Spelling the Long A Sound

I’ve been using Logic of English: Essentials with Firecracker recently.  In fact, I reviewed the first edition a couple years ago, and I’m supposed to review the second edition at some point this month.  (I actually thought I’d already have the review up, but I need to take some photos first, and I haven’t made time for that yet.  I’ll just say for now that they took a great curriculum and made it even better.)

Spelling the Long A Sound

At any rate, when Firecracker finished up Cursive Logic a couple of months ago, he chose to go back to Logic of English as his independent work through for English.  As such, we’ve been discussing ways to spell the long A sound.  If you’re curious, A is using it’s “long A” sound when A says it’s name.

We’ve found, through Logic of English, that there are different ways that you can spell the “long A” sound, and we discovered when to use them.  We learned four different ways through our curriculum, but I realize that there are a couple that we either haven’t learned yet or the curriculum assumes, I thought I’d make a quick listing to help you guys teach different rules for long A.

1.  A-E pattern

This is the first long A pattern that we teach children.  Generally, we teach it as a part of phonics.  When there’s an “e” at the end of a word, the “a” says its name.  Examples of these words include:

  • cake
  • take
  • tape
  • late

2.  A at the end of a syllable

In English, when you see an “a” at the end of a syllable, it also makes the “long A” sound.  Some words that illustrate this rule are:

  • agent
  • paper
  • table
  • baker

3.  A spelled as -ay

At the end of a word, the long a sound is often spelled as “-ay.”  This often differentiates the long a sound from a broader “ah” sound for a.  Some examples of this are:

  • pray
  • day
  • betray

4.  A spelled as -ai

In the middle of a one syllable word, if there is no e at the end, the long a sound is usually spelled as -ai.  A long a in the middle of a syllable is often spelled the same way.  Examples of these words are:

  • tail
  • rail
  • maintain

5.  A spelled as -ea

This is a rare pattern, but it occasionally occurs.  I believe there are only seven or eight words in English that have this pattern, but here are a couple:

  • steak
  • pear
  • tear

6.  A spelled as -ei

This is another rare occurrence, and it’s something we haven’t studied at this point in Logic of English, but occasionally -ei can take the form of long a.  (I’ll introduce this to Firecracker eventually, but he’s not ready yet.) Words with this pattern include:

  • reins
  • freight
  • beige

With all these ways to spell long A, how are we supposed to decide when to use which spelling?  This is where Logic of English came to the rescue for  Firecracker’s spelling.  Here’s a simple way we decide:

  • At the end of words, use -ay
  • At the end of a syllable that is not the end of a word, use -a
  • In the middle of the word, use -ai (unless it’s on the list of ea words that we would memorize)

To help Firecracker practice making these decisions, I would dictate him words randomly from each category, and he would spell them, discussing the decision making process with me as he went through and spelled the words.  It was an easy-peasy way to practice, and he really has become a better decision maker through the work that we’ve done with these spelling rules.  As an adult, I’ve come to realize from this study with Firecracker that these spelling rules aren’t quite as random as I once thought


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