Learn all about long i and the six ways to spell the long i vowel sound: i, i-e, igh, y, y-e, and ie. You will also snag your own free printable list with 173 words with long i vowel sounds!
All About Long i
Just as with all long vowels, the long vowel sound is the same as the letter name.
- Long a says /ā/ like acorn.
- Long e says /ē/ like equal.
- Long i says /ī/ like ice.
- Long o says /ō/ like ocean.
- Long u says /yoo/ like unicorn, OR /oo/ like ruler.
I usually teach my students a little jingle to remember the sound long vowels make. We pound on the table and chant, “Long vowels say their names.” My students really respond positively to this, and it helps them to remember the sounds of long vowels!
Long i can be spelled 6 different ways: i, i-e, igh, y, y-e, and ie. All of these spelling patterns can result in the long i vowel sound. Examples include:
- i like lion.
- i-e like bike.
- igh like light.
- y like fly.
- y_e like type.
- ie like pie.
Long i Sound Words
👉 Scroll to the bottom to download our free, comprehensive long i word list PDF!
i – Open Syllable Words & Wild/Old Words
The letter i by itself will say its long sound when it is the last letter in a syllable. This is called an open syllable. Think about words like hi, li/on, and pi/lot. Since the syllables end in the single letter i, the vowel will make its long i sound.
👉 Exceptions: We also hear the long i sound in many common, but irregular closed syllable words that break the rules.
These ‘exceptions to the rule’ are one-syllable words that end in -ild, -ilt, -ind, and -ist. These are sometimes referred to as Wild, Old Words.
Words with open syllable and wild or old words with long i sound:
i-e (Long i with Silent E)
This pattern follows a VCe pattern and results in the letter i saying its name.
Use the sight word ‘like’ to teach this spelling pattern. Write it on the board and ask your students to read it. Because this word is usually one of the first sight words children learn, they should know it automatically.)
Follow this general script:
- Teacher: Tap the sounds you hear in the word like. How many sounds do you hear?
- Students: /l/ /ī/ /k/ = 3 sounds.
- Teacher: But we see four letters! When we see i-consonant-e pattern in words, the i will say its long sound. That’s why ‘like’ has a long vowel sound in the middle. Without the letter e at the end, it would say ‘lick.’ Now imagine you raised your hand in class and said “I like my dog.” That magic e at the end is so important because, without it, my sentence would say “I lick my dog.” (Kids always get a hoot out of using this example in a sentence.)
Words with long i with silent e with long i sound:
igh – Vowel Team
Refer to this spelling pattern as “igh – 3 letter i.” It’s a three-letter vowel team. This phonogram is totally irregular and cannot be sounded out.
We learned from The ABC’s and All Their Tricks that this spelling is actually a remnant of Old English and Old German, which is why it looks so strange to us!
Words with vowel team igh with long I sound:
y – Vowel
Remember told old saying: “A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y.” Well, let’s teach our students the rules for when the letter y actually is considered a vowel. They can know for sure when that “sometimes” really occurs.
👉 Y is considered a vowel when it comes at the end of a syllable or word.
👉 When Y is at the end of a root word, it makes the long i sound.
Multisyllabic words where the vowel y makes the long I sound:
y-e (Long Y with Silent E)
When y is in the middle of a word, it is also considered a vowel.
When a syllable follows a y-consonant-silent e pattern, the y makes the long i sound. Many of these words come from Greek, and the y makes the sound of i.
ie – Vowel Team
IE is a vowel team. When it comes at the end of a root, it makes the long vowel i sound.
There are only a handful of words that include this vowel team, so teaching these four words together as a word family may be a better approach than teaching and reviewing the vowel team.
FAQ & Info
You should not teach all long vowel patterns at the same time. Follow a scope and sequence that targets skills systematically to build a solid foundation.
Only choose words from the list that follow the phonics skills you’ve already taught. For example: When teaching the long y spelling for long i, do not use the word “city” with students if you haven’t already taught the soft sound of c says /s/.
Download & Print
We hope you can use many of the words on this list as you teach the long i vowel sound. Please comment below or tag us on Instagram @Literacylearn to tell us your best tips for teaching long i.
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