Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Teaching Short and Long Vowels

Did anyone else notice how school started again?

Anyway, here's some tips on how to teach short and long vowels to students. I teach first graders and many of them need a lot of phonics instruction. But don't tune out if you don't teach first graders because there are plenty of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders who need basic phonics help as well. Teachers tend to stop teaching phonics explicitly to students after 1st grade or so, but don't be one of them! Some students struggle for a very long time simply because they weren't taught phonics explicitly for long enough. The class moves on and teachers think they'll just pick up on phonetic rules, but some won't. Trust me. I've seen it in pretty much all of my students in special education who struggle with reading.

Granted, many students won't need it to help them read fluently. They've already got it so you might think you're wasting your time focusing on the few who do need it. But the time is not wasted! Teaching phonics will help their spelling improve incredibly. Just because they can read the words fluently does not mean they can spell them, and when they can consciously explain phonics rules, their spelling will show it.

This is a fun and effective way to teach what long and short vowels are, and how to decode CVC and CVCE words. And CVCCECVCE words, if those ever come up.

Here's what you'll need:

5 pencils
5 strips of different colored card stock

Step One: Make Vowel Cards 

Pretend there's some tape there too.

Fold the rectangle and tape onto the pencil. Write the long vowel on
one side and the short vowel on the other. Make one for each vowel.

Step Two: Practice Short and Long Vowels with Students

I start with the letter A. Teach them the short sound with the short vowel marking, and then teach them the long vowel with the long vowel marking. The fun part is reviewing it like this by rolling the pencil in your hand. When you stop, the students say either the short or long sound. As shown below:


Step Three: Demonstrate Short and Long Vowels in Words

To demonstrate short and long vowels in words, use CVC words that can become CVCE words. For instance hop and hope or mad and made. Practice as shown below:


I don't know why it does that little animation at the end. It was late when I edited it. I promise I didn't do it on purpose.

And here's a list of CVC words that can become CVCE words:

When your students are ready you can move onto CVC with blends that can become CVCE. Here a few that work: plan, strip, grip, trip, shin, grad . . . and that's all for now. I can't think of any more.

Also, don't feel confined by using real words. It's always good to throw in some nonsense words to make sure they understand the rule and haven't just memorized the words.


  1. That's a good list of words. How long did it take you to come up with them?