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K-4 Spelling #4

Common Vowel Visual Pattern “ai”

Grade 2


Common Core State Standards

• RF.2.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
              a. Distinguish long and short vowels when reading regularly spelled one-syllable words.
              b. Know spelling-sound correspondences for additional common vowel teams.
              e. Identify words with inconsistent but common spelling-sound correspondences.
              f. Recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.




This word sort introduces the common vowel pattern – ai. Words in this category will be contrasted to words with the short and long ‘a’ sound (with the silent ‘e’ pattern). Word sorts reinforce patterns and help develop automaticity with them.


Prepare one set of word cards and the oddball words header for the teacher model. Make copies of the template with words in random order for students. Suggested words: rash, black, flash, camp, space, frame, place, blame, rain, brain, faint, train, maid, plain, chain, bait, waist, said, want.

Direct Explanation

We are going to think about and learn to spell words that have the ‘ai’ vowel pattern in them. We will sort some words that have patterns that we already know very well and then add a category that will help us remember this new pattern.”


1. First, make sure the students can read and understand the words on all the cards. Hold up each card for the students to identify, stopping to discuss the meanings of the few words that may be unfamiliar (for example, maid, faint or blame). Ask students to use the words in a sentence that helps everyone else understand it.

2. Introduce the sort by placing key words in the pocket chart as category headers. “Our key words today are rash and space. We are going to sort our words by vowel sound. Listen to the sound that a makes in our key words. Say the key words. Do you hear the /a/ sound in rash? What sound does a make in space?”

3. Model the sort by holding each new word under the key word and checking it orally to the key word. As soon as students start to catch on, prompt them to help you. “ I want you to join me and help me to sort these words. Ready? My first word is blame.” (Hold the card below the key word as you say it.) blame - rash, blame - space, blame goes with space. Continue until all words are placed. Note that in a sound sort all the long ‘a’ words, regardless of spelling pattern, will be placed under space. Said and want will be placed under the oddball words category since neither makes the short or long a sound.

4. When all words have been sorted, read them in columns to check that all words in the set have the same vowel sound. Ask the students what they notice about the rash category.


What do all the words in the rash column have in common that makes them different from the other column?” (All the words have the /a/ -short a sound. All have one vowel between consonants.) “ What do you notice about the space category?” (These words have two vowels. The ‘a’ makes the sound of it’s name. The vowel ‘e’ is silent. Some words are spelled with ‘ai’).

5. Resort the space category according to visual pattern, making rain the new key word.

6. Discuss the application of the learning. “How will this help us when we are reading a new word?” Write braid on the board. “When you see this word, how will you read it?” (with the long ‘a’ sound) “How will this help us when we are writing words? If you needed to write the word paint, how would you spell it?” (Try both ways – ‘Vce’ or ‘ai’ to see which one looks right. Paint rhymes with faint and is spelled with the same pattern).


Guided Practice

Have students practice this same sort with their own, smaller word cards. They may record their sort and discoveries in their word study notebook.

Independent Practice

On following days, the students will repeat this sort on their own and will engage in additional activities (i.e., speed sorts, word hunts for words with the ‘ai’ visual pattern, etc.) to help them get this spelling principle categorized in their memory.


Students will be able to spell words at the end of the week that have been randomly chosen from the sort list and use the words correctly in their writing.

Tier II Additions

  • During guided and independent practice, provide Braille word cards for students with visual impairments.

  • Provide a seat close to teacher and signal students with hearing impairments to focus on teacher’s lips. Remind student of the letter sound mouth shapes during the modeling.

  • Pair a visual student with a student who is visually impaired during guided activity.

  • Allow student to wear headphones to muffle sounds of other students or room noises during independent activity.

  • Allow student to stand during guided and independent activities.

  • Pair student with a peer during independent work.

  • Use slant boards with the word cards for students in wheelchairs or students with vestibular difficulties.

  • Use pictures (make sure same picture is used consistently) illustrating words on word cards whenever possible to enable students to independently sort words.

  • Reduce number of word cards during guided practice.

  • Provide student with pen reader or other scanning technology to enable student to read unfamiliar words independently during word sorts.

  • Provide self-correction sheets with activities, when possible, to provide immediate feedback and encourage self-monitoring.


Tier II Assessment

Students will be able to spell words by the end of the week selected from the

sort list plus one or two additional words that use the patterns taught. They

will use the words correctly in their writing. Also, provide self-correction and

have student check their assessment in order to receive immediate feedback

and to encourage self-monitoring.


Tier III Modifications

  • Reduce the number of words used in word sorts.

  • Give the student fewer words to spell – from three to seven choices.

  • During guided activity, use only words categories that include ‘Vce’ and short ‘a’ sound pattern in the word sorts. Work with these word groups until mastery. At mastery, add in ‘ai’ words to sort.

  • Allow student to direct peer to physically sort cards if student has motor problems that interfere with this activity.


Tier III Assessment

Assess student using a reduced number of words and allow student to use word bank on assessment. Also,assess student only on ‘Vce’ words until mastery.


Tier IV and V Modifications

  • Use any previously listed accommodation and/or modification needed by the student.

  • Teach only one pattern at a time and limit number of examples taught.

  • Offer small group or 1:1 instruction.

  • Have daily multiple short practice times.

  • Allow student to decode in isolation, then in phrases, and then short sentences.

  • Use visual supports where needed.


Tier IV and V Assessment

Assess with a modified rubric that allows teacher to monitor progress and to identify areas where student may need further instruction.




Ganske, Kathy. (2000). Word Journeys. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

rash black flash camp
place blame rain brain
train maid plain chain
waist said want frame
space faint bait save


Copyright © 2006 Arkansas Department of Education. All rights reserved. School districts may reproduce these materials for in-school student use only. No resale. Materials may not be reproduced, distributed or sold for commercial use or profit. ADE employees are not authorized to waive these restrictions.

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