Teaching a child to read can be a fun and rewarding yet challenging process. The English language has its rules of pronunciation, but unfortunately these rules have many exceptions, which can be very confusing to beginning readers. It is best to teach the basics of phonics to early readers and save the exceptions for later mastery. Once you are ready to tackle long vowels, use memory tools such as mnemonics to aid learning.
Pronouncing long vowels requires only a simple rule once they are identified. Long vowels are pronounced the same as you would say the letter themselves. Children will like this easy trick and can easily practice words like "I" and "a" to identify two long vowel sounds they can already probably read in a sentence.
Tell the story of the two vowels who went for a walk together, and remind them that the first vowel is the leader. This memory trick will remind them that when two vowels are grouped together in a word, the first vowel is the one that is pronounced with a long vowel sound. Demonstrate by reading words like "bean," "team," or "blue," and children can more easily get the hang of identifying the leader of each walking group of vowels. You can even ask students to create their own story about the two vowels to demonstrate their understanding of which vowel is the stronger and more significant.
When a word or syllable ends in a vowel, it is generally pronounced with a long vowel sound. Teach your children this trick with simple words like be and go, and expand with multi-syllable words like begin, bacon, and photo. If your kids are having a hard time recognizing the ends of syllables, teach them to clap out the syllables as they slowly say the word to help them recognize the natural separation. This trick may also work better with some kids using written words instead of saying the words aloud so that they can easily identify the ending letter.
Unfortunately, every rule has an exception and the silent e trick is one that may confuse beginning readers. A word that ends in e does not use a long vowel sound at the end if there is also a middle vowel. Instead, the trick is that the e is silent and changes the middle vowel to a long sound. Practice this trick with words like vine, note, home, and late, and give examples of adding the final e to other words to change them, such as changing mat to mate, not to note, or bit to bite.