Superhero Letters

These rules have to do with vowels. The five letters a, e, i, o, and u can have so many sounds, they really should be called superhero letters because they're able to transform their sounds as they need to. I imagine poor letters like k or b can be jealous at times because they can only make one specific sound! For our spelling purposes, we need to remember that for the most part, there are two kinds of vowel sounds, long and short.

The Long and Short of It

Let's start with the easiest sound a vowel can make — the looonnnngggg sound. In a long vowel, we hear the sound of the letter, just like when you recite it when you say the alphabet out loud. For example, ice has the long i sound. You actually hear the letter i when you say the word. You also hear that long i in the words item, mice, idea, and mighty.

Let's look at examples with the letter a. You hear the long a in the words cake, ache, rake, fake, and bake. You can hear the e in feed and need, and the long o sound in open, cope, hope, and elope. If you're not sure how to pronounce a vowel, you can look at the pronunciation key, which is right next to each word in the dictionary. A long vowel sound will have a line over the vowel, like this: ¯.

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Rhyming Words

Many times, words that rhyme are spelled alike. Let's use the word ate as our example. How many words can you think of that rhyme with ate? Go through the alphabet and try on letters — crate, date, fate, gate. How many words can you discover that have that same long a sound, followed by te

Many times, words that rhyme are spelled alike. Let's use the word ate as our example. How many words can you think of that rhyme with ate? Go through the alphabet and try on letters — crate, date, fate, gate. How many words can you discover that have that same long a sound, followed by te

The Long U

Can you think of any words that have a long u sound? Here's one to get you started: unique. (notice the second u following that q!) Okay, your turn. Can you think of any other words with long u sounds?

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Short Vowel Sounds

These five phrases might be helpful to you when you are looking for easy, identifiable short vowel sounds: A as in apple, E as in egg, I as in insect, O as in orange, and U as in umbrella. Can you make up your own phrases for the short vowels? Maybe you'd like all of your phrases to have to do with animals.

These five phrases might be helpful to you when you are looking for easy, identifiable short vowel sounds: A as in apple, E as in egg, I as in insect, O as in orange, and U as in umbrella. Can you make up your own phrases for the short vowels? Maybe you'd like all of your phrases to have to do with animals.

Short Vowel Activity

Here's another activity to work on rhyming short vowel sounds. Write down the letters ba. If you add a consonant after, you can make a variety of words that have a short a sound, such as bad or bag. How many different words can you make by adding just one or two consonants to ba? Try for fifteen.

Here's another activity to work on rhyming short vowel sounds. Write down the letters ba. If you add a consonant after, you can make a variety of words that have a short a sound, such as bad or bag. How many different words can you make by adding just one or two consonants to ba? Try for fifteen.

Short But Not Tiny

The short vowel sounds in words are more difficult to hear. Some teachers say the short vowel sounds are soft. While some students have no trouble hearing a short vowel, others find it most useful to study words that have the same short vowel sound and learn that way. Which way is easiest for you? Here are words with a short a sound: mask, task, act, and bag. Words that have a short i include: list, wish, and is. Can you tell the difference between the short and long vowel sounds? If so, you'll be able to spell the words by hearing them.

Spelling students who don't learn best by listening to the sounds of the letters might get the short vowel sounds confused. Some of them are hard to hear, especially if you aren't used to listening for them. Once again, you can go back to the good old dictionary and look at the pronunciation key for help. A short vowel sound will be have a curved line over it, like this: ˘. The curved line looks like a parenthesis on its side. Usually, practicing words and listening for similar sounds, especially rhyming sounds, can be very helpful when you are learning to spell.

Rhyming Words

If you are determined to create a list of words that have a short a sound, try rhyming. For example, words that have the same short a sound as map are trap, slap, cap, and tap. If you can hear that ‘ap’ sound, you can easily pick up the spellings of a whole bunch of other words. Once you have mastered those words, you can add some words with other syllables, such as happy or tapping. Then, it's just a matter of course to learn to spell more difficult words that have that ‘ap’ sound, such as trapeze, apple, or happiness.

Silent Letters

In English, all the letters in the alphabet (except J, O, V, and Y) can be silent.

Watch Out for Vowel Combos!

Be especially careful when you identify words that have combinations of vowels placed together, such as ea or ei. You won't be able to hear both vowel sounds, such as in the words each and weight.

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