Vowels are the glue that connect letters and form words. Or as a child said to me once, that word can’t drive without its vowel! Short vowels are indeed motors and are an important skill for students. In this lesson, students will practice short vowel sounds by writing the vowel for the sound they hear.


Children learn short vowels before long vowels for several reasons. Many short, simple words contain short vowels and are easier to blend. Word families are commonly used in elementary schools as a way to connect common chunks with vowel sounds. Think at, ig, en, ox, and ut. Most importantly, short vowels are better at following the rules than those pesky long vowels!

Once children get a handle on short vowels, their reading skills grow exponentially! You will run into some words that sound a bit different, but that is okay. Enjoy exploring such sounds with your students and acknowledge that there are rule-breakers.

Getting Started



CLIO Lesson Short Vowels Learning Video
CLIO Lesson Card, 1 for every group of three students
Knowledge Check, 1 per student



Guided Learning


Showing pictures or real objects are a great way to begin discussing short vowel sounds. Then, students can transfer their knowledge to words and then finally to sentences.

Show a picture of an apple or an ant, like in the CLIO video lesson. You can introduce each vowel following this same routine.

1. Stretch the beginning sound and exaggerate it. (a-a-a)
2. Say the rest of the word. (-pple)
3. Have the students try saying it in parts.
4. Next, say the entire word slowly with some emphasis on the vowel. Students repeat.
5. Say it naturally. Students say it again.

Guided Practice with the CLIO Lesson Learning Video

            Let the children know they will be watching another fun CLIO video today. Pass out the CLIO Lesson Cards to each child. While watching the video, encourage the students to repeat the sounds of each vowel. They can write the vowel next to each picture while you are playing the video, as it pauses to allow time for this.

Keep those Lesson Cards handy! Tape them to the students’ desks. Glue them onto their writing or reading folders. You could even laminate them so that each child has a handy reference card to use during language lessons.

Tip – In my experience, the hardest is the e sound and may need extra repetition. It is also important to have examples of the vowel sound in the middle of the word. This learning video is a great starting point to short vowels, which is why we focused on the beginning of the word.



If you notice that short vowel sound skills are a challenge, slow down. Does the child need more practice with consonants first? If so, go back to those. If just the vowels are stumping the student, work on one vowel until they have that one down pat. Work on short a first and make sure they can hear it in the beginning place in words such as alligator, apple, and avalanche!

Once they can hear it in the beginning, then move to using short a in the middle of words. Word families are your friends here! The -at and -ap families tend to be easier than -am and -an, as those last two families sound a tiny bit different.

Additionally, some students do best when they have picture clues in front of them, such as the Clio Lesson Card. Many teachers help their struggling friends by showing them the sound that their lips and tongue should make for each sound.


If you find a child is a pro with writing short vowel sounds, take a look at books. Ask them to find the vowels in the sentences. See if they can write the words you dictate. Encourage them to try to write their own short vowel words by stretching and listening to the sounds themselves. Don’t rush into long vowels with them just yet. Let’s look at the l blends (bl, cl, gl, etc.) first and see how those influence the sound of the word.

Practice is Key

Supporting Activities for Short Vowel Sound
Use alphabet building blocks to create simple three letter words such as dog, pet, sat, wig, and cut. For a real challenge, keep the beginning and ending letters and switch in the different short vowel sounds. An example would be changing cat to cot.
  1. Nonsense words are fun! Encourage creativity with the vowels by making funny words. Sut, wog, and dag do not mean anything but are a Dr. Seuss-inspired way of having a good time while practicing sounds. I guarantee you will laugh!
Head to your local discount store and find a box of off-brand Legos in the large, toddler size. Using a permanent marker, write letters on the sides of the blocks. Using the four-block piece as a base, add a chunk to the last two pegs. An example would be -ig. Next, hold up a block with the letter p and make the p sound slowly while you join it next to the ig. Then, say ig. Repeat pig slowly. The kids love this, and you can speed up as they improve. Try adding a few four-letter words with blends for the more advanced students. (clam, plug, glad, etc.)
Magnetic letters are a wonderful tool because you can stretch the sound while sliding the letter. Use these in small groups with mini whiteboards and encourage the students to do it with you.
Snack time! If you are lucky enough to have snack time in your classroom, look at the packages while they eat. Find the vowels in words on the package. Are they making the short vowel sounds? Tip – There is a certain brand of cheese crackers that have letters on them. Awesome snack and teaching tool in one!
Pull out markers, large sheets of paper, and your best drawing skills for this idea. Assign one sheet of paper per vowel. Add the common word families to that sheet. For example, at, an, ap, ag, and am are very prevalent short a word families. Draw a picture next to each word family. A hat for at, a pan for an, and so on. Post these vowel posters in a low spot that will frequently be seen by your children. If you are really ambitious, you can create a sheet for each family instead of each short vowel sound. I did this for ten of the most common word families and was amazed how often the students referred to them.
Here are common word families for younger students: -at, -an, -ap, -ot, -og, -ox, -it, -ig, -in, -ip, -et, -en, -ut, -ug. There are many more that come up so have fun keeping track of these with your class. Make a graph or list of the ones you think of!
Encourage your students to use letter stamps to make words. Most really enjoy this easy but unique way of “writing” words. Tip – Ink pads and stampers can get messy! I highly recommend the self-inking style of stampers and have used them successfully with my own classes.

Knowledge Check

Check for Understanding

There is really no moving on from writing short vowel sounds. The students will be working on them for years. However, having a significant grasp on the short vowel sounds is essential to reading success. Keep reviewing as often as possible, while keeping the lessons short and engaging.

Allow students to use the CLIO Lesson card materials for reference. Show the new picture and ask students what short vowel sound they hear at the beginning of each word. Students should then write the vowel that represents the beginning sound.

Miranda Perloff

Miranda Perloff

Miranda fell in love with school supplies, worksheets, and learning when she entered kindergarten. She strives to bring that same excitement to her students. Books are a huge part of her lessons and she introduces the children to as many titles and authors as possible. Miranda now combines her passion for education with her joy of writing. In her free time, she enjoys the company of her supportive husband, her humorous son, and the feminine magic of her stepdaughters.