Ee digraph examples, word lists, free worksheets and games for phonics teaching.
Ee Digraph Sounds
The ‘ee’ digraph is a common grapheme in written English and it’s found in a number of high-frequency words such as see, tree, been, need, three, keep, sleep, feet, queen and green.
In most words, the digraph represents the same sound that’s pronounced in the example words above. This phoneme is represented by the symbol /ee/ in popular phonics programmes such as Jolly Phonics and Letters and sounds. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol for this sound is i: or sometimes just ‘i’ without the 2 dots.
Some teachers describe this sound as ‘long e’, although other educators claim that it isn’t helpful to describe the sound this way when instructing children in phonics.
A number of other letter combinations can also represent the i: sound. For example, ea, e, y, e-e, ie and ey in the words clean, ego, female, me, very, phoneme, field and money.
The Sounds American video below explains how to pronounce this phoneme in a variety of words:
There are a handful of words used in English where the digraph appears with an accent; for example, ‘fiancée’ and ‘purée’. Most of these words are borrowed from French and the digraph represents a different sound, /ai/ (eɪ IPA) in these words. This is the same phoneme that’s normally represented by the ai digraph in words such as rain and snail.
In an even smaller number of words, such as ‘breeches’ and ‘threepence’, the ee digraph can represent the ‘short i’ sound, /i/ (ɪ IPA) normally represented by the letter i in words such as it and pin.
Note that when the ee letter combination is followed by the letter r, as in ‘beer’ and ‘cheer’, the 3 letters are normally considered to be acting as a trigraph and they represent a slightly different sound. However, if the /ee/ sound is sounded out separately, and followed by the /r/ sound, children can often work out what the word is because the sounds are fairly close to the trigraph sound.
Teaching the Ee Digraph
Since the digraph is quite common in children’s literature, it makes sense to teach it quite early in a phonics programme.
However, it’s best to wait until children can recognise individual letters and say the sounds they represent accurately and fluently.
It’s also helpful if children are able to blend and segment simple words such as CVC words and other one-syllable words before digraphs are taught.
The ee digraph is taught in phase 3 of the Letters and Sounds phonics programme which is broadly followed in many schools in England. This phase starts in the second half of the first term in reception when children are aged between 4 and 5 years old.
Introduce the digraph by showing children how to decode and blend some simple examples of words from the word list below and then get them to read some words for you.
In addition to practising reading the words, they should also practise spelling them.
If children have trouble doing this, show them how to make the words with alphabet cards. Say the sounds as you put the cards down then shuffle the cards and ask them to make up the word again.
When you are demonstrating spelling these words with alphabet cards, put the two digraph letters down at the same time as you say the sound just once.
See our articles on teaching digraphs and spelling with phonics for more guidance.
You can also use some online resources to provide variety. For example, Reading Bear has several presentations that include ‘ee words’ in the long e section.
The Little Learner’s video below is useful to show children how to sound out and blend some simple words containing this digraph…
And the video below should also appeal to young children as the popular Mr Thorne teaches Geraldine the giraffe about words with the ‘ee’ digraph:
Ee Digraph Word List
We’ve split the lists into different sound categories in alphabetical order to help you locate words you might want to use with your students.
Initially, it can help to use words that students are familiar with, but as they get more proficient, it’s good to introduce some new words to expand their vocabulary and refine their decoding skills.
Click on the following link or the image below to download a free printable pdf version of this word list.
Words containing the /ee/ sound (i:) as in see…
One-syllable words with regular spelling patterns and no other digraphs:
Bee, beef, been, beep, beet, bleed, bleep, breed, breeze, creed, creep, deed, deem, deep, eek, eel, fee, feed, feel, feet, flee, fleet, free, freeze, geek, geez, greed, Greek, green, greet, heed, heel, jeep, jeez, keel, keen, keep, leek, meek, meet, need, peek, peel, peep, reed, reef, reek, reel, see, seed, seek, seem, seen, sleek, sleep, sleet, sneer, speed, spleen, steed, steel, steep, street, sweep, sweet, teen, tree, tweet, wee, weed, week, weep.
One-syllable words with other digraphs or some irregular spelling patterns:
Beech, breeze, cheek, cheep, cheese, ghee, geese, knee, kneel, queen, screech, sheep, sheer, sheet, speech, teeth, wheel.
Two or more syllable words – may contain other digraphs:
Agree, asleep, banshee, beetle, between, bungee, chimpanzee, coffee, esteem, exceed, feeble, frisbee, referee, thirteen, toffee, tutee.
Words where the /ee/ digraph represents alternative sounds (see the ee digraph sounds section above):
Breeches, entrée, fiancée, matinée, melée, négligée, protégée, purée, threepence, toupée.
Pseudo-words Containing the ee Digraph:
Bree, Deet, Dree, Feeb, Geed, Gleek, Keef, Jee, Neep.
Pseudo-words are sometimes described as non-words or nonsense words and they’re used in some phonics programmes and in the UK Phonics Screening Check.
These words are designed to assess whether children are capable of decoding words that are unfamiliar to them.
Normally, a pseudo-word will be presented next to an image of a monster or an alien, and the child is told that the word represents the creature’s name. The examples below are from the 2017 phonics screening check.
You could use some of the pseudo-words in our list as practice words for a screening check or as part of a less formal assessment of a child’s decoding ability.
Some of the words in the list might have a real meaning in some regions, groups, or sub-cultures, but they will be unfamiliar to most children so can be used alongside genuine pseudo-words.
Ee Digraph Worksheets
We’ve created the following worksheets that you to download for free. Click on the headings or the images below to access these resources.
Children need to decide which pictures represent words that contain the ee digraph. They can also try to spell the words. We’ve also created a PowerPoint version of this resource if you want to display it to a class.
Each of the sentences on the worksheet has a word missing that contains the ‘ee’ digraph. Children need to fill in the missing word to complete each sentence. We’ve also created a PowerPoint version of this resource if you want to display it to a class.
Circle the Vowel Digraph ea, ee or ie
Circle or write in the digraph that gives the correct spelling for each picture.
Ee Digraph Phonics Games
The spellzone website has some free games using words containing the ee digraph. They also have a variety of other games that require you to sign up and pay a subscription, but they do offer a free trial.
Click on the following link for the spellzone games:
The SplashLearn website also has some activities for practising blending and spelling ai words. You have to sign up to access all the activities but it’s free to try it.
Starfall.com has a good online activity for practising spelling words with the ee digraph: Make-a-Word with Long-e.
Other Free Digraph Resources
A variety of free worksheets and other resources for a number of common digraphs.