July 2012 | Peace, Love, and First Grade

How do you Teach Short Vowel Sounds in Kindergarten and First Grade?

First of all, do you know how easy it is to hit the "b" when typing the word vowel?
Without editing, this whole post could have been about short bowels...Oh, my!

Short vowel activities for practice and review

Let's face it! Short vowels are hard to teach and difficult to learn!
 What's a teacher to do?? Well, I have some questions for you. 

1) In what order do you teach the vowels?
2) How long to you spend on each vowel?
3) Do you teach vowels using word families?
4) Does that seem like a lot of questions?

I've been in education awhile, and it seems like every few years, we're told something different from the "experts" about teaching Phonics. You're thinking, "But wait, I thought we were the experts!" Ahh!

Thankfully, for first grade teachers, most students come to us knowing the sounds short vowels make. But the littles who don't-Whew! Seriously! 
How do the PreK and Kindergarten teachers do it?? Insert pat on the back here.

So, how do I teach short vowels? 
Short vowel activities for practice and review

We spend about two weeks on each sound.  I teach them in this order-a, i, o, u, e. I save "e" for last. It's so similar to "i" and let's face it, we don't really use that sound much in the South...
Image from Kinderglynn

See what I mean? In the South, that rhymes.

I introduce/review the sound on Monday during Morning Meeting. If there is literature available using that sound, I use it. For instance, Joy Cowley's Dan the Flying Man is great for introducing short "a". It's available in big book format and in 6-packs with CD! They can listen all week!
Short vowel activities for practice and review
Image from The Wright Group

We use large letter cards to put short "a" chunks together. For instance, the letter cards "a" and "d" make -ad. We then add a beginning sound to that chunk (-ad becomes "mad"). We make as many chunks as can brainstorm. 
Short vowel activities for practice and review

We do these types of activities every morning for the two week period we cover the vowel. During the first week, I post my Read the Room cards (see below), however, the kiddos don't complete this activity until the second week. I like having the cards up for them to read that first week.
Short vowel activities for practice and review

Short vowel activities for practice and review
From the beginning of the year, I teach my students to use Elkonin Boxes. See this post for directions on these very powerful tools for segmenting sounds. I use sound boxes EVERY DAY in small groups, and once kiddos feel comfortable, they use them independently in word work stations. They also complete short vowel booklets which reinforce the use of sound boxes and using words in contextual sentences. 
Short vowel activities for practice and review

This one was letting her peace tattoo "set!" Ha!

Short vowel activities for practice and review

During the two week period, we complete A LOT of short "a" activities. I want these pumpkins to habituate that sound and be able to make and break words easily. This is truly the first step in seeing how words work. 

Here are a few more items I created and will use with my kiddos.

Short vowel activities
I created a Read and Write the Room for each short vowel (CVC pattern). All packets contain 24 cards and a choice of recording sheets.
Short vowel activitiesI will keep these word cards posted on the wall for the entire two weeks we cover that vowel. You can read more about Read and Write the Room here.

I also created "I Have, Who Has" games for each short vowel. The cards and words match my Read and Write the Room packs. 
We will play these games once a day during the two week period. We'll time ourselves and try to beat each day's time. The kids love this!

Short vowel activities for practice and review
We also spend quite a bit of time reviewing sounds throughout the year. Here's an example of a Monday Phonics chart. 

AND-I like to throw in a few sneaky reviews-where the kiddos don't realize they're reviewing. My kiddos love puzzles, and Lakeshore Learning has such great quality! 
They offer a 4-letter version of this puzzle, too.
The vowel practice never stops! Ha!

Short vowel activities for practice and review
So, how do you teach short vowels?

Happy weekend, y'all!


If you saw my Read and Write The Room post this past spring, you know how important I think it is in the primary classroom.
If you missed it, I'll give you the basics.
1) I use Read and Write the Room every week to support a specific phonics skill we will work on the following week. I also use this activity for seasonal words AND many math skills.

2) I found out years ago that asking a 6-year-old to walk around a print-rich classroom and find certain word chunks might not be the best idea! Some got confused. Some were intimidated by all the print. And some just forgot what they were doing. Seriously!

Imagine someone asking you to go to Walmart and write down all the -ay words you saw. Really?? Hmm...Completely overwhelming to children. Well, I came up with my own way.

This is "my way"---I know I didn't invent it. I was thinking Frank Sinatra here.
I place Read and Write the Room word cards around the room after the children go home on Friday. These word cards all contain a phonics skill we will work on the next week.
Then, the next week---

I introduce the skill on Monday, and the students must complete their Read the Room activity sometime that week during Daily 5. On Friday, we take the cards off the wall and come together on the carpet with our clipboards, pencils, and recording sheets. We check this activity together using the SmartBoard.

The kiddos check their work and keep their cards beside them
 until their word comes up on the Smartboard.

Students match cards to the Smartboard words and tell us how they sorted their words.

After matching cards to the Smartboard, students place their word cards in the chair. This way, I don't have to take the words off the wall. Whatever it takes!!
This little girlie is smiling because I asked her to "freeze" while I got the camera.

I have 27 different Read and Write the Room packs in my TpT store, plus several sets and bundles, as well.

Each individual packet sells for $2.50, with sets and bundles ranging from $3 - $10.
Bundles are 20% off and like buying 4 and getting 1 free.
SO...if you plan to purchase all 5 sets, make sure you take advantage of the bundle. 

Here's a peek at the bundles! I had a lot of fun making these!
Click the pics to take you to my shop!

3 different  recording sheets are provided to assist you with differentiation
 or other needs you may have in your classroom.

I hope you enjoy these! Please let me know if you have specific Read and Write the Room packs you would like to see!

If you've never tried Read and Write the Room, I encourage you to give it a shot.
It has made my life much easier!

Happy Sunday!