Teaching reading and spelling with vowel sounds

Maybe you’ve seen it. You begin reading with your child and the tears begin to flow. Your frustrated child can’t put the sounds together; can’t pronounce the words. It’s understandable. Out of the 26 letters in the alphabet, 5 of them are vowels. Those 5 vowels create 19 different sounds depending on the letter combination used in a given word.

Here are a few things to consider when teaching the short vowel sound:

  1. Introduce each vowel sound. Here is a video with short vowel sounds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQwQ7FWL4MM
  • short /a/ as in bat
  • short /e/ as in bet
  • short /i/ as in bit
  • short /o/ as in bot
  • short /u/ as in but
  1. For each short vowel sound teach a gesture or hand movement to go with it.
  • Short A – put your hand under your chin. Remind your student that when you say /ă/ your chin drops. Say, “Short a says, /ă/.”
  • Short E – Hold three fingers out horizontally. Say, “Short e says, /ĕ/.”
  • Short I – Touch your finger to your nose like you are dotting an i. Say, “Short i says, /ĭ/”.
  • Short O – Form your mouth in the shape of an o. Say, “Short o says, /ŏ/”.
  • Short U – /ŏ/”.Put your hands together and use your thumbs to form a u. Say, “Short u says /ŭ/”.

Remind students to do these gestures each day when they say the short vowel sounds.

You can also use these gestures when segmenting words for accurate spelling. For example, after you dictate the word rat, the student can say each sound in isolation. /r/ / ă / /t/.

 spell trek3. The game, Spell Trek, uses visuals for the vowels and reinforces vowel recognition, phonics, and spelling. During this game, players draw vowel tiles and use them to complete words. Scoring is based on the length of the word spelled, with a bonus point for more complex words.

Here is a video tutorial that parent can watch and receive additional tips on how to play Spell Trek as well as how the game can reinforce spelling and phonics.

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Panda Bear, what do you see? I see an adjective looking at me…


This week, my homeschoolers and I recreated the animals in the book, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? and used them to discuss nouns  (person, place, thing, or idea) and adjectives (word or words that modify a noun). 

Sea Lion
Sea Lion

The animals in the book are colorful and easy to trace. The students used googly eyes for the eyes, yarn for the whiskers, construction paper for the body parts, and crayons to color in the accents. As we made each animal, we identified the noun first. Afterwards, the kiddos identified the adjectives. They are as follows (adjective is in italics):


  • Panda bear 
  • bald eagle
  • water buffalo
  • spider monkey
  • green sea turtle
  • macaroni penguin
  • sea lion
  • red wolf
  • Whooping crane


  • black panther
  • dreaming child

To help them identify and remember the two parts of speech, the children wrote across the body of each animal. They wrote every adective in blue and every noun in black.

20150626_132702They strung their animals together and created a colorful window hanging.

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Reading strategies: P.L.O.R.E.

Although P.L.O.R.E  (Predict, Locate, Organize, Read, and Evaluate) is introduced to students in the 2nd grade, I encourage my ACT/SAT students to employ these strategies as well. These strategies work for all reading levels.

P stands for PREDICT. 20150525_194208Read the title and predict what the text will be about. Jot down a few ideas.

20150525_194229 Next, LOCATE and circle key words, names, and dates. Underline significant ideas and important passages.


ORGANIZE  yourthoughts. Use the space space in the margins to jot down thoughts and ideas that you develop as you read.

NOTE Recently, one of my SAT students said that she is sure she would have scored much higher on the SAT reading had she been able to go back and quickly find the main ideas. She remembers skimming over them and regrets not writing key thoughts as she read.

20150525_194316 READ AND RE-READ the questions, the answer choices, and the text. Remember, several of the answers could be correct. You, however, are in search of the  best answer.

20150525_194244 Carefully EVALUATE your answers. Be able to justify your answer choices.

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