Short vowel sounds contrast with long vowel sounds. Short vowels are:
a_ as in apple
e_ as in elephant
i_ as in igloo
o_ as in octopus
u_ as in up
Short vowels sounds are among the first phonics sounds students learn. First, students learn letter sounds, saying short vowel sounds for each vowel. Next, usually in Kindergarten, kids start reading short vowel words. Since short vowel words are regular and phonetic, kids can begin reading with relative ease.
Print the free short vowel sounds game at the end of this post
I created a fun short vowel sounds game for beginning readers. The game focuses on all five short vowels. Make sure your student is already familiar all letter sounds before playing the game.
Encourage out-loud sound-by-sound reading.
Students can play the game 2x, as they’re likely to land on different words each time they play.
Sample short vowel words
The attached short vowel sounds game consists of words like the following:
hat, bag, map
beg, hen, set
kit, bin, nip
hop, cot, pop
cup, rug, hug
Short vowel sounds should NOT be taught as word families
Word families consist of words that share a common sound feature. Some examples of word families include: bat, sat, hat, cat; all of these words share –at. While word families are easy for us expert readers to recognize, this is not so for beginning readers.
If you expect a struggling reader to learn word families, you’ve suddenly increased the number of phonics vowel sounds they need to know from 5 to 35. Word families require kids to learn (at least) seven symbols for each vowel—multiply this times five vowels and you get about 35. Word families significantly increase the cognitive burden on the child’s visual memory. Stay clear of word families.
Teach Decoding Skills
Instead, focus on sound-by sound reading. Phonetic reading is far more efficient. Our brains rip sounds apart anyway. As we read, we deconstruct words in the letterbox area. “Cat” has to become /c/ – /a/ – /t/ before our brains can recognize it as “cat.” Since expert readers rip words apart effortlessly and rapidly, we do not realize how we read.
When working with beginning readers, it’s important to keep this deconstruction process in mind. Help the student identify each sound individually. Then, have the student blend the sounds together.
Short vowel sounds are the foundation of reading. When kids see that they can actually read words—even words they’ve never seen before in print—their gleaming smile will get you motivated to progress your student to the next level.
If you’d like decodable books, check out The Printable Phonics Books Library.