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Long & Short Vowel Sounds – Plus 2 Free Anchor Charts!

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Learn the difference between short and long vowels, when to teach these sounds, and the rules for these sounds. For extra classrooom help, print the two free vowel anchor charts, with capital and lowercase letters and bright pictures to teach the long and short vowel sounds!

A black chalkboard background with two posters featuring long and short vowels.

Teaching Long & Short Vowels

Of the 26 letters in the English alphabet, the letters a, e, i, o, and u are vowels. The other 21 letters are consonants.

Every English word MUST include at least one vowel. That’s why knowing vowel sounds is so important when it comes to reading!

Children need to be introduced to these academic terms as early as pre-k, and they should leave kindergarten able to quickly and easily identify vowels and consonants in words.

This will be key as they begin progressing and coding words throughout elementary school!

A poster with the five vowels and the 21 consonants separated in two boxes.

Short Vowel Sounds

Short vowels are taught along with other letter sounds. Begin teaching short vowel sounds in pre-k and continue teaching them throughout all of kindergarten and the beginning of first grade.

👉 Rule: When there is one vowel in a word, either at the beginning or between two consonants, it usually has a short vowel sound.

Examples

  • Short A word examples: cat, map, hat, an, flag, bam, rat, fad, had, wag, jab, pan, chap, ram
  • Short E word examples: leg, leg, pet, slef, hen, men, Zed, net, web, wed, west, hem, fed
  • Short I word examples: is, in, lip, rim, lip, slid, pin, lick, lob, fin, thin, Tim, pin, fig, fit, hip, hit, whip
  • Short O word examples: on, not, log, off, blog, mop, Tom, nod, slop, fox, fog, flop, hog, hop frog
  • Short U word examples: up, ugly, mug, mud, lug, slum, fun, slug, rug, pup, slub, hug, hum, jug, jot

Long Vowel Sounds

Long vowels are usually taught after the first few months of first grade.

Students should have a firm command reading words with short vowels, digraphs, consonant blends, and closed syllables before long vowels are introduced. They’ll continue learning long vowel spellings throughout the next few years of elementary school.

👉 Rule: Long vowels say their name.

A says /ā/
E says /ē/
I says /ī/
O says /ō/
U says /ū/

Long vowel sounds can be heard at the beginning, middle, or end of a word. Long vowels can be spelled with a silent e (VCe pattern), a vowel team, or in an open syllable.

👉 Although there are many different long vowel spellings, I focus heavily on the ones we find most frequently in text, marked with an asterisk (*) below!

Long A

There are 8 ways to spell Long A.

  • a like baby*
  • a-e like cake*
  • ai like rain*
  • ay like day*
  • ei like reindeer
  • eigh like eight
  • ea like steak
  • ey like hey

Long E

There are 8 ways to spell Long E.

  • e like equal*
  • e-e like scere*
  • ee like bee*
  • ea like read*
  • y like baby*
  • ei like reiceipt
  • ie like cookie
  • ey like turkey

Long I

There are 6 ways to spell Long I

  • i like lion*
  • i-e like bike*
  • igh like light*
  • y like fly*
  • y-e like type
  • ie like pie

Long O

There are 5 ways to spell long O

  • o like no*
  • o-e like home*
  • oa like boat*
  • ow like bow*
  • oe like toe

Long U

Long u can actually make TWO sounds: ū (you) and ü (oo)

There are 5 ways to spell Long ū (you)

  • u like music*
  • u-e like cube*
  • ue like argue*
  • ew like few*
  • eu like feud

There are 6 ways to spell Long ü (oo)

  • u like tulip*
  • u-e like rule*
  • ue like blue*
  • ew like chew*
  • oo like food
  • ou like group

👉 Tip: Do not teach all of the spellings above at one time. Instead, follow a systematic approach for teaching all of the spellings listed above. Work on one spelling pattern at a time until students have mastered it, then move on.

If you don’t know where to start, the Recipe for Reading book helps parents and teachers practically implement Orton Gillingham methodology with students.

Black background with two posters and large words featuring "Long and Short Vowels"

Printable Anchor Charts

To help teach these concepts to kids, print both of the two free posters that can be used as anchor charts. One is focused on short vowel sounds and the other is focused on long vowel sounds.

The posters are designed to help promote both uppercase and lowercase recognition for each of the five vowels.

Each poster includes a bright picture that matches the keyword and includes the vowel sound.

Both posters use words where the vowel sounds are found at the beginning, allowing kids to hear and identify beginning sounds in words.

The Short Vowel Poster includes:

  • A a – /ă/ – apple
  • E e – /ĕ/ – elephant
  • I i – /ĭ/ – igloo
  • O o – /ŏ/ – octopus
  • U u – /ŭ/ – umbrella

The Long Vowel Poster includes:

  • A a – /ā/ – acorn
  • E e – /ē / – equal
  • I i – /ī/ – ice
  • O o – /ō/ – ocean
  • U u- /ū/ – unicorn

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We’d love to hear about your experience using these anchor charts!
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