How to Teach the ee/ey Spelling Rule
Green, keys, these…so many long E sounds!
This week we want to talk about how we teach the ee/ey vowel teams.
Both “ee” and “ey” say the long E sound.
We use “ee” in the middle of the word (think green, teen, sneeze) and “ey” at the end of the word (key, monkey, trolley, kidney).
To help our students remember this rule, we use the key words “green” and “key.”
Where students might get stuck with the long E sound:
Magic E and ‘ee’
By this point in their learning journey (if students have been following a systematic and cumulative scope and sequence), students should have learned that Magic E (VCE) syllables can also make a vowel say its long sound in the middle of a word.
When we are teaching students about the “ee” phonogram, we let them know that this is the more common way to make the long E sound in the middle of a word than a Magic E syllable. Magic E syllables where the first vowel is ‘e’ (i.e. these) are rather uncommon. Words using ‘ee’ to say the long E sound (i.e. green, teen, speed) are much more common.
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.
So one question we get asked often that we wanted to address -
How do you teach ee/ey in a reading intervention setting?
We always follow the same order for our vowel team instruction.
Sound Drill Cards
We always start with a sound drill, which is where we provide students with a flashcard of the letter (or group of letters) and ask them to provide the sound. You can check out our blog here on the importance of the sound drill and to check out a video run-through of the sound drill.
Discovery Guided Learning
Then, we provide students with a list of words presented orally that include the target phonogram (sound pattern). Research shows that when students can discover a pattern on their own, it helps with retention. We recommend reading your student/students the list of words, and then ask them which sound was the same in each word. Ideally, they will identify the long E sound.
Phonogram (Sound) Introduction
Next, we have our students practice writing the pattern, repeating “ee says E” (or “ey says E”) three times. The mix of visually seeing the letters, hearing the letters and the sound, and writing the letters provides your lesson with a critical multisensory component.
We teach students that “ee and ey” only have one sound, however, other vowel teams (like “oo” and “ou”) may have multiple sounds.
We then ask our students what other ways they can use to make the long E sound. This is important as it will allow the students to start making these connections that are imperative for them to learn to read and spell.
Word Reading Introduction
After we’ve taught students the ee/ey pattern at the sound level we move onto word level reading introduction. We often start by providing the words broken down by individual phonemes (sounds) so that our students can practice identifying each sound and then blending them together to make a word. One of the things we always try to include are opportunities for students to really think about their word level reading skills. You want to make sure that your student isn’t just going through the motions of sounding out the word but that he or she is really thinking about the words and meaning of the words or interacting with the words on a deeper level.
Next, we move onto sentence level reading. Prior to reading aloud, we typically ask our students to identify words with the target phonogram (sound pattern). You can also have students identify words that they are unsure of how to read, as well as words that they are unsure of the meaning. We have our students practice drawing one of the sentences after reading to make sure they are actually comprehending and visualizing sentences as they go as opposed to just working through the motions reading words without activating any higher level thinking.
Silly Sentence Creation
After we have students read sentences, we have them practice creating their own sentences. One of the most engaging ways to do this is to create silly sentences. This is a great way to work on semantics (comprehension) skills. We provide our students with a group of three subjects (in blue), predicates (in red), and adverbial phrases (in green). We then let them pick one of each to create a silly sentence and have them practice writing the sentence they created. They LOVE doing this and it’s a great skill to further develop for so many of our students.
EE & EY Word Sort
When we are looking for additional ways to solidify the rule, we may try a syllable sort. Students can cut the words out and sort them visually, based on whether the word contains an “ee” or an “ey.” You could also read the words to the student and ask them to identify if the sound was an “ee” or an “ey” based on where in the word they are hearing the long E sound.
We always start our writing section with a Phoneme Manipulation task. Essentially, we want our students to recognize how words come apart and then come back together. So for example when we are working on the “ee” vowel team pattern we might start with something like, say “teen” then our students repeat “teen”, then we will ask them to change the first sound to /s/ and they will provide the word “seen”, then we will ask them to change the last sound to /m/, and they will provide the word “seem”. This helps them begin to understand spelling at a deeper level
Spelling & Sentence Level Writing
We always finish up our instruction with patterned spelling lists and sentence dictation to have students begin applying the new pattern. However, we always make sure to throw in previously instructed spelling patterns as well because let’s be real, students often start to catch on when all the words follow the exact same spelling pattern…they need this type of instruction, but they also need to be held accountable for previously introduced patterns.
Check out our video below to see what a quick snapshot of our resources look like (this isn’t the entire lesson but rather a quick overview to give you an idea of what this might look like) - and if you want to grab ours instead of creating your own, you can grab them over here in our TPT shop.
If you’re loving this approach, we’d love to have you join us for our free upcoming training where we talk all about >>>7 Steps to Reading Instruction that Works<<< and how we put this together to create massive growth for our students in our reading intervention program.
Music Credit: Bensound.com