The Spelling generalizations for the vowel teams ou and ow can be tricky. The FLOSS rule and its associated k/ck or ch/tch build upon each other as a basis for further understanding, but that’s just the start! With vowel spellings such as ‘ou’ from ‘ouch’ or ‘ow’, like in “plow”, learners can expand their knowledge with insight into more intricate patterns.
Teach Spelling Generalization Part 1
The ou/ow rule of spelling generalization provides a clear-cut distinction. The /ow/ sound at the beginning or middle of syllables is usually spelled as <ou>, and for the /ow/ sound at the end of a word <ow> is generally used.
This is because of the spelling rule that in English spelling words generally don’t end in the letter <u>. So students can be confident when they spell <ou> words and do not put the spelling <ou> at the end of words. The following words have the ow with the /ow/ sound: ‘cow’, ‘brow’ ‘chow.”
Spelling Generalization Part 2 with word families ‘owl’ and ‘own’
But what about when the /ow/ sound is in the middle of a word? To kick off this lesson and avoid confusion, remember that when /ow/ is followed by an <n> or< l >in the final position in a word it usually is spelled with ‘ow’.
This common pattern is seen in example words such as ‘down and ‘growl’. But if other letters follow the <l> or <n> then we will generally write the phoneme /ow/ sound with vowel team <ou> here are some examples: ground, mount, and lounge.
The /ow/ sound in the middle of a 2 syllable word
You can occasionally hear an /ow/ sound in the middle of a two-syllable word, but it does happen! The majority of these words retain their accent on the first syllable and typically have either “er” or “el” endings. Examples of these words would be flower, tower, vowel, and towel.
Prerequisites for Teaching OU & OW Spelling
To make sure your kids in your class are ready to spell with OU and OW they must have a few foundational skills
- segmenting 4-5 sounds for phoneme-grapheme mapping
- knowing vowel team syllables
- .ability to distinguish initial, medial and final phonemes
- knowing the open syllable and the closed syllable
- knowing r controlled and silent e syllables
Tips and Activities for Teaching
Use Questions to Equip your Students for Spelling
Ready to help your students make educated word decisions with OU and OW? Guide them through the thought process with these 3 essential questions.
- What’s the base word of their desired word?
- What location do they hear that vowel sound in the ou and ow word?
- what letter or letters comes after the /ow/ sound?
Start with familiar words
Jumpstart your students’ spelling journey with the words they already know! Sight words like out, shout, down, brown and how can provide a solid foundation while learning generalizations to take their skills further.
Complete Words for Practice for OU and OW
Practicing for /ow/ sound in all possible locations is a great way to help students solidify their understanding of the concept, and games with spelling choices can be fun ways to reinforce what they’ve learned! Why not try having your class play the word sound teaching resource “Pop It” and write words by picking ou or ow this interactive sorting activity with writing is a great tool for phoneme-grapheme mapping.
Teach Carefully and Systematically with OU and OW
Whether you are working one on one or working in small groups systematic teaching with ou and ow is essential.
- Begin initial practicing to distinguish the difference only with ou and ow words with the /ow/ sound in the final position-use a word list or let students sort groups of words to get fluency with the concept of no <u> at the end of a word.
- Then introduce words with the word families <own> and <owl>
- Help children recognize the difference with a phonics sorting activity
Games as a word sound teaching resource for OU and OW
Help your students with phonics to learn cooperation and build positive relationships with games. Make a phonics sorting activity with the sorting cards provided at the end of this article. Print out our word list resources. They are a great tool. They can be used as sorting cards in a fun sorting game. You can use an editable version to customize your group work.
Our empty game board is a great tool for developing spelling skills with ou words and ow words you can use it with the free sorting cards provided at the end of this post. – if students get a word right, let them roll the dice for even more fun! Your goal: keep going on with an interactive game board along multiple sessions until you hit a total score of 20-50 points.
Get better engagement and cooperation in the classroom with Games like ” Vowel Team Go Fish,” “Memory” and even a fun round of Word War. With game worksheets, and word sorts, it’s easy for kids to keep reading and spelling skills sharp.
Use Decodable Texts with Vowel Teams OU & OW
Spelling instruction is fairly straightforward but reading instruction is a bit trickier. This is because of needing to distinguish the four sounds for <ou>. Two sounds for <ou> are prominent -think ‘trout soup’ and two sounds for <ow>-think snow plow. This is covered in another blog post. You can use decodable texts to improve spelling and reading fluency in your classroom.
Kids love practicing their skills with stories. They are a great tool for comprehension and vocabulary growth. To maximize the effectiveness of these passages, it’s beneficial to have each student highlight different aspects in corresponding colors before working together as a group. Syllable Sorting Cards are provided for an interactive sorting activity in my decodable passages lessons.
Decodable Passages give kids the opportunity to flex the different sounds of the vowel team of <ou> and <ow> as well. For example, students may need to try two sounds for the ow as in ‘plow’ or ‘snow.’
Afterward, a phonics sorting activity can be completed using words from the story – giving students valuable practice during group work. This sorting game can build friendships and encourage teamwork in your classroom. Then have students take sorting cards and decodable passages home for independent reading practice.
Orthographic mapping and dictation
Dictation and Orthographic Mapping are some of the best teaching resources. Ask students to map and write, /ow/ words such as “ouch”, “pout” or “shout”.
After that, you can provide an opportunity for working with words with “how”, “cow,” “brow”, and “plow.” Then have the class write down 3-5 related words with suffixes they have learned so far.
Finally, finish off by dictating 1-2 sentences composed of only what has been taught along with familiar vocabulary. These are meaningful learning activities that will help with all types of literacy.
With these activities, students will get more practice with the OU and OW sounds. They will also develop a deeper understanding of the concepts and how to apply them during reading and writing. In addition, they can build positive relationships with their peers while having fun at the same time!
Happy Teaching! 🙂
Download the Free OU and OW Resources Below