OU Sound Words: How to Teach Them with Games

Ou sound words are tricky because there are so many different pronunciations, but they’re all spelled the same. Gotta love the English language!!

And since this particular combination of vowels can make several different sounds (think short o, long u, short u…you get the idea), as teachers we need to spend lots of time teaching the sounds and provide ample opportunities for students to interact with them.

So in this post, we’re going to take a look at…

  • how the “ou” vowel team is unique as compared to other vowel teams,
  • how to sort these words depending on the short vowel sound each words makes, and
  • 10 games and activities you can use to reinforce this new group of sound words.

Ou Sound Words List

The words included in this word list are those that make the “ow” sound.

  • out
  • gout
  • pout
  • trout
  • shout
  • stout
  • snout
  • sprout
  • bout
  • thou
  • joust
  • mouse
  • spouse
  • house
  • grouse
  • blouse
  • doubt
  • mount
  • fount
  • count
  • ounce
  • bounce
  • pounce
  • cloud
  • loud
  • hound
  • round
  • ground
  • found
  • pound
  • bound
  • sound
  • ouch
  • couch
  • pouch
  • slouch
  • vouch
  • without

OU Words with Different Sounds

Ou words with the /oo/ sound

  1. could 
  2. should 
  3. would

Ou words with the short u sound

  1. young
  2. rough 
  3. tough
  4. enough
  5. double 
  6. trouble 
  7. touch 

Ou words with the short o sound

  1. ​ought
  2. bought
  3. sought
  4. thought
  5. brought
  6. fought
  7. trough
  8. cough

Ou words with the long u sound

  1. wound
  2. soup
  3. group
  4. through

Ou words with the long o sound

  1. though
  2. dough

Vowel Teams

Vowel teams, also known as vowel combinations or vowel digraphs, are two or more vowels that work together to represent a single vowel sound in a word.

When they come together, they create a unique sound that is different from the individual sounds of each vowel. 

Vowel teams are commonly found in English words and are an important concept for reading and spelling.

While every vowel team can have a variation or two, “ou” words are unique (and much trickier) because there are five different sounds this particular vowel team can make!

But the biggest takeaway when teaching any vowel teams is helping learners grasp the fact that even though they see two distinct vowel phonemes, these vowels come together to make a completely new sound.

Ou Sound Words

The best way to introduce any new vowel team is through explicit phonics lessons.

For this particular vowel combination, you want to explain to students that when the letters “ou” are together, they make five different sounds.

Now, because of this, I want to offer a helpful tip. Don’t spend much time at the beginning working on ALL of the different pronunciations at once.

This will be MUCH too confusing for your learners.

It makes the most sense to start with the largest group and will probably include the most familiar words to your students.

This is the list of the traditional sound for “ou” words which is the same as ow sounds in the word cow.

These common words will probably relatively easy for your students to read.

But I want to issue a word of caution…don’t just copy down every word in the list I shared above and start teaching.

Some of the words have complex spelling patterns that need to be explicitly taught BEFORE you introduce the word.

So be sure to select only those words that are in line with your students’ phonics skills.

And because “ou” can be found at the beginning of the word, in the middle of a word, and occasionally can even be found at the end of the word, consider teaching select groupings of words to make it a bit easier for your learners.

10 Fun Ways to Practice OU Words

Teaching “ou” words can be accomplished several different ways, but the best way is by using fun games that your students will want to play.

This makes the learning process both engaging and effective. 

And to make your life A LOT easier I have created an entire OU activity bundle that includes the activities (and other relevant pieces and parts) I will mention in this section.

The bundle includes flashcards, a Word Sort (with an answer key), a Word Search (with an answer key), a BINGO game, a Memory Game, and a Read-Write-Draw activity.

You can click the image above (or click here) to be taken directly to the activity bundle!

Ou Word Sorts

There are several different ways you can introduce word sorts and use them as an assessment tool.

Vowel Sort

First, you can give students who are just learning these words a group of flashcards that include “ou” words. Have them sort by the different vowels they see.

One group would be “ou” words and the other would be not “ou” words and might include single vowels or other vowel teams.

Word Family Sort

In this particular type of sort, students will group “ou” words into word families. This helps students recognize patterns and understand the relationship between words.

For example, include the words “shout, bout, sprout,” in the “out” word family.

Vowel Sound Sort

Another more advanced version of this would be to have students separate and sort the words according to the vowel sound the /ou/ makes in each word.

So you would have a long o group, a short o group, a long u group, a short u group, etc.

The goal of this particular word sort would be to see if students can differentiate between the letters they see and the sounds they hear in the words.

In the OU Activities bundle, I have included a cut and paste activity that requires students to be able to sort based on the sound the /ou/ vowels make.

Ou Word Hunts

Conduct word hunts around the classroom or school, asking students to find and list as many “ou” words as they can within a given time.

You can also make a variation of this game by giving students a list of “ou” words and have them find those words in books or texts they are reading. The one who finds the most words wins.

Ou Word Building

Create puzzles or word-building activities using letter tiles or magnetic letters. Students can rearrange the letters to form “ou” words.

Ou Word Search

Print out the “ou” word search included in the bundle. Students will simply circle all of the words to solve the puzzle. And the best part…there’s an answer key!

This is a great way for students to review the spelling of each “ou” word as they have to search for it among all the other letters!

Ou Word Bingo

Print out bingo cards containing a variety of different “ou” words. Mix up the caller cards and then choose a random word from the stack.

Place the called word onto the word mat and repeat the process until someone gets a bingo.

Ou Word Charades 

Write “ou” words on index cards and divide students into two teams. One player from the first team picks a random card and acts out the word without speaking.

If the players from his team guess the correct word, they get a point. If they don’t guess correctly and the time runs out, the other team has an opportunity to guess the word and earn the point.

This game will make a fun and incredibly memorable learning experience!

Rhyme Time 

Have students take turns coming up with “ou” words that rhyme with a given word. For example, “found” – “hound,” “ground,” “bound,” etc.

The one difference between this activity and many of the others I mention is the focus on the vowel sound.

Spelling is irrelevant in this activity because we are targeting the skill of rhyming sounds. So if you say “through,” a student could say “boo” and that would be correct!

Ou Word Memory Game

Create pairs of word cards with matching “ou” words. Shuffle them and lay them face down. Players take turns flipping two cards to find a match.

Once a match has been located, students have to be able to say the word correctly before they can add them to their stack.

If they mispronounce the word, they have to flip both cards back over. Then the next player has a chance to flip the same cards and read them correctly.

Ou Word Relay Race

Divide the class into teams. Write “ou” words on cards and place them at the other end of the room.

The first student from each team runs to pick a card, reads the word aloud, and then runs back to tag the next teammate.

This would be an excellent game to implement during indoor recess or when your students just need to move around!

Interactive Online Phonics Games 

Utilize educational apps or online resources that focus on phonics and “ou” words for interactive learning experiences.

Websites like IXL, Homer, Khan Academy, and PBS Kids have tons of fantastic phonics games that will help your learners be successful in mastering the “ou” sound.

Remember to tailor your teaching approach to the age and skill level of your students. You want to make learning enjoyable while you reinforce your students’ progress with positive reinforcement and praise. 

Consistent practice and encouragement will help your students become more confident and proficient in their abilities.

Once your students have had lots of time to play games and complete activities with the “ou” words, encourage them to write sentences, paragraphs, or even short stories that include “ou” words.

This will help reinforce their understanding and usage, and it will give you insight into who has mastered the /ou/ sounds and who needs more intervention.