Vowel Teams - The Reading & Spelling Rules That Nobody Taught You
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The fifth of the six syllable types we talk about is…
This is when two vowels stick together to make one sound. Think of the vowel sounds in words like rain, play, green, key, goat, boil, etc.
If our students recognize these at all, they usually remember the saying "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." While this works for some vowel teams (ai says /A/ like in rain), it doesn't work for all of them (ea in steak says /A/).
It is important that we teach students each vowel team's sounds explicitly if we want them to be sure of how to read and spell words with vowel teams.
We start by explaining that there are two different kinds of vowel teams. Digraphs and Diphthongs (sliding sounds). Your digraphs are going to be vowel teams like ai, ay, ee, ey, oa, oe, etc. When you read them, they make one clear (and familiar - hopefully) vowel sound. Your sliding sounds are teams like oi and oy, oo, and ou. These still only make one sound, but it isn't quite a clear vowel sound (think oy like in boy).
Many of our vowel teams make more than one sound. When this happens, we rely really heavily on key phrases and pictures to help cement the rules for our students. Let's use "oo" for an example. OO has two sounds and we teach this by using the key phrase "look at the moon." Take a second and say that out loud to yourself. Do you hear the different sounds?
EA is another vowel team that can make multiple sounds. For this one, we use the key phrase "eat bread and steak." EA can say /E/ like in eat, the short e sound /e/ like in bread, and /A/ like in steak. The phrase is also ordered strategically, because the long E sound is the most common sound ‘ea’ will make, and the /A/ sound is the least common.
Sometimes, consonants can sneak into our vowel teams, like in ow, and igh. These patterns still classify as a vowel team, because the letters work together to make one vowel sound.
Here is a quick rundown on all of the vowel team rules that we teach our students.
ai - 1 sound. It says /a/ like in rain. We find ai in the middle of a word or syllable.
ay - 1 sound. It says /a/ like in play. We find ay at the end of a word or syllable.
ee - 1 sound. It says /e/ like in green. We usually find ee in the middle of a world or syllable.
ey - 1 sound. It says /e/ like in key. We usually find ey at the end of a word or syllable.
oa/oe - 1 sound. They say /o/ like in goat & toe. OA says o in the middle of a word or syllable, while we find oe at the end.
oi - 1 sound. The keyword is poison. We find oi in the middle or a word or syllable.
oy - 1 sound. The keyword is destroy. We find oy at the end of a word or syllable.
oo - 2 sounds. The key phrase is Look at the Moon.
ou - 2 sounds. The key phrase is Trout Soup.
ow -2 sounds. The key phrase is Snow Plow.
ea - 3 sounds. The key phrase is Eat Bread & Steak.
au - 1 sound. The key word is laundry. We usually find au in the middle of a word or syllable.
aw - 1 sounds. The key word is yawn. We can find aw in the middle or at the end of a word or syllable.
ie - 2 sounds. The key phrase is Pie and Cookies.
ei - 2 sounds. The key phrase is The Reindeer Receives.
ui - 1 sound. It says /u/ like in fruit.
ue - 2 sounds. The key phrase is Don’t Argue About the Glue.
ew - 2 sounds. The key phrase is Pew the Stew Smells Gross.
eu - 1 sound. It says /u/ like in sleuth.
igh - 1 sound. It says /i/ like in night.
eigh - 1 sound. It says /a/ like in eight.
For more information about how we teach vowel teams (and all of the other concepts!) consider joining our Intervention Insiders! You can also access the other blogs in the “The Reading and Spelling Rules Nobody Ever Taught You” series here: Closed Syllables, Magic E, Bossy R, Open, Stable Final.
You can also check out our Vowel Teams Anchor Chart to help solidify these tricky concepts over here!