How to teach long & short vowel sounds

Written by tamara christine van hooser Google
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How to teach long & short vowel sounds
Mastering vowel sounds empowers kids to turn jumbled letters into meaningful words. (Young girl with letters image by pershing from

Kids enter first grade in expectant anticipation that the teacher will unlock the secret code of letters, words and books. Their first impression of language's beauty hinges on the teacher's method for teaching long and short vowel sounds and other language patterns. Rhythmic language attunes children's ears to the sound patterns that compose words, making music and rhyming games a natural tool for teaching long and short vowel sounds. Such engaging activities can turn a potentially humdrum topic like vowel sounds into play that captures children's attention, harnesses their natural enthusiasm, and empowers them with confidence as readers.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Simple rhyming stories and poetry books
  • Flip chart, chalkboard or white board
  • Chalk or markers
  • Index cards
  • Phonics song CDs or DVDs
  • CD player or DVD player
  • Paper
  • pencils
  • Computer with Internet connection
  • phonics-based computer games
  • Index cards
  • marker
  • glue
  • clip art or magazine pictures

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  1. 1

    Select a simple rhyming story or poem that features many rhymes that follow the three-letter consonant-vowel-consonant pattern. Read the story or poem aloud and ask students to call out pairs of words that sound alike. Write the letter pattern on the board. Explain that language has many predictable patterns, such as the final vowel-consonant and that we can use the patterns to make new words that sound alike by adding a consonant sound to the beginning. Pair students up and ask them to make a list of as many new words as they can think of that conform to the example rhyme pattern. Let each pair share their ideas with the class. Repeat this activity at intervals to introduce new sound patterns or common letter patterns found in words with long and short vowel sounds.

  2. 2

    Teach active songs that feature long and short vowel sounds. Make up movements to go with the songs to hold the kids' attention with active involvement. Don't be afraid to be a little silly--the laughter and motor movement strengthens the memory connection. Display a visual of the letter sound or pattern that you are singing about to help kids visualise the print form as they sing. Learning supply stores have a good selection of phonics music or you can use Learn NC's simple songs to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?"

  3. 3

    Create a set of matching cards with half the cards listing a specific long or short vowel sound and the matching half listing words that contain these vowel sounds. Play concentration or Go Fish.

  4. 4

    Demonstrate how to play an online or computer phonics game. Set it up in a learning centre and let kids take turns rotating through this activity during station time. Many commercial computer phonics programs are available through your school's computer lab, the library, or a local retailer. Scholastic's Interactive Storybooks page and the British Broadcasting Corporation's Words and Pictures page provide some games for practicing long and short vowel sounds, as well.

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