Long e words are quite tricky to teach for spelling because there are so many different ways to spell the long e sound and there aren’t many rules or generalizations for spelling the words. Teaching reading with these words is easier than teaching spelling and writing.
In this blog post, we will break down each of the nine ways to spell the long e sound to help you understand and teach the long e sound to your students. I will cover all these ways for you but please do not attempt to cover all these ways at once with your students teach them gradually so that your students can master them. I often will share the anchor chart with them so they are aware of the choices but we cover the sounds carefully and systematically so students can be successful.
Nine Ways To Spell Long Vowel E Words
- e – me *open syllable long e words the most common spelling
- e_e – eve * silent e syllable word
- ee – tree *vowel team
- ea – peach *vowel team
- ei – protein * vowel team
- ie – piece * vowel team
- ey – key * vowel team
- y – baby * y as a vowel sound
- i-champion * letter i as /e/
Many of the long e words contain vowel teams but they are spelled other ways as well, so we should go over open syllable and silent e syllable as well as the vowel team syllable. Have students highlight the different representations of the long e sound in example words and then use those examples in sentences.
Open Syllable e
Knowing how to recognize the long e sound and its various spellings is an essential skill for students! The most common spelling of a long e at the end of an open syllable is just the letter <e>. Think ‘we’, ’emit’ or ‘meter’!
Depending on the word, you may also see it written as vowel team EA (like in tea), or even Vowel Team EE (for example freeze).
Silent e Syllable
Even though the e consonant e spelling pattern may not be as widespread, it’s still an important phonics pattern for students to grasp. In this particular context, this letter combination is usually found in the middle of a base word – such as eve or athlete – and these can help equip learners with confidence when tackling syllables like ‘e consonant e’
EE and EA
The long e sound can be spelled using both vowel team EE and vowel team EA. One rule you can share in the classroom is that when you come across a one-syllable word with the long e sound at its end, most likely this will be spelled as vowel team ‘EE’. Most struggling spellers want to represent the long e sound with a single <e> but a single <e> at the end of a base word is usually a silent e.
For vowel team EA the long e sound as in ‘eat’ is the most common sound. However, vowel team <ea> can also say the short e sound as in the word ‘feather’ or it can also represent the long A sound in a few words.
It is, for this reason, I don’t teach the adage “When two vowels go walking the first one does the talking.” This rule is not consistent enough to be useful and can be confusing to struggling readers.
To make things easier for your students when introducing these spelling rules use keywords and pictures such as ‘bee’ with vowel team EE and ‘eat’ linked with vowel team EA! Use the free anchor chart at the end of the blog in your next lesson.
Y as a Vowel
The long e sound is one of the most frequently used vowel sounds in English and Y often signifies this long e sound. Vowel Y as the long e sound is word final in two-syllable words like “body” or “baby.”
Additionally, you can find Y as a suffix at the end of many single-syllable word an example word would be ‘fluffy.’ In a lesson with Y as a vowel, it is important to teach the rule “if you hear the sound /e/ at the end of a word it will usually be spelled with the vowel <Y>.” Additionally, Vowel Y says the short e sound at the end of one-syllable words.
Vowel Teams IE EI EY
The long e sound can be spelled with these last 3 Vowel Teams but the spelling is fairly uncommon.
- <ie>- niece, chief and cookie
- <ey>at the end of the base word like honey or money
- <ei> a rare vowel team- receive and leisure.
Vowel I as E
The vowel I can say the long e sound in the middle of a word like in the word ‘champion.’
Ideas and Tips for Teaching
Teaching long e is all about repetition and practice. Instruction should focus on one spelling pattern at a time, allowing the student to gain confidence with that before introducing another.
Use Key Words and Pictures
When teaching your students how to spell words containing the long e sound, consider providing them with one keyword and picture per spelling pattern. This will help guide students as they spell and when teachers use them for dictation they can relate the vowel team with a picture for reference.
- <ea> eat or meat
- <ey> key * only used at the end and is not commonly used
- <ei> ceiling
- <ie> piece
Break words down to narrow choices
Helping students spell challenging words can be a tricky task. To simplify the process, encourage them to break down their word into syllables and eliminate incorrect spelling patterns right away.
If they are trying to spell ‘began’, A teacher can even provide cues like the beginning of this word is an open syllable so how do you think we should spell the long e sound? Remember open syllables always end with long vowel sounds.
Practice Practice Practice
Multiple spelling options exist for the long e sound, and it’s perfectly normal to make mistakes during practice. However, by engaging in a variety of activities with an emphasis on repetition you can help students internalize the correct pattern over time.
Another idea that will help in understanding the difference in vowel choices is to explain the most common ways to spell the long e sound. Other than the open syllable e, Vowel Team <ee> words and Vowel Team <ea> words are the most common ways to write these sounds.
Phoneme Grapheme Mapping
Unlocking the keys to literacy can be done through phoneme-grapheme mapping! This powerful activity enables students to become acquainted with the different sounds associated with each letter or group of letters. By using a long e-word list, and an orthographic mapping template with sound boxes learners can conquer their decoding and encoding skills. They can gain an understanding of how these combinations make words come alive.
Use Decodable Texts and Cloze Passages
Small group activities with decodable stories can be an engaging way to help teach vowel teams. Encourage students to search for words containing the long e sound, and highlight each spelling choice in a separate color. Asking students if they observe any suffixes will further develop their ability to spot subtleties within spelling structures – highlighting these letters using a different color reinforces this important skill!
Get creative with teaching spelling patterns and sorting words! Teachers can introduce a word sort chart as they read. This provides an opportunity for more in-depth learning. This activity is also great for exploring open e-syllables as well as silent e-syllables. For extra help along the way, be sure to check out free resources at the end of this post!
Practice with Dictation
Engaging students with the challenge of dictating words and sentences is a great activity for learning spelling patterns in the classroom. Limit the choices in your dictation list so children don’t become too overwhelmed with spelling choices. Then let your class color code the dictation list. They can give the long e vowel teams different colors to aid in memory retrieval.
Set Up Sorting Activities
Boost your students’ phonemic awareness with a fun sorting activity! Whether it’s matching games like memory or a reading war game. There are many different ways you can get kids engaged in the process of building key literacy skills.
Make Pictures in Tricky Words
As an effective learning aid, picture cue cards are a great way to help students master tricky words and sound-alike homophones or homographs. Try printing them out or creating your own with index cards – perfect for keeping in a box for easy reference! They can also be made into a homophone notebook.
Repurpose Your Games for Spelling
Kids can take their spelling practice up a notch with fun and stimulating adapted board games! With word lists including difficult long vowel teams, every successful answer is rewarded by rolling the die and playing an exciting version of classic repurposed favorites like Jenga or Don’t Break The Ice. To increase playtime possibilities try innovative variations on Go Fish & Concentration that involve some extra spellbinding challenges each round!
Review Those Concepts
When it comes to spelling, practice makes perfect – and that’s why constantly reviewing is essential! sound card or sound sheet drills are a great way to quickly go over newly learned patterns without taking up too much time. But if you’re looking for more comprehensive resources like worksheets, posters or activities focused on long E words specifically – my TPT store has exactly what you need!