How to Teach Long U Words in Kindergarten

The long vowel u sound has two sounds; when you hear the letter u’s name,/y//oo/, or you hear the /oo/ sound.    Long u yoo sound is found in words like cube or at the beginning of ukulele.  The long u oo sound is found in words such as glue or tube.  There are many variations of words with the u sound.  And some of the variations can make both the /yoo/ sound and the /oo/ sound.  See below for examples of each.

/yoo/ Sound

u alone, unicorn

u_e, cute

ue, rescue

eu, Europe

ew, few

/oo/ Sound

u alone, truth

u_e, rule

ue, glue

ui, fruit

ou, soup

ew, stew

oo, moon

When teaching long u in kindergarten, we focus on the u_e, ui, and ue patterns.  We also teach the ou, ew, and oo patterns, but as digraphs, not as long u spelling patterns.

long u words

Short U and Long U Sound Words

The vowel u is special because it makes 3 sounds, while the other vowels only make two sounds.  The letter u has 1 short vowel u sound and 2 long vowel u sounds.  Short u sound words sound like nut and sum.  Words with long u can either sound like cute and unicorn or like blue and fruit.  See the list of long u and short u words below.

Long U Words List

As stated above, there are many different ways to spell the long u sounds.  However, because we focus only on u consonant e words, ui words and ue words in kindergarten, our list covers only those vowel patterns.  The list has long u sound words with pictures and can be hung in your classroom or given out to students for different activities

Teaching the Long U Sound

Because the long u produces 2 sounds, it can be tricky for kids to learn.  We teach them both sounds.  When reading and they come across a long u spelling pattern, we tell them to try both sounds to see which one works with that particular word.  At this stage, we are more concerned with learning to read these vowel patterns and less concerned with them spelling it correctly.  So, if they spell suit like sute, we celebrate the fact that they are using a long vowel u pattern and show them the correct way to spell it, focusing more on the celebration. 

Long and Short U Words

The very first lesson we do is to go over the difference of long and short u words.  We have already taught words with the short u sound extensively.  It’s important your students know the short u sound before doing this activity.  Start by reminding them of the short u sound, then tell them that the long u makes 2 sounds.  Let them know of the /y//oo/ sound and the /oo/ sound.  Next tell them they will be listening for the long u sound.  Have them give thumbs up when they hear a long u sound and thumbs down when they hear a short u sound.  Use the long and short u words list for examples of words when teaching this lesson.

Magic E

When teaching about long u words with silent e, we tell our students about magic e.  The e becomes magic when it is placed at the end of a word and makes the u have a long sound.  Show them a few examples of this, like cute, rule, mule, and dune.  Be sure to include examples of both long u sounds and point this out. “You hear the /yoo/ sound in cute and mule, and you hear the /oo/ sound in rule and dune.”  After going over a few silent e words with long u, you can finish the lesson with a worksheet like the one below.  

Vowel Teams

The 2 vowel teams we go over are ui and ue.  We have already taught them in other long vowel lessons, the saying, “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.”  If you have also, remind them of this saying, and ask, “Which vowel will we hear when u and i get together?… That’s right, the u because it’s first, and we won’t hear the i at all.”  You can repeat the same thing with the ue vowel pattern.  Always show them some words with the vowel team your teaching, and have them read with you.  Use the long u sound words list from above for examples of ui and ue sound words.  The worksheets below are great for a student work period after these lessons.  We go over one vowel team a day and do the corresponding worksheet, then do the second vowel team the next day. 

Worksheets

This packet covers everything you need when teaching words with a long u sound.  Click on the picture below to purchase. 

More Long Vowel Practice

If you are looking to teach the other long vowels, you can check out each vowel’s page; Long A, Long E, Long I, or Long O.  Or, check out our tips, activities, and teacher approved videos for all the long vowels together.

FAQs

The letter u makes 3 sounds.  The short u sound is found in words such as jug or nut.  The long u sounds are found in words such as June, clue, mute, or unicorn.

You can find a long and short u words list above, but we do not have the short u sound words on their own list.

Examples of words with u long sound are blue, cube, suit, uniform, tube, juice, and use.  For more examples, see our long u words list above. 

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