syllable. Almost invariably, you find one syllable for each vocalized vowel, but a syllable at the beginning of a word usually starts with a consonant or consonant blend‑and may also end with one. For example, stent has blends at both ends.

This makes identifying the start of the next syllable almost impossible for a new reader, partly because they haven't even gotten used to distinguishing vowels from consonants. I recall my early confusion surrounding vowel identification only dimly.

This is the second time Olivia has seen this exercise, but she has seen many other multisyllable exercises, so she's starting to get the hang of it.

More tips and exercise examples are coming soon.