Are you about to start teaching your class the long vowel o sound? This sound has some tricky features, but the tips and tools below will make it easy for you to teach and for your students to learn!
What is the long vowel o?
Long vowels typically "say their name." In words with the long vowel o, you'll hear that long o sound loud and clear!
When you say these words, your mouth actually opens in the shape of the letter o. Your students will love trying this in front of a mirror!
On the contrary, the short vowel sound requires a soft open mouth and can sound similar to the short a sound. Think cop, otter, doctor, etc.
There are several different ways to spell this vowel sound, and I'll break down both the order in which to teach these and offer strategies to make them easy (and fun) to learn!
Get my free long vowel lists
Download my free decodable long vowel lists to help keep track of all the different vowel patterns for each long vowel!
This is more than just a list of words; you'll get printable lists for all of the long vowel sounds, with the words broken down by how many sounds are in each one. This makes it easy to introduce the easier words first, then gradually move to more complex words over time.
How to Teach Long Vowel O Sounds: Step-by-Step
In synthetic phonics (Science of Reading), we offer systematic, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness before moving to phonics when students are properly ready.
1. Start with oral practice first.
Your students should be able to flexibly and confidently identify the sounds in spoken words before you expect them to decode written words.
For example: Can your students identify the /o/ in the middle of "dome" or at the end of "no?"
If they aren't confident identifying phonemes, go back to practising basic phonemic awareness skills. This will make it much easier for their brains to connect the letters to the sounds you're teaching!
Another way to practise the long vowel sound orally is with poppits. Rather than needing to SPELL the word, students must simply segment the long o words into each of their sounds.
2. Introduce orthographic mapping and sound boxes.
Once students understand and can manipulate the different sounds in words, begin connecting letters to the sounds.
I recommend using a practice called orthographic mapping, which is an evidence-based method of learning how to read.One of the best methods is to use sound boxes, which is simply a way of listing out the sounds students hear in words.
This is an incredibly effective way to teach your students how to spell words, and it's much more efficient than simply teaching your students to memorise them by sight!
If this is a new concept, check out these resources.
3. Focus on regularly spelled words first.
"No" is very easy to sound out or decode. Practise saying and segmenting no into /n/ /o/ then connecting those sounds to letters by using sound boxes. Work with other regularly spelled words before moving onto more complex spellings or complex words.
4. Introduce the split digraph (also known as magic e or final e sound)
Students love the twist of the 'silent' e, and it's lots of fun to teach!
For example: Sound out bone. /b/ /o/ /n/
There are just three sounds in this word and those consonant sounds will be really easy for your students to identify. On your sound boxes, record the b, o, and ne in 3 sound boxes. You might like to use these free word mapping templates.
Practise other words that follow the same pattern to really cement this learning. Once students are comfortable with these three-sound words, move on to four-sound words and decode words such as "alone" or "broke."
5. Introduce the other vowel patterns.
Like before, start with oral practice by segmenting and blending. Use your sound boxes to practise spelling several words which use the same spelling pattern. After your students get the hang of ow and oa words, ask them to spell words from both patterns. See if they can notice any patterns e.g. 'ow' is usually at the end of words, 'oa' is usually at the start or middle of words.
Over time, add words with more sounds. Instead of just "oat," ask students to spell "boat" or "bloat."
Fortunately, my free decodable long vowel word list make this super easy! I've already separated the patterns into the number of sounds, making it easy to have examples ready for your practice or to extend this lesson for students catching on quickly.
Long Vowel O Activities & Games
Looking for some click-and-play lessons you can use to launch this new learning? Try these Long Vowel O Lesson Slides! It includes video lessons, interactive activities, games, puzzles, and more to engage your whole class.
Low Prep Phonics Games
Phonics games are a fun way to practice those phonics skills without making it feel like a chore. These activities are all based on synthetic phonics (Science of Reading)!
- Roll a Silly Sentence: These make it easy to practice these different spelling patterns and vowel sounds while having a little fun at the same time.
- Phonics Hexagons: Practice all of the confusing graphemes like oo, oa, and ow with these clever hexagons where students write the name of each picture following the same pattern.
- Long Vowel Grapheme Detective: This word sort activity gets students to hunt down words following the long o patterns in each column.
- Long Vowel Board Games: Pair your students to help them decode long vowel sounds in this fun game! For added extension, ask students to write the word and/or think of another word with the same spelling pattern.
- Poppit Task Cards - as discussed earlier, these are a great way to build phonemic awareness and segmenting skills with long vowel o words.
- Connect Four - another fun game that students can play in pairs.
- Decodable Words: These decodable word cards can be used for all sorts of word building activities. Students can build long vowel o words using magnets, stones, unifix cubes and other alphabet manipulatives. Alternatively, they can take it turns to quiz a partner and write the long vowel o words on their mini whiteboards.
- Decodable Sentences: These decodable sentences are perfect for early readers ready to decode multiple words at a time! Try these read & match sentences for students who would benefit from extra support.
Finally, you may also like to get students to complete these long vowel o word sorts.
You may also like to try these printable worksheets and activities for independent work time. These 25 worksheets are perfect for reviewing & consolidating long-o word skills before moving on.
Long O Spelling Patterns
Some long o words are easy to sound out. Most of these are open vowel sounds, as there is no consonant after the vowel.
Phonetic Long O Sounds
Unfortunately, most words with the long vowel o sound are spelled with a vowel team, which makes it tricky for early readers. They'll need to learn these spelling patterns using orthographic mapping explicitly.
O_E (Split Digraph or Silent E)
This is one of the most common ways your students will encounter the long vowel o, and it's one of the easiest ways to teach it.
In this long o pattern, the "bossy e" at the end of the word tells the vowel to say its name. The e will always be silent, and you'll hear a long vowel sound for the o.
Try teaching the difference between con and cone or cop and cope. It's easy to tell that without the e at the end, the word has the short o sound.
Magic E Words for Long-O Sound
Remember to download my free decodable long vowel word lists! They're the perfect tool to help your students practice decoding the o_e words in no time.
For this spelling pattern, keep using your sound boxes! Your students will learn these words best with orthographic mapping and by developing your students' phonemic awareness.
OA Words Sound List
Although this is often confused with the exclamation "ow!," the letters ow also make the long vowel o sound. It's usually at the end of words, but not always!
If you're feeling overwhelmed or need help figuring out where to start, check out these interactive lesson slides you can use today to teach your students the long vowel o! It includes hundreds of pages of activities and sentences to help your students learn these new skills.
Even better, this resource (and the resources for the other long vowels) are available as part of The Hive! For Unlimited Members, you'll also be able to pull up valuable resources just like this at a moment's notice!
The Hive is like your daily teacher planner on steroids. It has your schedule, timetable, class list, and daily slides set up with hundreds of apps, lessons, and resources to support your students.
Imagine having phonics tools like this at your fingertips each day:
Imagine how amazing it will feel (and how well your students will learn) when you can offer the best interactive research-based learning activities every single day with no prep!
Once you start teaching this way, you'll never return to the scattered sticky notes and stacks of papers. The Hive will help you teach smarter, not harder, so you can focus more on teaching than dealing with all the clutter and chaos of planning.