Orton Gillingham Help, Unlock the Mystery of Vowels Teams

So we’ve now gone through all of the syllable types except one in the REVLOC system of syllable division. We have covered C, E, O, R, and L. The final type of syllable is Vowel Teams – the V.  These vowel teams are vowel sounds (it’s the sound, not just the letters) formed by two or more letters (notice it is letters, not vowels) within the same syllable.

For example:






In dividing a word, a Vowel Team syllable will look like this:

Conceit                                      con (closed or C)  ceit (vowel team or V)

As a side note: is QU a vowel team as in the word, Quit? It is not. It is a closed syllable. QU is considered a consonant and always appears together in English. Why is this important? For pronunciation. This makes the “i” in Quit stay short as it would in most closed syllables.


Vowel teams are made up of Diphthongs and Vowel Digraphs. A Diphthong will be two vowels that start out saying one sound, but blended end up as another. Vowel Digraphs are two vowels that make one new sound.

Diphthongs are two vowels making two separate sounds, but blended together make a new sound. Examples oi saying “oi” as in oil or ou saying “ou” as in out.

Digraphs are two consonants together making one new sound, as in sh, or two vowels together making one new sound, as in ai saying long a (rain) or oe saying long o (toe).

Vowel Teams

Below are the vowel teams, what sound they make and example words. So here goes:

ai says long a as in Train. It usually occurs at the beginning or middle of words.

Examples: ail, mail, main, hair, quail, chair, stair, frail, air, strain, Spain, faith, waif, snail, drain

ay says long a as in Tray. It comes at the end of words.

Examples: bay, say, spray, pay, stay, haystack, away, sway

oa says long o as in boat. It comes at the beginning and middle of words.

Examples: oat, coat, coach, throat, loan, goal, toast

oe says long o as in toe. There are very few words  and it is usually at the end of words.

Examples: toe, doe, foe, hoe, Joe, roe, woe, Moe

ee says long e as in bee.

Examples: deed, seem, speed, knee, fee, screech, fifteen, sleet, indeed, greed

oi says “oi” as in oil.

Examples: point, avoid, thyroid, devoid, rejoice, loiter, typhoid, poison, coil

oy says “oi” as in boy. It is usually at the end of a word, with a few exceptions.

Examples: joy, employ, soy, alloy destroy, deploy, viceroy.

Exceptions from the end of word sentence: The loyal, royal, oyster took a voyage. These “oy” words are in the middle of the words.

oo commonly says “oo” as in food.

Examples: too, zoo, moon, boost, shampoo, proof, zoom, hoop, tattoo

oo also says “oo” in a few words, as in foot.

Examples: book, brook, cook, hook, wood, shook, hood, good, nook, hook, wool, soot, stood, look, took, nook, crook

ow says “ou” as in cow.

Examples: flower, shower, dowel, clown, tower, chowder, sow, endowment, plow, drown, brown, gown

ow also says long o as in snow.

Examples: blow, flown, thrown, elbow, owner, willow, sloe, owe, flow, growth, rainbow

ie says long e as in thief. It is usually in the middle.

Examples: belief, priest, siege, brief, field, pier, yield, shriek, fierce, achieve

ie also says long i as in pie. Usually at the end of words and there are very few.

Examples: pie, die, lie, tie, fie, vie, belie, underlie

ou says “ou” as in house.

Examples: about, amount, loud, foul, voucher, shroud, stout, proud, tout, thou, count, noun, gout, our

ou also says “oo” as in soup. These are French words that have made it into the English language.

Examples: croup, group, route, wound, you, youth, youthful, coupon, cougar, lou, Louis

ou also says short u as in double. This is rare.

Examples: trouble, couple, country, touch, young

au says “ô” as in auto. It comes at the beginning or the middle of words.

Examples: fault, launch, vault, gaudy, fraud, Paul, saunter, taut, sausage, daunt, saucer, laundry, jaunt

aw also says “ô” as in saw. It usually comes at the end of words.

Examples: claw, saw, draw, straw, flow, thaw, jaw, squaw, law, paw, raw, slaw

RULE: if a L, N, or K follow the “o” sound, use AW at the end. Examples: hawk, lawn, dawn, yawn, and scrawl.   In other words, if you hear this sound “ô,” and it’s at the end, always use the AW, not AU, as AU will not appear at the end of a word, only beginning and middle.

ea says long e as in eagle.

Examples: beach, bead, leave, treat, speak, tea, wheat, teacher, squeak, teach, steal, real, leap, heat, ease

ea also says short e as in Bread.

Examples: dread, sweat, instead, heavy, jealous, thread, lead (the medal), threat, heaven, pleasant, already, wealth, death, deaf, heading

ea also says long a as in steak. This is rare.

Examples: steak, break

NOTE: A sentence to help remember the sounds of EA is The eagle ate bread and steak.

ey says long e as in monkey. It is at the end of words.

Examples: barley, jockey, valley, money, dickey, New Jersey, chimney, key, volley, journey, pulley, turkey

ey also says long a. It is rare.

Examples: they, convey, disobey, obey, hey, prey, survey, whey

igh says long i as in light. In the base word (if in a compound word), it is either at the end or followed by the letter t.

Examples: blight, high, sight, frighten, flashlight, lighthouse, highway, highness, moonlight, sigh, fright, insight

eigh says long a as in eight. In the base word (if in a compound word) it is either at the end or followed by the letter t.

Examples: weight, sleigh, neighbor, neigh, eight, eighty, weigh, freight, eighteen, neighborhood, eighty-eight.

ue makes the two long sounds of u: “oo” and “yoo.” As in, A true rescue. UE will come at the end of the word.

ue says “oo” as in true.

Examples: due, rue, avenue, sue, subdue, blue, glue, misconstrue, pursue

ue also says “yoo” as in rescue.

Examples: hue, statue, cue, argue, virtue, tissue, issue, continue

ew says both “oo” and “yoo”. As in, He grew a few inches. EW will come at the end of words.

ew says “oo” as in grew.

Examples: blew, chew, pew, mildew, jewel, new, grew, threw

ew says “yoo” as in few.

Examples: pew, few, pewter, nephew

ui says “oo” as in fruit. There are very few common words with this vowel team.

Examples: suitor, juice, nuisance, bruise, pursuit, cruise, recruit, suit, sluice

eu says both “oo” and “yoo” as in eucalyptus and Zeus. These are Greek in origin and not common.

eu says “oo” as in Zeus.

Examples: neuter, neutral, neuron, neural, neuritis, sleuth, deuce

eu also says “yoo” as in feud

Examples: feudal, Europe, eucalyptus, euphemism, Eugene, euphoria

ei says long e and comes after the letter c.

Examples: ceiling, conceive, conceit, deceive, receive, deceit, receipt, perceive

ei also says long a as in veil.

Examples: vein, rein, skein reindeer, heir, surveillance

Want more? Check out the OGFORALL Workbook Store. This information plus worksheets are in the workbook store.

(26) Comments

    1. Hi Laura, GREAT question. This is a concept that might be taught in 3rd grade, and would not be taught at the same time as the vowel teams I covered in the previous post. I think you just gave me the next post idea though. The reason is because there is another type of syllable division that is vowel teams, but looks like this V/V — meaning the vowels are split apart. In the class I took they were called Poem or Lion words. These are words with vowel teams that don’t make just one sound. If you “test” those vowels and they don’t make one sound, divide between the vowel and pronounce. As in Cre a tiv ity

      Usually, when the team is reversed it is a Lion or Poem word, as in io instead of oi (ion versus boil is one example). And the first vowel will usually be long.

      Examples of these words are: Lion words — neon, viola, dial, trial, cameo, aorta, iodine, trivial
      Poem words — oasis, duet, fluid, fuel, ruin, boa, meander, heroic, nucleus

      In Lion words, the teams are always split. In Poem words, you have to test — it may be a v/v word or it may be a vv word — the team is not acting as a team in that particular word, but in another word the same team may be a vowel team. Example: boat (vowel team), boa (v/v).

      When teaching this concept, you would teach Lion words first.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions.

        OUTSTANDING reply and explanation to this question! Thank you so much for this. I see I’m 4 years late reading it, but wow does it help me.

        What is the difference between a poem and a lion word? Also, this is related to another post, but why is the order REVLOC the way it is instead of REVLCO since if a word is a rabbit word (VCCV) we do not break the syllable after the first vowel. It seems to me that the open closed syllable would trump the open syllable then. My students are really catching on to the way I am teaching syllable patterns using your strategies, but they are new to me! Thank you!

        Hi Kelsie, there isn’t much difference between Poem and Lion words. Both are V/V — Both say “usually when the vowel teams are reversed as in “io” instead of “oi” — and “ia” instead of “ai,” you will divide between the vowels. The first vowel will usually be long. That goes for both.
        Poem words have an extra explanation though which says, There are words with vowel teams that don’t make one sound. If you “test” those and the don’t make one sound, divide between the vowel and pronounce. In other words, you might see these as teams in other words, but these are not acting as teams.
        On the REVLOC — I can’t say why Open trumps Closed, but that is what I was taught. I’m sure there is a good reason! I may check into that to know an answer and if I find out I will post it here.
        Hope this helps. I am a little removed from the material these days. I still believe this is the best teaching method out there! There is a book, Unlocking the Power of Print by Dorothy Blosser Whitehead that is a gem and has tons of info and lessons.

  1. Hi there! I am new to OG and I am about to cover vowel teams for the first time. Would you recommend teaching all of the long a sounds at once, or breaking them in to two groups? My students already have open a and a-e, so I am trying to decide is I should teach the remaining six spellings of long a, or should I only teach ai, and ay for now, and attack the others later, or all now?

    I really appreciate any guidance you could offer.

    1. I would break it down — ai and ay first. What grade is it?
      I think it is always good to do bite sized before moving on to more complicated like eigh, but it also depends on the level of the students. I have a sheet called “spelling vowels” that goes all the way through the spellings of long a. For an older kid who is familiar, this may be a good method for showing the diversity of spelling letters, but for a smaller child who has just learned that all of the letters have a Magic E that makes them say their name and that all letters can make three sounds (short, long and schwa), I would not introduce such a broad concept at once because there are 8 spellings. You can start with the first two and once those are understood, move to the others.

      Hope this helps. Please ask me more if you have questions about my answer so we can be sure you get the best advice!

  2. Hello, I just discovered your blog and it seems like just what I need. I am am a homeschooler of 4 who has received basic OG training (hoping to do the advanced course next summer!). We are working on sounds of ea (long a, short e, r controlled) and I am putting together a syllable division worksheet to use at the end of the week. Many of the multisyllable words with ea are actually compound or have a prefix/suffix so they are easy to divide. But how about words like meadow and weather? When I speak them it seems that I would divide immediately after the ea but is there a particular rule for this? Thanks so much!

    1. WOW! On homeschooling four. You will love the long OG course, if you liked the short version.

      For your question, ea is a vowel team and should be treated as a vowel team. The sounds it makes are long e (eagle), short e (bread) and long a (steak). A sentence for teaching it is: The eagle eats break and steak.

      On the division, I wouldn’t be as concerned with where it is divided as long as your kids can pronounce it. For sure, on weather, the th stays together. If it were me, I would divide it as wea ther (vowel team syllable) and (r-controlled syllable). I could be wrong, but in this case, it doesn’t matter, because no matter what, the team stays together, the digraph stays together, and either way, it’s an r-controlled syllable for the second syllable.

      Meadow is the same. ow is also a vowel team and we teach that ow can say, ow as in now, or ow as in know. Mea dow would be (vowel team) (vowel team) either way, even if I put the “d” with the ow.

      The main point to any division is to be able to pronounce the word. Another way to decide where it will be divided is the accent mark. You want to divide to the appropriate accent. In the case of mea dow the accent would be on the mea’ — On weather, I say wea ther (the “ea” in this case has a short e sound).

      I hope this makes sense. I’m not sure how old your children are, but it may make a difference in how you teach it. If you are just into syllable division and you are talking about ea as being a “vowel team” syllable, then words like these may need to wait until later when you are talking about the different sounds that “ea” can make. If you have covered the sounds but you have not begun accenting, then you may wait on telling them about why it is divided where it is and just concentrate on calling the word like calling a dog (wea… ther…) to see how the break can be heard.

      Let me know if you need clarification on any of this, or if you have other questions.
      I hope to get back to writing more on this blog SOON! I have been a little out of commission working in real estate. But I love, love Orton and I am so glad you are teaching your children using this method.


    1. Hi Ann, normally you would keep vowel teams together, but there is a group called “Lion” words.

      VV (Lion and poem words): Divide between unstable digraphs and diphthongs or between vowels that do not form digraphs or diphthongs. (ru in) (li on) (e on)

      A diphthong is a word that had a vowel team which starts out as one sound but ends up as another, so that both vowels are pronounced. For example: coin, lion, ruin. Digraphs are two letters that come together to form another sound all together, like th or ch, tch.

  3. ou says /o/. as in shoulder also. 4 sounds for ou Out of soup in boulder country is the sentence our OG teacher taught us for this one.
    Fantastic blog on vowel teams!!!

  4. WOW! Im a retired teacher doing some tutoring during this summer. Love this blog and OG information/spelling patterns. Just what Im needing.

    I was googling how to help my student with long vowels…the pacing and which ones to begin with. The parent thinks she may be dyslexic and she’s going into 3rd grade. Any other advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

  5. I am curious how words that contain a vowel team and an r-controlled vowel are coded. Where you see the vowel team, followed immediately by the letter r. Is it based on the sound or would it be an r-controlled syllable type because you start with the R in REVLOC? For example: ear, boar, chair..

    1. Hi Nancy, in REVLOC, the R-controlled “wins” in all cases — it’s first. The words above are all one-syllable words, so those would be r-controlled syllables in a word with more than one syllable. Hope this helps!

  6. It looks like words that use Greek combining forms use a lot of open syllables, and vowel teams aren’t so common in such words. Is this generally true

    Also: in words like neural, neuropathy, and neuritis, doesn’t the eu say /??/ as in book? (Google define also puts in an optional /y/)

    1. Hi Howard, so by the time you are into Greek/Latin talking points, I think you would have made it to prefixes and suffixes, which would make for different decoding. A student can take off the prefix and suffix and code the root word, not only decoding the word, but also possibly decoding the meaning. I’ve never looked at vowel teams as something to figure out for origin of the word (except maybe to say, “these eu words are Greek and very rare”), so I would not be able to say that vowel teams are not common in Greek combining words. I’ve never run across that “rule,” and I generally stick to the rules of Orton Gillingham teachings. So, not saying what you are generalizing isn’t true, just that I’ve never heard of it put that way.
      On the words like neural, neuropathy, the oo, from my teaching, is actually a long oo, (two o’s with a line over them, not the curved line as in book). The keyword I have for this sound is, oo (long line over) as in deuce. The yoo (long) is more of the sound of feud or euphoria. That’s the optional y.
      I hope this helps!

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