Overview of Letter Combinations

There are three sections in this resource:

Overview of Letter Combinations
Video Demonstrations
Teaching Tips

The estimated time to complete this resource is 20 minutes.

You may download and print the following documents by clicking the links below.

Lesson Plan
Lesson Materials
Word List
Video Transcript

When certain vowel sounds are joined together, they often work together to create a unified vowel sound. One example of this is in the word reach, in which the e and the a combine to make the long e sound.

Some letter combinations represent more than one sound. For example, oo makes different sounds in book and mood and ea makes different sounds in bead and head. To lessen confusion, explicitly teach these differences and associate the different sounds with key words.

Teaching students the characteristics of letter combinations is crucial, so the sooner students learn these basic concepts, the sooner they’ll be able to read and spell more words.

Six Syllable Types

Video Demonstrations

This lesson has two videos.

Video 1
Spelling Patterns for Common Letter Combinations

This video provides an overview of many common letter combinations by the sound they make. For example, the first segment shows two ways to represent the long a sound: ai and ay.

(Please note: This video is intended as a resource to demonstrate the wide array of letter combinations that can represent one sound. Once you are familiar with the concept, you may be able to target areas of student need as you begin to recognize patterns of errors made by your students. Students should be taught additional letter combinations as they master each sound.)

Click play on the video when you're ready to begin.

Video 2
Reading Words with Common Vowel Letter Combinations

This video demonstrates how to teach students to read and spell words that have specific letter combinations. Please click to download and print the Long A Spelling Support Card handout for part of this video. The handouts may also be downloaded from the RELATED ITEMS section below, or you may use the lesson materials packet download from the Overview section at the beginning of this resource.

Click play on the video when you're ready to begin.

Teaching Tips

When teaching letter-combination words:

  • Teach letter combinations that make one sound (e.g., ai and ay make the long a sound) before teaching letter combinations that make more than one sound (e.g., ow in snow and plow).
  • Teach students to see the letters as a combination, or "team," that makes a particular sound.
  • Have students start a “spelling options” notebook to practice spelling words and memorizing which option goes with which words.
  • Provide multiple opportunities for students to interact with high-utility words in reading and writing activities.
  • When a strategy for choosing a spelling option exists, teach it (e.g., ay is more likely at the end of a word; ai is more likely in the middle).

You can use questioning to help students determine the correct spelling when a sound is represented in multiple ways.  For example, you can say “There are three ways of spelling /ā/ in words.  What is the one way to spell /ā/?  What is another way? What is the third way?"

Introduce new letter combinations as a new spelling option for a sound.  For example, when introducing ea, tell students that ea is one spelling option for long e; other options are ee and e-consonant-e

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