Short Vowels, Deal of the Day, & A Freebie!

We talked a bit about writing on Monday, so I wanted to follow up with a few short vowel activities today.  Teaching our kids how to identify medial vowels, blend, and segment sounds is one of the first steps we take to make them independent readers and writers.  

One of the first phonics skills I cover at the beginning of the year is vowels.  I introduce both short and long, but focus mainly on the short vowel sounds until that concept is mastered.  However, I think it's important for our kids to know BOTH sounds since they'll encounter those sounds/vowels in their reading.

When I introduce vowels, I tell my kids they're the glue that holds our words together.  I'm sure you do the same thing, too!  I found these great vowel glue bottle posters from the talented Teacher Wife about 5ish years ago and have been displaying them in my classroom ever since.  They go right in the middle of my phonics posters behind my guided reading/small group table.

   Y'all might remember this fun little song I made up  a couple of years ago.  We sing it A LOT!

While most of my short vowel instruction is done during whole group shared reading/writing experiences, I reinforce those concepts during small group and independent centers as well.  Repeated practice is so important and I want my kids to have TONS of it!!

This is a short/long vowel activity I created with small group in mind.  I like to introduce and play games with my kids in a small group setting before placing it in their independent centers.  I want them to be SUCCESSFUL when they're working alone or with a partner and in order to achieve that I need to give them direct, explicit instruction first.
 I have spinners or short vowels, spinners for long vowels, and then combined spinners (as pictured below) for both vowel sounds.  For the combined vowel sounds, I'll spin the spinner and then we identify the vowel sound...long or short...then the kids search their game boards to find a picture that has the matching vowel sound and cover it with their counter.  The first player to cover X amount of pictures first, wins.  

This is another activity I introduce in a small group setting before placing it in independent centers.  The idea for this activity is to have kids build a pyramid of vowel sounds starting from the bottom to the top.  I have a set of short and long vowel cards.  My kids have their own "build a pyramid" game mat and a set of double sided counters (any counter will work).  Then I turn over the vowel cards, one at a time, say the word on the card and then the kids have to identify the vowel sound they hear in the middle.  This game is a little tricky because they have build the bottom row before they can move to the middle and top.  All vowel sounds have to be covered on bottom, so if I turn over a card that shows "toe", and they don't have a long o on the bottom of their pyramid, they can't cover anything up.  They have to wait 'til the next card is flipped.  The first person to build their pyramid, wins! 

Isolating the medial vowel is another important concept we review throughout the year.  
These sound isolation & identification cards are perfect for that.   They have to look at the picture and then isolate the indicated sound in the top left corner that they hear in the word.  Then they have to identify where they hear the sound in the word...beginning/middle/end.  To extend the isolation and identification piece, they build the word as well.  I set out a tray of my letter tiles OR I give them dry erase markers and a dry erase sleeve.  Just depends on the time we have and what my objective is for the day.  I always introduce the CVC cards first and then we move onto the CCVC and eventually the CVCe.  By the time we et to the more challenging skills and concepts, they're already familiar with the activity and catch on really quickly.  This makes a great warm-up and/or fast finisher/anchor activity, too.

Because it's important to give our kids as many opportunities for repeated practice as we can, I love creating puzzles for various concepts.  Kids love puzzles!  Heck...I love puzzles :)  I created these short vowel puzzles for my kids to use independently.  I introduce these during a whole group lesson first and limit the number of puzzles they can solve while working independently.  I eventually will add more and more puzzles, but I want to insure success first so the choices are limited in the beginning...especially in Kindergarten :)

Blending boxes have been a class favorite for some time and I think that's mostly because the kids love to identify and create "silly" words.  I keep a set of these short vowel blending boxes at home because my boys love them, too.  They love taking those silly words they make and then use them in random sentences.  They crack themselves up.


As a first grade teacher, we started out the year learning all about short vowels.  Most of my kids were reading at the beginning of the year and we expanded on their schema with lots of short vowel activities.  We broke those down into "chunks" and would use those as the basis for our weekly spelling tests.  

When I was planning ahead and thinking about working with my K/1 intervention kids, I wanted to have something that would be good for both ability levels.  Challenging and remedial at the same time.  I spent a little time creating these fun, hands-on activities to use with those kids to give them repeated exposure and multiple opportunities to work with those sounds.  These are just a few examples of the different ways we work with short vowels in our classroom.

These flip books make great independent centers.  I have my kids keep these flip books in a phonics pocket (just a piece of construction paper folded up and in half to create pockets).  Their phonics pockets stay in their desks/cubbies and I'll often have them grab their flip books and read through them to practice decoding words out of context.  They make a great word family resource for my kids as well.

And speaking of short vowels, let's talk "Deal of the Day".  Today only you can grab my SHORT VOWEL ACTIVITY PACK BUNDLE for half off!!!  This resource is full of puzzles, games, center activities, printables, and MORE!!!

Now let's talk FREEBIE!

So, I was in Wal Mart the other day (I promise this isn't the start of a bad joke ;))
I was grabbing a few things from the travel section and found these great little containers.  97 cents a piece.  Of course, there was no way I'd use them for travel purposes, but I knew they'd make a GREAT activity for the classroom!

I picked up a red, yellow, and green because I knew I wanted to do something with a stoplight theme.  They had orange and blue containers as well.  As I was driving home it dawned on me.  STOPLIGHT SOUNDS!!!!  I could use the lids to segment sounds ...beginning (green)/ middle (yellow)/ end (red).  Perfect! 

Then the ideas for variations on the blending activity just started flowing.  These would definitely make the perfect addition to your guided reading toolkits.  I think one set per student (5-6 sets total) would be perfect.  

Now let's talk about how this all works.

My original thought was to have my kids just use the lids for segmenting and identifying phonemes.  I'll assign each color to a different sound in CVC words as mentioned above.  Then I'll give my kids a set of letter tiles and have them place the letters under each sound dome and go from there.  But that didn't make any sense because I want this to be an activity that makes them think and use the decoding skills they've learned thus far. are a few ideas.

Explain to your kids that each container represents a sound. 
Green = beginning consonant
Yellow = medial vowel
Red = ending consonant

Prior to starting this activity, fill the green and red containers with about 3-5 letter tiles each.  For the yellow container, you can place one vowel (the one you're studying) OR choose a couple (for review).  Teacher discretion, of course.

Now give a set of pre-filled containers to each student in your small group and prompt them to place the containers in stoplight  Remove the lids and place them in front of the containers. 

Now you can do a couple of different things...

* Call out words for the kids to make (they will make the words first, then segment each sound by placing one letter under each lid). Then tap the top of the lid as they say each sound and finally blend the sounds together.

* Prompt the kids to make their own words following the stoplight sequence.  Have them distinguish between real words and nonsense words.  Encourage them to segment/blend each phoneme in the words they create to make a word.  

I'm sure you could think of a jillion different variations or activities to use with these little tubs.  I think they'd be great for math, too.   As for phonics, this is a great way for kids to visually see and physically touch the phonemes in CVC words.  It's a great way to reach kids with different learning styles.

  I think something like this would also make a great independent literacy station. Keep a few sets in a literacy tub and fill the containers with letter tiles.  Have your kids make different words....write the words and illustrate....or make words and distinguish between real and nonsense.  They can use these printables to record their work (if that's something you want them to do.) I'd probably keep them in a dry erase sleeve and put this activity in one of my fast finisher tubs.  But only after introducing, modeling, and interacting with this activity first :)


  1. Can you tell me more about the phonics posters and how you use them? I noticed that they glue bottles are at the top of the space, what do you use the empty space for?

  2. Hi Cara!
    The picture of your reading table makes me want to see the rest of your room! :) Do you have a "classroom tour" type of blog post or section on your website I'm missing? I would LOVE to see how you have organized the rest of your room, supplies, etc.

  3. I am also interested in the phonics posters that you have with the glue bottles. Are these something that you made and if so are the for sale or where did you get them?

  4. Cara, can you please tell me where you got your letter tiles for the Stoplight Sounds?

  5. Cara, can you please tell me where you got your letter tiles for the Stoplight Sounds?