Rules for Long and Short Vowels

Associating objects to specific vowel sounds can help students remember the sound the letter makes.

In the classroom, students learn a large number of vocabulary words. Because it is impossible to teach anyone to properly pronounce and spell every word they will use, teaching them the basic phonic sounds are important. Learning to recognize the sounds constants and vowels makes is especially important in reading and learning to spell.

1 Long Vowel Sounds

A long vowel is a vowel that says its name. Some words or syllables that end in a vowels, such as hi, knee, no and she, sound like their name. There are exceptions to every rule, and "do" and "to" are two exceptions to this rule. When followed by at least two constants, the vowels "i" and "o" have the long vowel sound. Example words are child, hold, post and kind.

Two vowels side by side in the same word says the name of the first vowel. The second vowel is silent. Some example words are gate, made, seal, teen, mile, rise, spoke, flow, use and mule.

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2 Short Vowel Sounds

A short vowel is identified in two ways. The vowel is usually the only vowel in the word and the vowel is between two constants. Sometimes the vowel begins the words. Some example words include: ant, van, egg, bed, pill, rib, God, pot, cup and pump. Words ending in "ck" usually make the short vowel sound. Words such as black, knock, thick and pluck.

3 Long and Short Vowel Sounds

The double "o" combination has both short and long vowel sounds. The sound depends on the word. In "book" and "took," the double "o" has a short sound. In boo, food and smooth, the double "o" has a long vowel sound. The double "o" homophone is easily mistaken with the "ou," "ui," "ue," and "ew" combinations, which makes the same sound. Example words are soup, fruit, ruler, blue and screw.

4 Irregular Vowels

Certain vowels do not follow the rule for long and short vowels. For example, when the vowel "o" is followed by "i," the two-vowel rule is not followed, as in "boil." Ending the "io" combination with an "n," and beginning the combination with an "s", "t" or "c" changes the pronunciation to "shun." An "e" that is followed by a "d" makes one of three sounds. Example words are: lifted, played and walked. The rules of long and short vowels does not apply to words ending in "igh," such as thigh, light, high, and sigh. Because the combination "ough" makes at least seven different sounds, it falls under irregular verbs. The different sounds are heard in the following words: bough, cough, hough, tough, through, thought and through.

Solace Powell began professionally writing in 1998. Her articles have appeared in "The Comet," "The Mace and Crown" and "The Courier." Powell received her Bachelor of Science in engineering from Old Dominion University.