Long o Sound Words: How to Teach the Variations

In English, long o sound words can be spelled in a multitude of different ways, so we are going to look at some of the general patterns (and most common variations) you will want to teach your students.

We will start with a long o word list, discuss the four different (+ most common) spelling combinations, and then take a closer look at two lesser known spelling combos from long o vowel teams to special rules.

Once we visit the unique variations, we will discuss how to help students correctly spell a word based on what they know about phonics, what they know about spelling patterns, and also what they hear. 

Long o Word List

  • note
  • vote
  • code
  • mode
  • cone
  • stone
  • bone
  • phone
  • alone
  • rope
  • hope
  • home
  • drove
  • grove
  • stove
  • mole
  • pole
  • role
  • stole
  • hole
  • float
  • road
  • toad
  • load
  • loaf
  • coal
  • goal
  • foal
  • groan
  • soap
  • oak
  • throat
  • roam
  • coach
  • roast
  • toast
  • coast
  • Joe
  • toe
  • hoe
  • doe
  • foe
  • woe
  • row
  • flow
  • blow
  • snow
  • grow
  • crow
  • know
  • stow
  • show
  • slow
  • tow
  • low
  • arrow
  • most
  • ghost
  • host
  • post
  • bolt
  • colt
  • volt
  • jolt
  • bold
  • cold
  • fold
  • mold
  • hold
  • gold
  • sold
  • told

Common Long o Sound Word Variations

Silent E Words + o_e Words

Silent “e” words (also known as magic e words and bossy e words) and “o_e” words follow the same phonics patterns used in English spelling, and create the same end result…a long vowel sound.

However, technically speaking, they are unique in each long vowel rule.

Silent “e” words are any words with an /e/ at the end that doesn’t get pronounced but changes the pronunciation of the preceding vowel into a long sound. 

The purpose of the silent “e” is to make the preceding vowel say its name (long sound) and to turn a short vowel word into a long vowel word. 

For example:

  • Hat (short a sound) → Hate (long a sound)
  • Hop (short o sound) → Hope (long o sound)
  • Kit (short i sound) → Kite (long i sound)
  • Cut (short u sound) → Cute (long u sound)

By simply adding an /e/ to the end of these cvc wordswe took short vowel sounds and immediately made them long vowel sounds.

Obviously, an o_e word creates the same resulting long vowel sound, but it only pertains to words with an o in the middle of the word.

Therefore, the silent “e” words are a much broader category that includes various vowels, while “o_e” words specifically focus on the “o” vowel sound followed by a silent “e.”

For example:

  • Not (short o sound) → Note (long o sound)
  • Hop (short o sound) → Hope (long o sound)
  • Cod (short o sound) → Code (long o sound)

This short o word list quickly turned into long o words by introducing the vowel-consonant-e or vce pattern. So let’s look at words that follow these patterns…

Silent “e” + o_e Word List
  • Note
  • Vote
  • Code
  • Mode
  • Cone
  • Stone
  • Bone
  • Phone
  • Alone
  • Rope
  • Hope
  • Home
  • Drove
  • Grove
  • Stove
  • Mole
  • Pole
  • Role
  • Hole
  • Stole

Vowel Teams – Oa Words + Oe Words

Oa Words

The “oa” letter combination in English often represents the long “o” sound, as in words like “boat, goat, coat.” In many cases, the “oa” combination appears in words where it’s followed by a single vowel or ends a syllable. 

Long o sound words spelled with “oa” Word List
  • Float
  • Road
  • Toad
  • Load
  • Loaf
  • Coal
  • Goal
  • Foal
  • Groan
  • Soap
  • Oak
  • Throat
  • Roam
  • Coach
  • Roast
  • Toast
  • Coast

Oe Words

The vowel team “oe” is unique because the long o sound created by these particular letters always be located at the end of the word. Therefore, this open syllable word group is a little easier to memorize (and remember) than some of the others that include multiple exceptions.

Here are the most common “oe” English words…

  • Joe
  • Toe
  • Hoe
  • Doe
  • Foe
  • Woe

The only exception of a word spelled with /oe/ that doesn’t follow the rule is the word “shoe” as it makes the long oo sound

Ow Words

The only other word group that includes the long o sound at the end of a word is the letters ow. However, seeing the “ow” at the end of a syllable isn’t a guarantee that the word will have a long o sound.

In fact, this pattern is tricky because the ow can make two unique sounds…long o and short o.

And to add another layer of complexity, there are a few multiple meaning words that are spelled the same and can be pronounced with the long /ow/ sound or the short /ow/ depending on how the word is used in context!!!

Honestly, it’s no wonder our kids struggle with phonemic awareness on certain words!

So here is a list of words that follow the traditional rule for “ow” words with the long o sound…

  • Row
  • Flow
  • Blow
  • Snow
  • Grow
  • Crow
  • Know
  • Stow
  • Show
  • Slow
  • Tow
  • Low
  • Arrow

But it’s important for you, as the teacher, to be aware of words that don’t follow the traditional patterns.

Having a quick reference list of these words is a great way to be prepared for the exceptions students will quickly discover in reading, spelling, and writing.

Ow Pattern with the Short /o/ Sound
  • Now
  • Vow
  • Plow
  • Cow
  • Wow
Tricky Exceptions
  • Bow (can be pronounced with the short ow sound or the long ow sound)
  • Sow (can be pronounced with the short ow sound or the long ow sound)

Less Common Long o Sound Word Variations

“o” before Two Consonants Pattern

When a word ends with two consonants, it can produce a long o sound word. These include words that have an /o/ followed by the consonants “st”, “lt”, “ld”

Here are some examples of words that follow this rule…

  • Most
  • Ghost
  • Host
  • Post
  • Bolt
  • Colt
  • Volt
  • Jolt
  • Bold
  • Cold
  • Fold
  • Mold
  • Hold
  • Gold
  • Sold
  • Told
Tricky Exceptions

These words have the same consonant blend at the end, but instead of creating a long/o/ sound they include a short /o/ sound.

  • Lost
  • Cost
  • Frost

Now we have an even bigger issue with this particular rule because not only are there a few variations that have the same two consonants at the end, but there are several two consonant endings that produce a short /o/ sound.

Words that end with the consonant blends including the letter /n/ (“nd”, “ng”, “nt”) or “ss” usually have a short o sound.

Here are some examples…

  • Bond
  • Pond
  • Fond
  • Gong
  • Long
  • Pong
  • Song
  • Font
  • Boss
  • Cross
  • Hoss
  • Loss
  • Moss
  • Toss

“ough” Pattern

When a word ends with “ough,” it makes the long o sound…except when it doesn’t.

So this is another one of those rules that has more exceptions than words that follow the original rule.

The most common words (and the only ones I can think of) that have this letter combination are the words “though” and “dough.”

However, the exceptions include…

  • rough
  • tough
  • enough

Additionally, if these letters are followed by “t” (as in “thought, bought, sought”) or preceded by the letter “r” (as in “through”), the vowel sound is no longer long.

In my opinion, because there are only two words that follow this particular pattern, I would simply teach your students these words in isolation as exceptions and not part of a particular rule.

Long o Sound Words Teaching Strategies and Activities

Teaching these different spelling patterns through explicit instruction, engaging activities, word games, and practice exercises can help students understand the versatility of the English language and improve their spelling and reading skills.

Here are some strategies and activities you can use to help them learn.

Phonics Lessons 

Always start by introducing new sound words through phonics lessons.

It is important that students understand the significance of the new sounds and spelling patterns being introduced.

In the case of long o sounds words, explain that the “o” can make the long sound when…

  • followed by a silent “e” (as in “bone”),
  • part of a vowel team (as in “goat” or “toe”),
  • followed by a “w” (as in “slow”),
  • followed by two consonants “st”, “ld”, or “lt” (as in “sold, post, colt”), or
  • part of the “ough” exception blend (as in “though”)

Visual Aids

Make sure you incorporate anchor charts, flashcards, or other visual aids into your teaching as much as possible.

This not only helps your visual learners who need that visual cue, but it allows all of your students to make the connection between the sound, spelling, and picture (or other visual representation).

So as you introduce the long /o/ words, be sure to include visual aids to deepen your students’ understanding of the abstract information you are providing.

Reading and Listening

Introducing and reading books that support the topic your are teaching your students is an excellent way to increase retention of the information.

So choose books (or passages) that include a good number of long “o” words.

Read aloud to your students, emphasizing the long “o” sound, and encourage them to identify and repeat the words when they encounter them.

While read alouds are excellent for all of your learners, these books will be an especially powerful tool for your auditory learners who need that auditory connection.

Rhyming Activities

Another great way to help your auditory learners is through rhyming activities.

These long /o/ word rhyming games or activities will allow them to practice word families as well as sound connections.

Simply have them come up with words that rhyme with the long “o” sound words you say.

If they seem to be proficient with this, let them say a word and have their peers generate rhyming words that share the same long “o” sound.

Word Sorts

Provide a variety of words to students and have them sort the words into categories based on whether they contain the long “o” sound or not.

This activity helps them recognize patterns in spelling.

You can also make it more interactive by allowing them to search through magazines or printed text and cut out the words they find.

Then they can sort them according to the type of long /o/ word pattern.

If students need a bit more prompting, simply provide them with a list of words to find.

Bingo and Word Searches

Another great way to get students interested in practicing this skill is through the use of Bingo and long o word searches.

These are designed to make learning feel like a game as opposed to a boring task.

You can provide word searches as morning work, bell ringers, center activities, or even as fast finisher activities.

You can let students play Bingo as a whole group, in small groups, or even as an indoor recess activity.

Repetition and practice are essential to reinforcing students’ understanding of the long “o” sound. Be sure to keep your lessons engaging and tailored to the students’ learning styles and preferences.

And remember, understanding the different patterns can be helpful, but English spelling does have its complexities and exceptions.

As students learn and encounter new words, they’ll continue to develop their understanding of spelling patterns and irregularities in the language.

So don’t get flustered if they don’t get everything right the first time.

Having the opportunity to work with the different long o sound words through repeated exposure and activities will provide students with the time they need to grow more confident and master the information.