Struggling readers require a lot of practice with long ea words. Some long ea words include: seal, heat, meal, fear, real, dean, treat…etc. Usually long ea words are taught with long ee words like: feel, sleet, free, gleam, bleak, seem, cheek…etc.
More long ea words
Long ea words make the long e sound. They contrast with short e words that make the e_ as in elephant sound. Here are some more long ea words:
east, steam, beast, lead, leave, pea, beat, sea, beam, weak, smear, tweak, spear, breach, plead, meal, mean, wean, teach, bead, speak, scream, year, cheat, peach, heat, flea, cream, jeans, dream, weak, near, dear, leach, heal, gleam, deal, tear, clean, team, neat, bean, tea, eat, treat, plea, leak, zeal, teal, real, squeak
FREE ea phonics book
To help your student practice long ea words, here’s a free book:
In the above ea phonics book, your student can practice a wide variety of phonics sounds. When teaching long ea words, it can be tempting to introduce the widely used, though false idea that, “When two vowels go walking, the first vowel does the talking.” Sure, there are some long vowel sounds wherein this phrase is true. For another free book, check out The Eel.
The first vowel does not always do the talking
However, in later phonics sounds, the idea that the “first vowel does the talking” is wrong. Struggling readers need to veer from this false claim. Don’t say it at all! Discourage parents from saying it as well. It can delay struggling readers in both reading and spelling.
Later, “the first vowel does the talking idea” will confuse struggling readers. Oi, oy, ow, au, oo are just some examples of “two vowels” wherein the first vowel does NOT do the talking. Instead of teaching kids to focus only on the first vowel, highlight the second vowel too. Help struggling readers see vowel patterns as two letters that belong together.
Long ea words & spelling
Furthermore, teaching kids to ignore the second vowel will cause spelling problems. For example, when teaching long ea words, you don’t want your student to spell steal as stel or bean as bein. Help them see the second vowel too. As a result, your student will be able to spell! And spelling is tightly linked to reading!
Spelling is basically reading, but backwards. If reading is decoding, spelling is encoding. Spelling is actually harder than decoding. In spelling, kids must recall the sound and visual components of vowel units from memory.
When your struggling reader forgets
Our brains forget. Often. This is not a flaw. In many ways, forgetting is a gift. Be patient with your struggling reader. She will forget old sound units. That’s okay. Explicitly state the sound for her when she does. She will forget long ea words. Thus, just remind her explicitly.
Kids need frequent reminders of old sound units. In some ways, we have to view the brain as a sieve. This is true of everyone. We easily forget things. It takes multiple exposures across a broad range of time to remember. This is a gift. If we remembered everything, our brains would be overwhelmed with information.
Forgetting is a gift
Consider someone with hyperthymesia, a condition in which someone remembers an unusually large amount of information. For example, a person with hyperthymesia can remember exactly what they did five years ago on August 1st, even when that date has no unique meaning. They can remember very specific details, like what shirt they wore, what the air smelled like, what songs were on the radio…etc. People with hyperthymesia often report that their memories are “burdens.” They state that they’re “overwhelmed” with information. They often wish they could forget easily like ordinary people.
Students need frequent, long-term practice
When students forget, you might feel frustrated: “I just taught this!” However, try to view your student’s forgetting differently. Their brains can forget. In many areas of life, forgetting should be celebrated. Yes, in reading, frequent long-term forgetting can be a problem. Thus, it is your job to essentially teach their brain: Hey! Don’t forget this stuff! It’s important.
Teach with patient, explicit instruction and repetition. Concepts are not learned in a single lesson. Rather, concepts are learned over many, many lessons through delayed review.
When working with struggling readers, let them review old material often. When teaching long vowel sounds, your student may forget long ea words. That’s okay. Give them the tools they need to practice. Like systematic decodable books!
Printable phonics books
Reading Elephant offers printable, systematic phonics books designed for struggling readers. The books teach sound units one at a time. Kids can practice old material often. On Reading Elephant books, struggling readers can master new concepts in slow, steady increments. This contributes to reading success.