What are the Short Vowel Sounds in English?
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What are the Short Vowel Sounds in English?

In Classrooms all over the world, as well as more than a few YouTube Channels and songs, it is assumed there are 5 short vowel sounds in English. In fact there are 7 short vowel sounds in English. Below we will explain what these are and offer links to worksheets, games and resources to help you teach these to your children and students.

Although there are 7 short vowel sounds in English. Students and children are often taught the 5 most common, which are [a] as in an, [e] as in hen, [i] as in it, [o] as in pop, and [u] as in sun. The two less common short vowel sounds in English, are [oo] as in book, and the schwa [uh] as in data.

Below you will find the following:

  • Short Vowel sound examples and phonetic symbols
  • The sounds of short vowels to listen to in British and American English
  • Teaching resources to teach Short Vowels and their sounds
  • Information on the five common vowel sounds.

What are the Short Vowel Sounds in English?

As mentioned above there are 7 short vowel sounds in English and the table below highlights what they are, their phonetic symbol (for those that need this) and some use cases. We have also included a link to a resource on the site that will help to teach these sounds, often in CVC form to enable students to focus on less sounds and master these short vowel sounds in semi isolation.

We also have a page that offers more examples of these words with downloads if needed you can access here.

Short Vowel Sounds in English Examples.

Short Vowel
Sound
Phonetic
Symbol
Example short
Vowel Words
Link to
Resources
a /æ/cat, man, dad, tap,
rat, sad, tax, cap
CVC Scramble
e/ɛ/hen, wet, pet, fed,
leg, set, bed, ten
Missing Vowel
i /ɪ/win, hit, pip, kid, sit,
nit, did, six, wit
CVC Poems
o /ɒ/hot, pop, dot, sob,
cod, lot, fox, rob
CVC Online Maker
u/ʌ/sun, bus, pun, mum, run
mud, cub, gun, rub
Short Vowel Sort
*oo/ʊ/foot, book, could,
should, look, took
Farm Phonics: Long and short
*uh/ə/paper, enemy, support,
dollar, hotter
373 Workbook Bundle

*Can depend on American or British English to its use case. Both are acceptable of course.

The Short Vowel Sounds: Click to listen.

Below we have the 7 short vowel sounds to listen to just click the play button. We have used both British and American English.

British English Vowel Sounds

Short /a/ Sound

Short /e/ Sound:

Short/i/ Sound:

Short /o/ Sound:

Short /u/ Sound:

Short /oo/ Sound:

Schwa Sound:

American English Vowel Sounds

Short /a/ Sound

Short /e/ Sound:

Short/i/ Sound:

Short /o/ Sound:

Short /u/ Sound:

Short /oo/ Sound:

Schwa Sound:


What are the short vowel sounds

The Five Short Vowel Sounds in English.

The five short vowel sounds in English are /a/e/i/o/u. These are also the most common short vowel sounds in English. They form the majority of simple CVC words in English and make them suitable to teach emergent students of English. However there are two more less common short vowel sounds in English.

The other two are both less common and more difficult to teach. These are /u/ as in book and the schwa sound (which has multiple spellings) as in data or enemy.

There is remarkable similarity between /u/, /oo/ and the schwa sound In English and unless children or students are aiming for absolute 100% accuracy in pronunciation then this approach is probably correct.

The variations in accents both within native English speaking countries, and globally could mean that there is too much time expanded on the pronunciation of these sounds.

Time could perhaps be spent better learning more vocabulary, phonics or grammar rules. It will depend on the argument between fluency and accuracy.

However for those perfectionists amongst us, I am not one, then I have linked to a video here, that will explain how these sounds differ and help you pronounce them. I will make a short vowel sounds one from us at some point, but I am a native speaker with an accent!

So even for me the differences between some short vowel sounds (and long vowel sounds) can be a challenge.

How to Teach Short Vowel Sounds.

There are numerous ways to teach short vowel sounds to children. These include, chants, songs, word lists, short vowel readers, worksheets, classroom and online games. It is important to remember children learn differently and combining these resources to teach is preferential to using them in isolation.

Below we will highlight some of the better resources out there (including our own of course!) to help you collect a portfolio of resources and differentiate your lessons and tasks.

Tasks to Teach Short Vowel Sounds.

If you want the infographic for English Phonics Mouth Shapes image from below you can download below.

  • Using Songs To teach Short Vowel Sounds: As these sounds are often introduced In Kindergarten and early years English lessons. Phonics Songs work really well. There are loads and loads of these short vowel and phonics sounds songs on YouTube and we have already collected 20 of the best to save you the time. We have used all of these in our classrooms all over the world with great success.
  • Using Word Lists: This is a much more traditional approach, but practice makes perfect as the saying goes. Children can be given these lists to practice reading and getting their mouths used to connecting the lee o he sound. We have sets of CVC short vowel word families lists and worksheets to make this more fun here on the site.
  • Short Vowel Readers: In our Guided reading, and reading skills lesson in schools we use these. They are often written to focus on these ( or other) phonics sounds. However when you try to buy anything educational it often comes with a price tag. Expectations to this are the excellent Dr Seuss books which you can look at on the link here and below, and of course our CVC Readers which have been written by teachers and made for teachers and parents to use.
  • Short Vowel Worksheets: Using these to both introduce and consolidate short vowel sounds is a great way for children to have reference material and written records of their work. We make these to be accessed for free and above you have some links to use. However we have hundreds of these on the site. A quick search will find them for you, but here is a link to all the worksheets as well.
  • Classroom Games to Teach Short Vowels and Phonics: As above these can be expensive if you are a small school or a parent looking to help your children learn English. We have made a few for free to use and download to help, but if you have the money you can check out these excellent games here. We recommend Trugs very highly for school.
  • Online Short Vowel Sounds Games: The future is here, and more and more homes and schools have tablets, interactive white boards and more in the school. This doesn’t save teachers time finding ways to use them though, so we have tried to do that. We have lists of the best phonics online games, short vowel sound games and more. on the site. One notable mention in both our page here , and Room Recess who make great targeted online phonics games.

The Importance of Short Vowel Sounds

It is hard to over stress how important these short vowel sounds are to emergent English learners. Although it is not totally needed to get the pronunciation correct from the start learning these sounds opens up simple word construction very quickly.

Once students have learnt these sounds they can start to put together simple CVC words and learn onset and rimes. It opens up actual story reading ( simple ones of course) and brings meaning to their English language learning.

This is a great motivator and hopefully starts them on their journey to being an fluent reader. We have loads more reading resources on the site that you can access for free just click the Free resources section on the menu above and dive in. We have short vowel sounds of course, but there is a lot more to help your children and students.

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