• Katelyn Robey

Daily Phonics Drill, part 4: Short Vowel Practice

Updated: Jun 9

The Daily Phonics Drill has 4 components, 2 of which use phonics cards:

  1. Look and Say: Students look at a phonics card, and say it’s sound.

  2. Hear and Do: Students hear a sound, and “do” (or write) the sound in a way that piques student’s tactile memory. I choose sand, but there are other less messy options as well.

  3. Segment and Blend: Phonics cards are set up as syllables for students to segment and blend together.

  4. Short Vowel Practice: Students practice hearing and isolating short vowel sounds by listening to a syllable and repeating the vowel sound.

Look and Say

Hear and Do

Segment and Blend


Short Vowel Practice

Why Short Vowel Practice?


Short vowel sounds are harder to tell apart than most adults realize. Obviously young learners need to practice these sounds, but even older students could use extra practice hearing the difference in short vowel sounds! Since short vowel sounds happen more often than other vowel types, it’s really important for students to know them well.

To back up my claims, I wanted to get you some hard numbers. I found a fascinating article by Edward Fry that lists the frequencies of phonemes and graphemes in words. The information is a re-organization (a simplified, easier to understand version) of a larger study, based on a group of 17,310 words used in the original study. From those 17,310 words:

  1. short a occurred in a closed syllable 4192 times

  2. short e occurred in a closed syllable 3316 times

  3. short i occurred in a closed syllable 5346 times

  4. short o occurred in a closed syllable 1558 times

  5. short u occurred in a closed syllable 1509 times

When comparing all types of vowel sound options (combining both long and short sounds and spellings), short a, e, and i in closed syllables have the HIGHEST frequency by far.

The numbers don’t lie. Knowing short vowel sounds and hearing the difference between those tricky sounds is EXTREMELY important.


Materials :

The first option is none. Especially if you’re using motions to go along with short vowel sounds, students can simply go through the short vowel practice activity using the motions in their response.


For a more phonics-based, concrete option students will need either vowel tents or vowel cards. Easily make your own with index cards or use these pre-made versions that just need to be cut and folded.

Vowel Tents

Vowel Cards

I use vowel tents when I’m working with a large group or whole class of students, because they’re easier to see in that big setting. I use vowel cards in my small groups, again, because it’s easier for me.


How To – Short Vowel Routine:

Short vowel practice is a quick and simple call-and-answer type of activity. Basically the teacher calls out a closed syllable and the students respond by giving JUST the vowel sound and showing their motion/tent/card. It’s that easy! For example:

  1. Teacher: “at”

  2. Student: “/a/” while holding up vowel tent

  3. Teacher: “ug”

  4. Student: “/u/” while holding up vowel tent

  5. Teacher: “plinch”

  6. Student: “/i/” while holding up vowel tent

In the example, the teacher jumps too quickly into a complicated closed syllable with blends but you get the idea of the routine. Best practice for this type of activity suggests starting with single vowel sounds that students repeat back. Once single vowel sounds can be repeated correctly, begin adding one consonant at a time to the closed syllable (meaning VC pattern, then into CVC pattern). Teachers should only add another consonant if and when students are isolating the short vowel correctly (with maybe 1 or 2 mistakes… we’re all human).


Here’s a sample list of syllables to get you started!


This activity can be a phonemic awareness activity if students are using only motions without the vowel tents or cards.


For more information about using vowel tents and/or cards for this activity, check out this post.


#phonics #phonicsdrill #shortvowelsounds #phonemicawareness #vowelsounds #segmentingsounds #shortvowelpractice #segmenting #shortvowels #isolatedsounds

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