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An Example Lesson Plan for Teaching Vowel Teams

Vowel teams are groups of letters that work together to make a vowel sound (usually a long vowel sound). 

All of the following are usually taught as vowel teams:

Long a: ai, ay, eigh, ey 

Long e: ea, ee, ey, ie, ei 

Long i : ie, igh 

Long o: oe, oa, ow 

Long u: ue, eu, ew 

Below is a example lesson plan for teaching vowel team "ee" in late first grade or early second grade. Students already know what a vowel team is and have learned a couple of vowel teams.

The different parts of the lesson plan are: phonics and high frequency words review, phonological awareness warm-up, concept introduction and multisensory writing, blending practice, and word building.

Phonics and High Frequency Words Review

  • Review high frequency word cards from previous weeks (hold up a word card and have students read it; if many students struggle with a word, have them tap it out on their arm while spelling it aloud)
  • Review some of your sound cards from previous weeks (show one card at a time and have students say the sound aloud).

Phonological Awareness Warm-up

  • “Let’s practice segmenting. I’ll say the word, we’ll pound the syllables, and you tell me the sounds in each syllable while you tap them out.” Have students pound (1 syllable each), then segment and tap out each word (see the instructions videos for the “tapping out” procedure): green, beach, queen, street, squeal. For the next words, have them pound for each of the 2 syllables (one closed fist into their other open hand) and then segment the syllable (see Week 29 for an example if necessary): defeat, feedback

Concept Introduction and Multisensory Writing

  • Display the “ee” phonics poster. “Today we’re going to learn about double e! When you see ‘ee’ together like this, they make one sound: ē. E-E says ē. Say that with me.” (E-E says ē)
  • “Are there any words you already know that have ‘ee’ in them?” See if students can come up with a few examples. List them on the board. (Don’t spend too long on this.)
  • Provide students with the multisensory writing material (i.e. sand on a paper plate). “In a second, I’m going to say, ‘What says ē? And you’ll say, ‘ee says ē’ and you’ll write it like this…” Show students the phonics poster that says “ee.” 
  • “What says ē?” Students should write “ee” and say aloud “e-e says ē.” “But we know OTHER ways to spell long e, don’t we? What else says ē?” Students should identify the letter “e” by itself as saying ē (as in the word “be” or “me”). Students should say aloud “e says ē” and write it in their sand / material. “What else says ē?” Students should identify “e magic e” (e with a silent e) as another way to spell the long e sound. Have them write “e_e” in their sand / material and say aloud “E, Magic E says /ē/.
  • Continue with a few other sounds that students need to review (make sure to review vowels). Each time, ask, “What says _____?” Students should trace and verbalize the correct letters. When students know more than one spelling for a sound (i.e. /k/), say, “You know ___ ways to spell this sound. Write all of them and say them quietly while you write.” (Students can say the letters and sounds quietly since they may not be writing the same letter at the same time - then have them list the letters off as a group after everyone is finished writing.)

Blending Practice

  • Arrange your sound cards into 2 stacks:

     Stack 1 - These sound cards: b, d, m, p, r, s, w     

     Stack 2 - ‘ee’ sound card

     Stack 3 - These sound cards: l, p, d, k, t

  • “Now let’s read some words with ‘ee.’” Point to each sound card and have students say the sounds. Then, have them blend it to read the entire word. It should sound like this: “/b/ /ē/ /t/, beet.” Students should not just be shouting out the word. Repeat for all the listed sound cards, changing out the card in stack 1 to make a new word each time. Students should show a thumbs-up if a real word is made (it’s okay if nonsense words are made, as long as students identify that it is not a real word).

Word Building

  • Pass out the magnetic letters, tiles, or cards to students for word building (students should have the entire alphabet available to them).
  • “First, make the word ‘need.’ We need water to live. Need. Let’s tap it out together. /n/ /ē/ /d/. You know a couple of ways to spell long e, but ‘need’ has E-E like we just learned about.” Wait for students to make the word and show an example so they can fix their work if necessary. “What word did you make?” (need) “What says /ē/?” (e-e) “What says /d/?” (d)
  • “You made ‘need.’ Now let’s change it to ‘feed.’ You can feed the dog. Feed. Which letter are we going to switch out?” (n) Have students make the word “need.” 
  • Next, have them make the following series of words, one at a time (use each one in a sentence first): feet, meet, beet, beep, keep, keel, wheel

Follow-Up Lessons

Later in the week, students continue reviewing "ee" and also learn about the "ea" vowel team. They compare and contrast words that have these vowel teams.

Vowel teams take a long time for students to master. Typically, they can read words with vowel teams long before they can spell most words with vowel teams correctly. This is because many vowel teams don't have defined rules about when to apply them (and sometimes there are homophones - like the words "meet" and "meat," for example).

From Sounds to Spelling acknowledges the challenges teachers face in getting their students to learn vowel teams. That's why we cover vowel teams at the end of first grade and then loop back to cover them again in second grade. And even after the vowel teams are taught, we include review in future units. 

To read more about From Sounds to Spelling and download example lesson plans, click here.


Examples of Phonemic Awareness Activities

In What Order Do You Teach Vowels?

Free Phonics Sound Charts for Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd Grade