For struggling learners in the phonics classroom, spelling and reading with the long a sound with vowel teams ai and ay can often feel like an insurmountable challenge. However, with a bit of guidance in recognizing vowel team syllables and sounds associated with those combinations, students can make informed decisions about which spellings are the best to use for ai and ay words.
8 of the Most Common ways to Spell Long A
Learning Long A spellings can be tricky – there are 8 possible phonics combinations!
- Open Syllable an example would be (bacon), which is used in 45% of words
- Silent e Syllable a_e an example would be (bake), is used in 35% of words
- Vowel Team Syllable ai an example would be (rain), would be in 9%of words
- Vowel Team ay an example would be (play), would be in 6% of words.
The other representations are rare.
- ei as in reindeer is uncommon.
- ea as in steak can be found in about 8 words.
- eigh as in eight is also not seen often.
- EY most often says the long E sound, not the long A sound as in (they).
So, the first four spellings of this sound should get most of your attention.
The AI & AY Vowel Teams
<AI> and <AY> which often give students trouble when it comes to reading and spelling words. So, make sure you take some extra time with these two graphemes for smooth sailing in future lessons. Read on to get access to games and engaging worksheets you can use to teach these vowel teams.
Location Location Location
Did you know that the position of vowels can be used to help make spelling decisions? When it comes to vowel teams ‘ai’ and ‘ay’, we typically see them in different positions within syllables.
- ‘ai’ is found at the start or middle and
- ‘ay’ is always at the end of a base word.
Plus, there’s one bonus fact for you: We’ll never find ‘ai words’ appearing at the end of a base word because English words do not end in the letter <i>.
Pay Attention to the Base Words
Students need to pay close attention to the base word (the word without any prefixes or suffixes) if they are going to make use of this generalization or rule.
This is especially true with ‘ay words.’ When suffixes get added, that “ay” sound no longer has its place at the end – as in the word ‘payment’ or “played’! Did you notice that in the word played the suffix -ed does not even add a syllable to this word?
Dictation with AI and AY words
It’s essential to help your class become comfortable and familiar with the ai and ay vowel teams in reading before diving into a spelling worksheet.
When teaching the generalization or rule behind these letter combinations though, just remember – try not include any dictation words at least until your class has gotten used to that particular pattern!
Our ‘ai’ vowel team is the perfect way to introduce students to a range of homophones, helping them expand their vocabulary skills.
While teaching your phonics lessons give your children a key phrase and picture to associate with sound-alike words. They can do this with a worksheet or just make a homophone notebook with a picture and sentence for each homophone. It is a great activity!
- Some examples are: “Do you want plain or chocolate chip ice cream?
- There is no rain on a grassy plain.
- Your dress is a pale color! vs. Play with that sand in the pail.
And don’t forget mail versus male, tail versus tale.
Use AI or AY Questions
Encourage your class to become ai and ay superstars by helping them hone their long A sound skills! Get them started with some questions:
- What is the base word?
- Where does the ‘long a’ sound occur
- Is the long sound at the beginning of the word? (aid, ail, aim, and air are the only ai words that begin with <ai>)
- Is it in the middle of words/syllables (Use ai or a_e for the spelling)
Post the Anchor chart in the classroom and questions or make a notebook for your students to refer to when they are in class or doing homework.
Teach Using Word Sorts
Use engaging activities with reading cards worksheets that contain both real words and nonsense syllables. This instruction helps reinforce their understanding of how these sounds appear throughout the text – no matter if it’s a familiar word or new word!
Instruction with Multi-syllable Words
Use some syllable cards in different combinations to make longer words. Take a word like ‘main’ and make words like “remain” “domain” “mainstay” and “mainframe” to expand tour students’ spelling and reading ability as well as increase their vocabulary. For independent practice, have students write these words after they make them with the syllable cards.
Play games with AI and AY
Let your class enjoy a round of Memory or Concentration, matching the ai and ay words for hours of exciting reading practice. Or try Go Fish – just print the cards from our resources page and you’re good to go. Put some numbers on the ai and ay resource cards and pair two students to play an exciting game of AI AY War! These ai and ay activities are an interactive way of going beyond ai and ay worksheets.
And don’t forget to visit the free resources library to get your AI /AY anchor chart/reading card resource. Phonics game resources are a fun way to get your small group to remember a new rule.
Read AI and AY Decodable Stories
Let your students practice reading ai and ay with a fun phonics decodable story! After working hard to learn long A in sentences, and with syllables cards let them read a decodable text. Watch their faces light up as they apply the phonics skill they have learned.
Have students put on detective hats as they search through the story, looking for the Long A spelling patterns. They can use ai and ay worksheets to practice writing the ai ay words in the correct column. Once they’ve highlighted all the words with ai and ay have them read the story out loud. Have the student read passages for homework to develop fluency and prosody along the way. For extra excitement (and comprehension), suggest highlighting syllable types in different colors.
In conclusion, teaching the Ai and Ay vowel teams can be fun and engaging for your students. With fun games, decodable stories, and practice your students will be AI and AY experts!
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Q: What is the spelling generalization or rule for spelling with ai and ay words?
A: The rule is to use the vowel team <ai >for a word beginning or in the middle of a base word but never at the end of a word because English words don’t end in <i>.
Use vowel team <ay> only at the end of a base word but it can be followed by a suffix.