How to Teach the ai/ay Spelling Rule

How to Teach ai and ay

Play, rain, made, steak…there are so many words with the long A sound!

Two of the most common ways to get this sound when we are spelling are the vowel teams ‘ai’ and ‘ay.’

Now, with all of the different long A sounds, this might seem a bit overwhelming for students, but with systematic and clear instruction, it can actually be fairly simple!

Both “ai” and “ay” say the long A sound.

We use “ai” in the middle of the word (think rain, pail, train, mail) and “ay” at the end of the word (play, stay, day, May).

To help our students remember this rule, we use the key phrase “Play in the Rain.”

A great game to support a students’ knowledge of the ai/ay phonogram.

Where students might get stuck with the long A sound:


With our ‘ai’ vowel team there are several words that have a Magic E homophone. When we teach this rule to our students, we like to point this out and use it as an opportunity to build up a student’s vocabulary knowledge. Here are some of the common homophones that we will teach:

  • Plain (I’ll usually use the example - “Do you want plain yogurt or strawberry yogurt?”) and Plane (like an airplane!)

  • Mail (when you receive a letter or a package) and Male (a boy or a man)

  • Tail (like on a monkey or a dog) and Tale (a story)

  • Pail (a bucket) or Pale (light in color)

For the next few weeks we will be diving into how we teach each of the vowel teams! For more information on what a vowel team is, check out our blog": The Reading and Spelling Rules Nobody Taught You: Vowel Teams, and be sure to check back next week for our “How to teach ee/ey”

Looking for activities?

If you are looking for AI/AY Vowel team activities, you can grab ours in our Teachers Pay Teachers store! You could also become and Intervention Insider and get access to ALL of our materials. Click here to learn more, and check out the sneak peek of our AI/AY resource below!

(Music Credit to