Long u might be one of the most difficult vowel sounds to teach, due to its complex pronunciation with 2 sounds for the long U. In this blog post I’m here to make it easier for you to teach long u words! We’ll break down each of the eight ways to spell long U and explore fun Orton Gillingham-based activities sure help your students understand this long u sound. At the end of the article, you will find a link to a free word list to print and anchor charts with long U vowel sound words.
The 2 Sounds of Long U Words
Long u words are pronounced with two distinct sounds! Take the examples of the long u words <fume> and <flute>. While “u” in both of these words is pronounced as a long vowel sound, you will notice that in flute the /oo/ sound seems to be more prominent than when saying fume where <U> says its name.
This happens because in some long u words the /u/ sound is too difficult to pronounce so it becomes /oo/ like in the word <flute>. It would be difficult to say /flUte/.
Seven Ways To Spell Long U
The long u sound can be represented by 8 different spelling patterns:
- u – human and music
- u_e – rule and cute
- ue – argue and clue
- ew – drew and mew
- oo – moon and food
- ou – soup and group
- ui – fruit and suit
As you begin to teach the long u words first review and explain the concepts of the open, silent e, and vowel team syllables, kids gain further knowledge by applying these rules to base words that have suffixes. A solid foundation in this concept will guide learners’ reading and spelling fluency.
Knowing how to spell, read, and pronounce long u and long vowels is a helpful part of phonics instruction. Understanding the basics of syllable division helps students identify when it’s appropriate for the letter ‘u’ to make its signature /U/ or /oo/ sound – take “music” as an example!
Silent E signals many long vowels even in long u words. U silent e spelling pattern can be found often as the middle syllable of words such as cute, mule, and flute – making either a /U/ or a /oo/ sound.
Long U words are rarely seen with the EW vowel team. It can be seen forming two different long U sounds. Examples of this uncommon spelling include the common words “few” and “chew”.
UE Vowel Team
The “long u” sound, spelled as UE at the end of a word is an uncommon occurrence in the English language. It can be found in homophones such as blue/blew and dew /do. The most common pronunciation for this combination /oo/ sound.
OO and OU Vowel Teams
<OO> and <OU> spelling patterns are present in long U words, however, the <OO> is much more prevalent in common words.It can be found anywhere in the beginning or end a base word but is most commonly found word medially.
While <ou>, which can be found in long u words, typically is spelled in the middle of base words – since English words can’t end in the letter U.
EU and UI Vowel Teams
The long u spellings of <EU> and <UI> aren’t seen often in English. You may find it in a few words like <deuce> and <feud> or <fruit> and <juice>.
Tips for spelling and reading
For students who find themselves at a loss when attempting to spell unknown long U words, breaking words down can narrow the choices.
For instance, if they’re trying to figure out how <music> is spelled, point them in the right direction by prompting: “This long U sound comes at the end of a syllable; what letter combination do you think would fit there?” This will save time and help limit choices.
Make good spelling choices for long u words
To help students learn correctspellings, the keywords approach with a picture cue is a great idea! As an example, when teaching ‘ew’, you could use the word <chew> as a reference and cue the student with “u like in chew”.
Post keyword pictures in your classroom for spelling reference as your student writes the long vowel spellings.
Students will make mistakes in spelling as they play with a word list game because of the multitude of spelling choices for words. With spell checkers that is okay but students must recognize correct spellings and have reading fluency with long vowels.
Provide lots of fun practice
To ensure success, introduce a range of activities and emphasize encoding and decoding those words as often as possible. Each week use a word list for games such as Spell and Roll to 50 available for download at the end of the article.
Use Phoneme Grapheme Mapping
By engaging in orthographic mapping, phonemic awareness skills are sharpened. students gain the capacity to hear and identify how speech sounds correspond with written symbols. This meaningful activity is a powerful tool for boosting reading and writing proficiency.
Teachers can equip students with the fundamental building blocks of literacy using our free Long U word list and orthographic mapping templates.
Teach Vowel Teams with Decodable Passages
Dive into decodable stories and encourage them to search for vocabulary words with this spelling pattern. Have them make a word list from the story and then mark each choice using different colors so they discover even more!
By incorporating dictation practice, you can help them become confident in their phoneme-grapheme proficiency. For instance, go over open syllables such as <human> and <music>
Then hone in on long vowels featuring magic e or vowel team pronunciations to give them an edge.
Make sure to make it multi sensory by having your students say the sounds as they map the word and then have them say the letter names as they write the words.
Use Learning Games
Unleash your students’ learning potential with a thrilling sorting game with a word list! From concentration to reading contests, ignite their imaginations and jumpstart essential literacy skills that will last them for years.
For example, take simple games like my “Pop It” game or a Roll and read game to give kids fun practice.
I hope this article and the resources provided will help your kids with reading and spelling. With these tips, I hope teaching with long U words will be a breeze.
Download Long U Wordlists Anchor Chart and Game Below