Short Vowels Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about short vowels and phonics. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Short Vowels. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Phonics is a way of teaching reading and spelling that focuses on building relationships between letters and sounds. It allows early readers to explore language and find patterns to help them read and spell. Review with your children that vowels are the letters a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y. Consonants are all the other letters of the alphabet. Explain that vowels can sound differently in different words, but there are a few tips and rules to help read and pronounce them correctly.

Explain that vowels help separate consonants in words. You may want to write a string of consonant letters on the board and challenge your children to read it. Most words in the English language contain at least one vowel. Some words are vowels, such as a and I.

Although we present all the short vowels together in this movie, it is useful to study each short vowel for several days in a row, and to give children many opportunities to associate the vowel sound with a variety of pictures and to see, say, and hear the vowel sound in many words. When you present each vowel sound, demonstrate how to write the letter, ask your students to practice writing it, and have your children say the name of the letter and its short vowel sound out loud as they write. It is essential to show pictures and/or words to help associate the sound with the letter. For example, the word apple starts with the letter a and sounds like aaa as in bag. The word Ed starts with the letter e and sounds like eh as in beg. The word ink starts with the letter i and sounds like ih as in pig. The word ox starts with the letter o and sounds like ah as in log. The word us starts with the letter u and sounds like uh as in bug. Remind your children that the letter y is sometimes a vowel, but does not have a short vowel sound. Be sure to give students a lot of practice using each short vowel you are studying. You should provide a range of activities for reinforcement, such as reading poetry together and highlighting the selected short vowel, matching words with the same vowel sounds, sorting pictures with a specific vowel sound, and making words with stamps or letter tiles.

Even though vowels are pronounced differently in different words, there are a few rules and tips your children can use to help them read and spell. For example, if a vowel comes at the beginning of a short word, it is usually pronounced with a short sound, as in ant, elf, it, on, and up. If a vowel comes in the middle of a short word between two consonants, it is usually pronounced with a short sound, as in bat, leg, bit, fog, and tug. There are exceptions to these rules, but encourage your children to try the short sounds first and check to see if the word sounds correct before trying the long vowel sounds.

Patterns can help early readers pronounce, read, and spell new words. For example, if a child can read the word hand, he or she can read other words that are spelled with a-n-d including sand, stand, band, brand, and land. Encourage children to compare new words with ones they already know how to read or spell. You may want to begin by introducing consonant-vowel-consonant words, such as tag, bet, fig, dog, and dug and slowly introducing other words that follow different patterns. You may want to introduce and group words that contain the same “chunk” of vowels and consonants such as ag, ig, op, it, ack, ick, ink, etc. This will empower them to read new words on their own with confidence. We recommend watching the movie about Rhyming Words to learn more about word families and patterns.

The best way for children to learn the exceptions of spelling rules, learn new words, and explore language is to read. Create a text-rich environment for your children and encourage them to pronounce new words on their own. Read out loud together everyday and challenge them with new words to explore.