Short vowels are the most important sounds in early literacy. Young kids must master short vowels before learning all other vowel units. There are many vowel sounds in English. If a kid misses short vowel instruction, all other vowel units will be difficult to acquire.
Short Vowel Sounds in English
Many beginning readers say multiple sounds for short vowels, and this holds them back for quite some time. When working with a beginning reader make sure they ONLY say the following sounds for vowels:
a_ as in apple
e_ as in elephant
i_ as in igloo
o_ as in octopus
u_ as in umbrella
If a beginning reader learns all vowel sounds in English at once, they might begin to view writing as indecipherable. Many kids are overwhelmed with many vowel sounds in English at once. If struggling readers are bombarded with tons of vowel units, they might give up. They might feel frustrated. Usually, they start guessing. They’ll say “day” for “dot” and make other random errors.
Struggling readers should acquire vowel sounds in English one at a time
If a struggling reader learns short vowel sounds first, they can begin to read words. For example they can read short vowel words like the following:
bat, pet, pin, got, cup…etc.
If the student can read short vowel words, she can begin to read books. In the printable phonics books available on this site, kids can start to link letter sounds together. They can read sentences like the following: The hen had an egg.
When a kid struggles with vowel sounds in English, start with letter sounds
Brandon was a second grader that couldn’t read. During the assessment, he looked at me and said, “I don’t really read.” I answered, “That’s okay. I’m here to teach you.” I already knew how Brandon survived the first years of school: he looked at pictures, watched the teacher mouth the words and relied on his memory. I found it eye-opening that Brandon knew he couldn’t read. He had cleverly found coping strategies to fake read. Later, he even told me that he had “tricked” one of his teachers.
Struggling readers often develop coping strategies
After the assessment, I realized Brandon didn’t know letter sounds, including short vowels. He knew letter names, but names do not give kids access to the code. In our first sessions, Brandon focused solely on short vowel sounds in English. Eventually, he linked these sounds together to read words like: cop, rat, pen, run, sat…etc. Soon, he read short vowel books. Many struggling readers trick parents and educators during their first years of school. They feel embarrassed that they can’t read. They wonder why their peers are reading and they aren’t. Thus, struggling readers will often do everything in their power to hide their reading difficulties.
Brandon eventually learned how to read. Each day, I gave him new decodable texts, and his eyes lit up as he realized he could read brand new words he’d never seen before. He could read independently. He even took books home to show his parents that he could read.
If you have a struggling reader, you might be surprised to learn that he has missed most Kindergarten material. Get an assessment to find out his exact level.
For more information on long and short vowel sounds in English check out:
For short vowel books, check out: The Printable Phonics Books Library.