Long O Vowel Teams or vowel digraphs are tricky to teach for spelling. With the long o sound, there are five ways to consider for spelling. When I was in school, the phonics program taught the vowel teams and the teacher said the vowel team <oa> said long o sound. She said, “when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking.”
While this phonics adage was true in the <oa> vowel team and for the <oe> vowel team it left me with some big gaps in knowledge and understanding. Children need to be explicitly taught all the sounds for long o and practice spelling and reading using these vowel teams correctly.
Why are there so many ways to spell Long O
- History & Origin- English comes from many sources. Some words come from Old English Anglo-Saxon roots, for example, in the long o word ‘ row’. But the homophone ‘roe’ comes from German and it means fish eggs in both languages.
- Meaning-Look at this sentence: “We took the boat down the road and we rowed it in the pond and then saw some fish roe.”
If we didn’t have different spellings to differentiate meaning, expressing ourselves in writing would be difficult for both the reader and the writer. However, these homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings) can make spelling challenging! This is especially true for students with dyslexia.
How many ways can we write the long o words
We can write the sound 5 different ways:
- the open syllable <o> as in ‘no’, ‘so’, and ‘open’
- o-e o consonant silent e or magic e words as in ‘home’ or ‘rope’
- <oa>vowel team as in ‘goat’ or ‘boat’
- <ow>vowel team as in ‘snow’ or ‘blow’
- <oe> vowel team as in ‘toe’ or ‘hoe
- * it is also found in a few words with closed syllable exceptions like -old, -olt-ost
Review the long O in the Open syllable
I usually introduce all five ways to represent the long o sound when I begin to teach vowel team lessons. Students have usually learned how about the open syllable <o> Many English words featuring a “long o” sound at the end of a syllable are shortened, single-syllable options – think ‘no’, ‘go’ and ‘so’. However, longer versions of this long vowel o sound can also be found in foreign terms like those relating to animals (‘flamingo’), food (‘mango’) a dance (‘tango’). It also can be heard in words such as ‘open’ or ‘pony’.
Review The Silent E Syllable
The vowel consonant e syllable can be reviewed in “Magic E ” example words like home, rope, vote, hope, dote, and note.
Teach the Vowel Teams Together
To teach vowel teams engagingly and memorably, I teach vowel teams oa, oe, & ow within individual lessons. We learn the vowel teams in one-syllable words at first and then add on suffixes later.
As students become familiar with each sound-spelling pattern combo, such as “oa” for ” goat ” or “ow” for ” snow, ” frequency-dependent strategies like charting known words to review regularly is a great option for teaching the patterns to students. Picture stories with keywords for each vowel team are also effective when it comes to retaining what’s been learned!
Make a Long o Vowel Team Homophone Resource Notebook
Once the foundational concepts of silent e syllables, and O as an open syllable have been taught. Then students can learn long o vowel teams OA, OW and OE. Then homophones & homographs can be explored in greater depth.
To help with this task, crafting a Homophone Resource Notebook is a great way to cement understanding of both meaning & spellings – get creative by encouraging an illustration for each word and a sentence using the word to help kids remember the meaning of words and relate them to the spelling patterns!
Location Location Location
To teach the correct long o vowel team of a long o sound, teach students about its position in the word.
- Vowel team <oa> can be spelled in the beginning and middle of a word
- Vowel Team <ow> is most often found at the end of a one-syllable word. If it is in the beginning or middle position it is most often followed by consonants <n> and <l>This is also true for diphthong <ow> as in ‘plow’. Vowel team <ow> has more than one sound.
- Vowel team <oe> is a very infrequent spelling and is found word finally
Context is important for Reading
Since some words are homophones then it is important to teach these words within the context of sentences. That is why in addition to making a vowel team notebook for spelling reading these vowel teams within decodable stories helps students practice long o words in a meaning-based way.
Search for the spelling patterns
Teaching vowel teams in small groups with decodable stories are fun for children. They can search for one-syllable words with the long o vowel team and highlight the words. Teachers can ask students to practice looking for base words with the focus vowel sounds .
Then if students spot that words haves suffixes they can highlight those letters in a different color. Teaching in this way will help students to look for the details in a spelling pattern.
Sort the Words in Context
Then teachers can give students a word sort chart to write down each spelling pattern they found. You may want to include the open o syllable and the silent e syllable in the sort to expand on your student’s learning. At the end of the blog post, look for free resources to help do this with your students.
Vowel Team OE
Vowel Team OE as in ‘toe’ is an uncommon letter combination that appears mainly at the end of a word or as part of a compound one. To help students remember its limited usage, I will show them 10 example words it is typically found in: doe, foe, hoe, roe, toe, woe, aloe, floe, oboe, and shoe. Showing this list helps my struggling spellers avoid using this vowel team unnecessarily.
* The sight words does and goes should not be counted as having the vowel team <oe> the base word of these words are ‘go’ and ‘do with the suffix -es. As in <go> + -es –> goes and <do> +-es –> does.
In conclusion, long o vowel teams are tricky but with careful guidance and practice a mastery of words containing long o can be achieved. Teaching the long o sound in context with picture stories and sorting activities is an effective way to teach this phonics pattern to your students.
Furthermore, making a long o vowel team homophone resource notebook will help your students remember long o words and the correct spelling for each long o sound. With this knowledge, your students will be well on their way to becoming excellent spellers and readers!
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post about long o vowel teams. I hope the ideas will be helpful in teaching your students long o sounds. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out! Good luck on your long o teaching journey. Visit the freebie library for even more reading and spelling resources for your classroom.
Happy Smart and Special Teaching!
Q: What are long o vowel teams?
A: Long o vowel teams are patterns consisting of two or more letters that make the long o sound. The most common long o combinations are <oa>, <ow> and <oe>.
Q:What are the 5 ways to represent the Long O vowel sound?
A: The five ways to represent the Long O vowel sound are as follows:<oa>, <ow>, <oe>, open o, and consonant -silent e.
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