Of all the syllable types to teach, Vowels Teams can be the most challenging for students to master. And the main reason is that there are so many variations of this syllable type relative to the other five syllable types. There are approximately 32 vowel teams. So for this reason alone this is why more time has to be given to teaching Vowel Teams. Up to this point students have only had to learn one basic way of spelling long vowels and that was the Vowel-Consonant-e pattern. Now all of a sudden 32 Vowel Teams appear before them, and students can feel overwhelmed.
- Vowel teams (-ai, –ay, –eigh, –ey, –ea, –ei, –ee) create the long /a/ sound.
- Vowel teams (-ea, –ee, –ei, –ey, –ie) create the long /e/ sound.
- Vowel teams (-ie, –igh, –ye, –uy) create the long /i/ sound.
- Vowel consonant teams (-oa, –ow, –oe, –ough) create the long /o/ sound.
- Vowel consonant teams (-iew, –eau) create the long /u/.
- Vowel/consonant teams –au, –aw, –ew, –ue, –ui, oi, –oy, –ou, –ow, –oo create their own unique sound. Many times these are the vowel teams that are labeled vowel diphthongs.
- Vowel team –oo not only creates its own unique sound, but it creates both a short and long sound. Short –oo says /oo/ in foot and long –oo says /oo/ in loose. Vowel teams –ew, –ue, –ui also say the long /oo/ sound.
- The vowel team -ou has 8 different sounds. The following silly phrase captures all 8 of these sounds. I thought you could journey your proud troubled soul.
The best way to alleviate students feeling overwhelmed is to teach the most commonly used Vowel Teams and give the students many activities where they can sort out the various spelling patterns by visually seeing the differences. After repetitive practice with word sorts and games, students will begin to memorize what words are spelled with what letter combinations.
Vowel Teams are divided into 2 categories, vowel digraphs and vowel diphthongs.
A vowel digraph is two vowels glued together that make one of the vowel sounds whether it is one of the vowel’s short sounds or one of their long sounds. For example –ea in “great” says long –a, but –ea in “bread” says short –e. And then –ea in peace says long -e.
A vowel diphthong is one unique sound formed by the combination of two vowel letters or in some cases a vowel with the letter –w. With this vowel team neither vowel makes its short sound or its long sound. Together the combination makes its own unique sound such as: –oi and –oy says /oi/and–ou and –ow say/ou/. Other diphthong Vowel Teams are –au, –aw –ew, –ue, –ui, –oo.
When deciding whether a team is a digraph/diphthong, consider the following tips: 1. A diphthong is a vowel sound produced when the tongue moves or glides from one sound to another sound in the same syllable. 2. To feel the difference between a digraph and a diphthong, place your index finger on either side of your mouth. Say the vowel sound /ai/ and your fingers will stay in the same positions because your mouth doesn’t move. Therefore, this vowel team is a digraph. Now say the vowel team /oi/, and your fingers will move. Therefore, the vowel team is a diphthong.
Regardless of whether they are called digraphs or diphthongs, I have found it best to call them all vowels teams and divide them into two groups: the team that says one of the vowel sounds in the team, and the team that says neither of the vowel sounds in the team, but rather their own unique sound together. This seems to be the simplest way when teaching vowel teams.
My packet Reading Vowel Digraph and Diphthongs has 86 organized words lists that target each of these vowel teams. The layout of the packet makes vowel teams so easy to teach.
Also, this post goes along with Vowel Teams: http://readingonstrawberrylane.net/13-vowel-digraph-and-diphthong-booklets/