5 Fun Ways to Teach Long Vowels

Phonics lessons run all year long in the first-grade classroom. After you've taught CVC, silent E, and beginning blends, it's time to move on to some more challenging words with long vowels from vowel teams or vowel combinations. This concept can be tricky for young students, so I like to use a variety of techniques to help cement this skill. Today, let's talk about teaching long vowels!

Use these 5 fun ways to teach long vowels in your classroom this year.

Techniques for Teaching Long Vowels 

When it comes to teaching phonics, long vowels might be the trickiest concept to master. Long vowels and vowel teams are especially confusing to students since one vowel sound can be represented by a number of different vowel teams.  For example, the long o sound can be created any of the following spelling patterns: o, oa, oe, ow and o_e. Not to mention, there's no specific rule or criteria we can give students for identifying these spelling patterns and their sounds, which can really add to the confusion. 

That being said, the best way to help students understand this concept is through continued practice with each vowel team. As with many things in the primary classroom, exposure and practice will make all the difference! We all know that in order to keep that repetitive practice interesting, you'll have to switch it up. Here are 5 fun ways to teach long vowels using vowel teams in the first-grade classroom. 

1. Long Vowel Write the Room 

If you teach young students, you likely already know they can be a busy bunch! Young children are active and need opportunities to move around during a long day of learning. For this reason, I will always love using Write the Room activities like this one focused on long vowels. 

Write the room activities like these can be used over and over again with laminated cards and dry erase markers to help teach long vowels.

In my classroom, we use write-the-room activities in a variety of ways. Sometimes, I'll use them during center time for a true write-the-room activity. Other times, we'll play a game of "Scoot" with the cards. For this activity, I place 1 card on each student's desk and the kiddos will scoot from one desk to the next to answer the questions. Other times, I'll use the cards during small group intervention for ready made questions on the target skill!

When it comes to learning long vowels, I love this activity since it covers a variety of vowel teams including ai, ay, ee, ea, oa, and ow. The recording sheet for this activity also has a handy word list to help assist students in solving each card. 

2. Vowel Teams Sorting Center

As I mentioned before, the key to learning vowel teams really comes down to practice and exposure. The more opportunities children have to work on specific vowel teams, the easier it is for them to master them. One of the ways I like to give my students many opportunities to practice working with long vowels is through word-sorting centers. 

Use these sorting activities in your centers for fun ways to teach long vowels.

This activity is a great way to introduce the spelling patterns and how they sound. In this activity, students will sort through a stack of cards with ai and ay spelling patterns. They will notice the spelling pattern, sort it into the correct category and then say the word. There's also a recording sheet that goes along with this activity for students to write down the words for each category.  While this specific resource is focused on long A - I have similar resources for other vowel teams too! 

I love using this activity as an introduction to new vowel teams in my small groups. Students get plenty of examples and practice through these activities as we work together. After students have practiced this activity with some guidance, I will assign it again in a few days as an independent center review activity. 

3. No-Prep Worksheets for Long Vowels 

As primary teachers, we spend lots of time prepping materials, lessons, and activities. My students love hands-on center activities and games, so I'm always happy to include them.  However, it's also important for me to balance the load with some no-prep options as well. 

When it comes to teaching long vowels and vowel teams, I love using Mystery Code pages to fill the "no-prep" section in my lesson plan. While these printable worksheets are low-prep for me, they are also highly engaging to my students making them a total win-win! 

No prep worksheets like these are so fun for your students and will help you teach long vowels in a fun way your students will love.

The Secret Code pages I like to use focus on a variety of vowel teams, so we use these over the course of many weeks as we move through each one. To use, students will write the beginning sound letter for each graphic, then they rewrite the word that was revealed. Finally, they color in the picture by the color named for that word. This activity is a fun and easy way for students to get some extra practice reading words with specific vowel teams without a ton of extra prep. 

4. Long Vowel Mystery Picture Puzzles

If you're looking for a fun, new way to work on long vowels, Mystery Picture Puzzles might be just the thing! This activity is another great, no-prep way to help your students practice reading words with specific vowel teams. In our mystery puzzles, the words we focus on include words with many different vowel teams including, ee, ea, ai, ay, oa, and ow. 

Mystery picture puzzles like these will help you teach long vowels with a hands on puzzle activity your students will love to complete.

There is one puzzle on each page and a total of 10 puzzles are included in this resource.  Some pages focus on a single vowel team, and others include multiple vowel teams and make a great review.  Students will cut apart the puzzle pieces, read the words and glue them down in the correct spot with the matching picture. After the puzzle is complete and dry, students can color in their puzzle to finish the picture. 

I like to have kiddos work on these independently at their desk. I recommend using glue sticks, rather than liquid glue to speed up the drying process, but they can also be placed on a drying rack and colored later as an early finisher activity.

This simple and fun activity is always a crowd-pleaser among the kiddos! I love that the pictures offer a way for students to self-correct in this activity as well. If they answered incorrectly, the picture will be mixed up, allowing them a chance to find their mistake. 

5. Vowel Teams BINGO

I saved the BEST for last! This final activity is without a doubt the favored one to practice long vowels in my classroom. I'm a big fan of BINGO myself since it's easy to prep and simple for first graders to play. When it comes to using BINGO for Vowel Teams, I like to save this game to use as a whole group. 

Typically, once my students have had some practice with specific long vowels using some of the other activities, I'll pull out BINGO. We use it towards the end of the day as a fun way to celebrate a long day of learning. The BINGO cards I use come in a few options:

  • Full-Color BINGO boards with graphics
  • Full-Color BINGO boards without graphics (words only)
  • Blackline BINGO boards with graphics
  • Blackline BINGO boards without graphics (words only)
Use a BINGO activity like this for a fun and engaging way to teach long vowels.

We use colored cards with graphics the first time we play as a group. Students will use some kind of BINGO markers or small erasers to cover each word as it's called. Then, as they grow in their abilities we'll use the cards that only have words to add an extra challenge. 

Sometimes we'll switch it up and use the backline set with BINGO daubers as well. This activity works great for small groups if you'd like to work with just a few kiddos at a time. I love that I can just print a set of cards and we're good to go! 

Start Planning Your Own Long Vowel Lessons 

I hope these activities offered some inspiration and a way to switch up your usual routine when it comes to teaching long vowels and vowel teams. This concept can be tricky for firsties, but with a blend of hands-on center activities, no-prep worksheets, and group games, your students will master vowel teams in no time. If you'd like to check out all the activities highlighted in this post, be sure to stop by my TpT Store. You will find plenty of lessons and activities to add to your long vowel lessons. 

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Teach long vowels to your students in fun and exciting ways they will love! These 5 fun ways to teach long vowels will help ensure your students get the practice they need to understand and master long vowel sounds. From mystery pictures to BINGO these activities will get your students excited to learn long vowel sounds. Whether you want to use these activities as center activities, partnered activities, whole group activities, or even homework, you are sure to have engaging ways to teach long vowels both you and your students will love. #thechocolateteacher #longvowels #teachinglongvowels #longvowelactivities

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