4 Long U Vowel Patterns: A Phonics guide


Congratulations on making it to our final phonics lesson on common long vowel rules. I am sure it has not always been easy, but I promise all of the hard work will pay off in the end. This phonics lesson will focus on the long vowel “U” sound and its patterns. The Long U is a little different compared to the other four vowels. Instead of having one vowel sound, it has two! No worries, they are not too difficult, but it is something to keep in mind while teaching your little one. As per usual, start by learning words with Magic E, and then move into the more complicated, and less consistent, long vowel patterns. 

If you need to brush up on any of the other long vowel patterns, you can take a look at our posts on Long A, Long E, Long I, and Long O.

If you need any more phonics help, check out our Vowels and Consonants Page for lessons, flashcards, and articles.


How to Pronounce the Long U

As mentioned earlier, the Long U has two sounds. This makes Long U a bit more complicated when you teach it to your child. Especially because these sounds are very similar. The first Long U sound is the same as its name (the “u” in cute). We will refer to this first sound as “Long U #1.” The second Long U sound is a shorter version of Long U #1. Long U #1 makes a /yuw/ sound (notice the “y” at the front), but Long U #2 only makes an /uw/ sound (the “u” in rule).  

The IPA symbol for Long U #1 is /yuw/.

The IPA symbol for Long U #2 is /uw/.

In the important words section for each long vowel rule, each word will be marked with a #1 or a #2 to signify which Long U sound it makes. 

1. Long U Pattern: “Magic E Words” (u_e)

The easiest way to start your child on learning Long U is with the Magic E words pattern. Remember that there are two Long U vowel sounds. I have marked the examples below with which Long U sound that word makes. Compared to other vowels, “u” is used less often in basic words. So take your time, and learn each word as it comes, and practice as much as you can with your children until they are familiar with the common long U words. Remember, the Magic E pattern has an “e” that hops backward over a letter to “magically” turn a short vowel into a long vowel. In Magic E words, the “e” itself is silent, so in a word like “cute” we should hear /k/ /yuw/ /t/. To get a better sense of how this works, take a look at more of our examples below.

Important Words with “Magic E Words” (“u_e”)

  1. Cute (#1)
  2. Use (#1)
  3. Huge (#1)
  4. Confuse (#1)
  5. Fuse (#1)
  6. Tune (#2)

Exceptions to “u_e”

  1. Minute (uses a short /i/)

2. Long U Pattern: -ue

The “ue” pattern comes at the end of words, though some examples may have an “s” afterward to indicate that it is plural. There are only a few words that use this pattern, but there are some important ones your child probably already knows, like “blue” or “glue.” I recommend this Long U pattern after Magic E because it is fairly reliable and easy to recognize.

Important Words with “-ue”

  1. True (#2)
  2. Glue (#2)
  3. Blue (#2)
  4. Avenue (#1)
  5. Argue (#1)
  6. Clue (#2)
  7. Barbecue (#1)

Exceptions to “-ue”

  1. League (the “ue” is silent, so this word ends on the /g/ sound)
  2. Tongue (this word ends on the /ng/ (ŋ) nasal consonant)

3. Long U Pattern: ew

The “ew” pattern is also a fairly rare pattern that comes up in only a few important words. I would recommend that you do try to teach this rule because it may help your child in the future identify new words, but do not expect them to use it often. 

Important Words with “ew”

  1. New (#2)
  2. Few (#1)
  3. Stew (#2)
  4. Nephew (#1)

Exceptions to “ew” 

There are few “ew” words to start with, and no major exceptions that you need to worry about. 

4. Long U Pattern: U (Open Syllable)

Like with the other vowels, the Open Syllable rule also applies to the letter “U.” If a vowel is at the end of a syllable, that syllable is called an Open Syllable, and that vowel will make a long vowel sound. You can identify these words by memorizing important examples, and by teaching your child to count syllables to check words on their own.  

Important Words with “u” (Open Syllable)

  1. Human (#1)
  2. Future (#1)
  3. Student (#2)
  4. Music (#1)
  5. Unity (#1)

Important Exceptions to “u” (Open Syllable)

There are no important exceptions for you to worry about. 

How do I Practice Long Vowel Patterns?

Once you have gone over the patterns that use Long U, it is best to practice identifying Long U vowels by reading with your child. You can do this by reading to your child and having them try to sound out individual words, or let them read to you. It all depends on what they like, and what level of English they have. For long vowel identification, reading is the best way for children to learn the patterns and to start to become familiar with common exceptions to the rules.

While reading with your child, please make sure that you discourage them from guessing words. Also, do not try to push them to read beyond their level. By taking it slow in the beginning and properly teaching them how to read using long vowel patterns and synthetic phonics, your child will improve in the long run.

More Questions

If you have questions that you would like answered, feel free to leave us a post in the comment section, or book some time with us to talk one-on-one about your concerns.

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