How to Teach Vowels: Short and Long Vowel Techniques

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Importance of Teaching Short Vowels First

One of the most basic mistakes teachers make when they think about how to teach vowels is assuming that you must teach long vowels first. Make sure to teach students the short vowels before the long vowels. Besides the fact that the short vowels are more difficult to remember than the long vowels, they are also the most common vowels that the children will come across at first, while they’re reading mostly CVC words. Therefore, always teach short vowels before long vowels.

Visual Clues

For visual learners, consider using picture clues to help them remember the short vowel sounds. For example, you can make the letter “a” look like an apple with a stem off to the side. The letter “e” can look like an elephant with a trunk, the letter “i” can look like two insects (a worm and a flea), the letter “o” can look like the head of an octopus, and the letter “u” can look like the hook of an umbrella. Embellish each picture as necessary. For a short vowel activity, song and game for visual learners, read more right here on Bright Hub.

Mouth Positioning

Many students will have difficulty differentiating between the sounds of the various short vowels, and their pronunciations of the various vowels will seem similar to each other. To help them with this, show them the different shapes that your mouth forms as you say the various vowels. For example, the short vowels /a/, /e/, and /i/ are often confused. Explain that your mouth is more closed when you say the /i/ sound then the /e/ sound, and that when you say the /a/ sound, your mouth is open even more.

You can also teach the short /o/ and /u/ sounds together using this technique. Show students that when they say the /o/ sound, their mouths are shaped like a big “o.” When they say the /u/ sound, their mouths are narrower, just like the “u” is narrower.

Long Vowels

Long vowels are much easier to teach. You can explain to kindergarten children that when a vowel is long, it “says its name.” Make a list of words that use long vowels and ask children to identify which vowel is in each word. They should find this skill much easier to pick up than that of identifying the short vowels.

Deciding how to teach vowels requires a lot of creativity and the ability to understand how your students learn. Consider a free online phonics program for teachers, which was reviewed right here on Bright Hub, called Try these suggestions, and please share comments about your own vowel teaching ideas!