There’s no ‘I’ in Team

“When two vowels go walking, the first one does the balking!”

Vowels don’t walk, and vowels don’t talk. Chalk it up to logic, but that silly little rhyme never made any sense to me. It’s obviously false most of the time, and, as my brilliantly dyslexic teacher showed me once, if vowels are “walking” in English text, which one is actually first? Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 7.56.30 PMAnd really, how in the heck is a dyslexic kid supposed to decide, given the challenges of directionality in their three-dimensional brains?

In phonics, vowel digraphs are often called “vowel teams,” as though literacy is one big fantasy sports league, and dyslexics are choosing their line-ups. This terminology is problematic, of course, because consonant digraphs are referred to as, well, digraphs, but somehow vowels get a made-up nomenclature. Adding insult to injury are the phontificators who do call two vowel letters digraphs, only they do so when they are not. These pholks announce confidently but erroneously that some words have what they call “unstable digraphs,” like create or ruin. The thing is, those words don’t have digraphs; they have plus signs:

< create ➙ cre + ate >


< ruinrue + in >

Oops! Gee, phonics, how embarrassing for you.

Anyhow, given all the bad information about vowel digraphs out there, I decided it was high time for some InSights into Vowel Digraphs also known as the 3rd Volume of InSight Words. Like the first two decks, this one features 28 words, examined and understood according to the Four Questions:Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 7.42.16 PM

 1. What does it Mean?

2. How is it Built?

3. What are its Relatives?

4. What are the Letters doing?

All of the words in Volume 3 have two consecutive vowel letters; some of them are vowel digraphs, but some of them, like in create and ruin, are not. In create and ruin, each vowel is syllabic, marking them more obviously as separate graphemes. But that’s not always the case! In a word like < circ + u + it >, one of the vowels is zeroed, so it’s less immediately clear that the <ui> is not a digraph.

Why is would spelled with an <ou>? How come our can be homophonic to both hour and are? And whatever on Earth is going on with the <ai> in said? An understanding of all this and more can be yours at a discounted EarlyBird rate for a limited time!

The deck is half done now. I was hoping to have it completed before Etymology! but darn it if being accurate and rigorous doesn’t take a long time! I suppose I could just guess at etymology like Louisa Moats does, or call everything “Anglo-Saxon” like her toadies do. Or I could just copy other people’s work like someone else I know who hired a lawyer to threaten me to stop using her name. But nooooooo, I actually have to, you know, look stuff up and provide evidence for what I write. Imagine!

My plan is to have the deck done by the end of June and then ship them after my Symposium in the Pines in mid-July. The decks are a steal at their regular price of $20, but through June, I’m offering them in the LEX store at a 10% discount. Make sure you select the Early Bird price from the drop-down menu when you order.

InSight Words are everything Sight Words are not: they’re revealing and deeply understandable. InSight Words offer InSights into 28 individual words, into their word families, and into the writing system as a whole. Unlike the answer-factories you find in those silly old teachery Facebook pages, the InSight Decks are generative for study. They explain 28 words and their families, but they also can show you and your students how to refine your own word investigations.

People often ask me, “How do other people get good at what you do?” and my first, last, and best answer is “Study with me.” And for a limited time, you can do so at a discount! What an InSight!



  1. Hi Gina I had gone to the link to purchase your new deck but I can’t process it because I am in Canada. Is there any chance that you would ship it to Canada? Valdine

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Megan Griffin says:

    Just placed my order!! Looking forward to receiving them!!

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