What’s the best way to teach long vowel sounds?
Every teacher will have their own unique approach, but there’s one thing that many effective English language classes have in common: they have a diverse mix of activities that get students naturally curious and interested in the lesson.
With long vowel sounds, students have a lot to gain from active participation. After all, there’s so much to discuss, from pronouncing the right words to noticing spelling rules – and you want to be sure that your students are getting it every step of the way.
Looking to liven up your long vowel class while creating a great learning environment for your students? Consider the ten long vowel sounds activities we’ve listed below! They’re versatile enough that you can tweak them for both kids and adult learners, and your students will end the class with a more vivid understanding of long vowels.
10 Long Vowel Sounds Activities
The simplest way to explain long vowels is that they’re pronounced like their names: A, E, I, O, and U. You’ve probably considered asking your students to think of the alphabet song when pronouncing long vowels, but where do you go after that? Check out the following activities for introducing the ins and outs of long vowel sounds to your students:
1. Fill in the Blanks
For this activity, prepare pictures of words with a long vowel sound. Make sure that the pictures are easily recognizable for your students! Some sample words could be mailbox, unicorn, and computer.
Then create sentences for each of these while putting blanks in the long vowel word. For example, if you’re using the word “mailbox,” your sentence could be: “My m _ _ ilbox is full!”
Show the picture to your students as a clue, then ask them to fill in the blanks in the sentence with the right long vowel sound. To make it easier for them, you can put separate blanks for each of the letters instead of only one blank for everything.
2. Short Vowel vs. Long Vowel Word Pairs
This can be one of the trickiest concepts for students to grasp! Start by presenting short vowel and long vowel minimal word pairs with almost the same spelling, such as:
- bit vs. bite
- mad vs. made
- chess vs. cheese
Challenge your students with: “How would you pronounce each word?” After they get the pronunciation right for both words in the pair, point out to them which word has a long vowel. You can also mention that long vowels can appear at any part of the word – beginning, middle, or end.
Word pairs help students intuitively understand the differences between long and short vowels, which is already a major step towards speaking clearer English. You can get more ideas on how to explain long vowel sounds with Creativa’s course on Mastering North American Pronunciation. There’s an entire video episode that dives deep into long and short vowels, complete with plenty of practical tips and examples.
All in all, the course delves into aspects of pronunciation that students tend to struggle with – and yet are necessary for speaking English confidently. Curious about it? Here’s a free video straight from the course.
3. Long Vowel Chain
This activity works great if you have 5 to 10 students. Come up with a list of at least 20 long vowel words. The first student chooses a word and then says out loud which long vowel that word uses. Afterwards, the next student has to pick out another word from the list with the same long vowel.
Here’s how this can play out in class:
- Student 1: “Unite,” long U.
- Student 2: University.
- Student 3: Unicorn.
Once the words for that long vowel run out, you can let your students know and have them decide on which long vowel sound to take on next. If they’re more advanced, ask them to come up with their own words that aren’t on the list.
4. Long Vowel Word Bank
Word banks are one of the most essential activities in long vowel sound lessons!
How it works is you make a blank chart with each column assigned to a long vowel (A, E, I, O, and U). You can either print out copies for your students if it’s an individual activity or display the chart in front of everyone.
Next, go through a list of long-vowel words and have students sort them out into separate columns. Ideally, you would have an equal number of words for each long vowel.
When all of the words have been sorted, read them out loud by column so students can hear how to pronounce the same long vowel across different words.
5. Odd One Out
Because there are so many spelling patterns and possible vowel combinations with long vowels, students can have a hard time remembering these unless they practice a lot. To ease them into it, show them groups of three to four words where only one word has a different long vowel pronunciation.
- late – patch – cast
- boat – close – mute
- uneven – unique – under
Students should pinpoint which word is the odd one out. You can then underline each vowel sound in all of the words and go over whether it’s a short or a long vowel.
6. Long Vowel Sound Bingo
Give your students a piece of paper each with a blank 4×4 or 5×5 table. Show them the five long vowels (A, E, I, O, and U) and ask them to fill out all the squares in the table with a long vowel. They can do this in any order that they want as long as each long vowel is in at least one square.
You’ll then read long vowel words aloud one by one, and students have to write each word down on a square with the right long vowel. The first student who successfully fills out an entire row, column, or diagonal wins the pronunciation bingo!
Students might be able to pronounce and recognize long vowels already, but there’s a further step after that – their spelling should improve too so they can write down words with long vowels accurately.
For dictation, you can start with simple, one-syllable words such as “coat,” “feet,” and “light.” The easiest way to do it would be to have your students write down the spelling of each word on a piece of paper. However, if you want it to be more interactive, you can assign them to groups and give each group a whiteboard. After you’ve pronounced the word, each group would then hold up their whiteboard for you to check the spelling.
8. Long Vowel Team Showdown
If you want to add a bit of adrenaline rush to your class, then you can involve your students in a team contest! Divide the class into teams of three to four, then hand a whiteboard to each team. When you read a word out loud, each team has to write it down on the whiteboard. You can allot several seconds for this so team members can talk it out without feeling rushed. Once time’s up, everyone will have to raise their whiteboards. Whoever gets the spelling right wins a point.
To spice it up a bit, try out words with multiple long vowels—or for a trick question, throw in words too with only short vowels!
9. Long Vowel Dice
Take a block or dice, then assign a long vowel sound to each number on the dice. The idea is to let your students toss the dice. For whatever long vowel comes up, students have to recite a sentence or word that contains the long vowel.
Aside from the main long vowels (A, I, E, O, and U), you can go more specific with this by focusing on different spellings within the same vowel sound. For example, if you want to devote extra time to long E, you could fill out the sides of the die with E, EE, EA, IE, EI, and E_E. This allows students to become more familiar with the finer pronunciation points for each long vowel.
10. Match Up
To add some pairwork to your class, assign each of your students a card with a word that has a long vowel. Students will then have to search among themselves for someone else who has a word with the same long vowel. For example, students with the words “bike” and “right” will pair up because both of these words have the long I. You can actually give out multiple words with the same long vowel as long as everyone can find a partner.
When students have settled down into pairs, they should list down five additional words with the same long vowel as their original words. They can then present the words together in class.
Any of these ten activities can make long vowel sounds a lot less intimidating for your students – and they’ll pick the concepts up a lot faster compared to if they were only sitting back and listening! For a well-rounded combination of activities, go for a mix of solo and more interactive group or pair work exercises.