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Short Vowels for Big Kids

Teachers who use my 13 FREE diagnostic reading assessments often ask me why a student does not master a reading skill on one assessment, but seems to on another assessment. Following is a typical question and my answer regarding our article topic, Short Vowels for Big Kids:

Short Vowels for RtI

Short Vowels for Big Kids

I’m a fifth grade teacher and I recently gave two of your reading assessments. I’m confused about some of the results. Why have seven of my students not mastered the short vowels section on your Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment when they don’t seem to make mistakes on the short vowel words on your Pets Fluency Assessment?

An excellent question! And a seeming discrepancy which actually points to the validity of both assessments and also provides important diagnostic information on those seven students.

The Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment is a nonsense word test. The nonsense words are used to isolate the testing variable of student sight word knowledge. For example, the test is designed to see if students can apply their knowledge of short vowel sound-spellings to unknown (usually academic, multi-syllabic) words, not words which struggling readers have unfortunately often memorized as sight words. The Pets Fluency Assessment uses real words and so does not specifically test for short vowels.

The diagnostic information the teacher gains from using both tests is important: the seeming discrepancy probably points to the fact that the seven students did not have a solid phonics background and have been developing compensatory survival skills such as sight words and context clues to read easy narratives. When they get to the more complex academic vocabulary of your fifth grade social studies and science textbooks, their survival strategies just don’t work. Make sense? Suggest you use the rest of the assessments to confirm this diagnosis and then purchase my Teaching Reading Strategies program for the resources to teach to these diagnostic deficits.

How to Teach Short Vowels to Big Kids

The first step is to determine what is missing from the foundation. Teachers have used my reading assessments for years to pinpoint phonemic awareness, phonics, and sight words deficits. For the purposes of this article, the Vowel Sounds Ph0nics Assessment pinpoints which short vowels students have not yet mastered.

The second step is to follow a research-tested instructional scope and sequence. Most all explicit, systematic phonics programs begin with short vowels. As compared to long vowels, the short vowels are much more consistent in their pronunciations and spellings. Of course, teachers also introduce consonants along with the short vowels. Following are the instructional sequence from the author’s reading intervention program and the short vowel animal sound-spelling cards used to introduce the names, sounds, and spellings. Note that only the short /e/ has more than one often-used spelling. Again, the short vowels are quite consistent.

Short Vowels Instructional Phonics Sequence

Short Vowels Animal Sound-Spelling Cards

Animal Sound-Spelling Cards (Short Vowels)

The third step is to group students who have demonstrated that they have not yet achieved mastery with the short vowels. Teachers use a variety of small group formats. Literacy centers have become a popular option to provide remedial instruction within some centers (stations), while offering grade-level and/or accelerated instruction in other centers.

The fourth step is to set aside the necessary time to teach the short vowels. Initial instruction takes longer; however, remedial instruction can be accomplished quite quickly, because gap-filling builds upon some degree of prior knowledge, albeit a shaky foundation. Typically, five 20-minute workshops will facilitate mastery as indicated by formative assessments.

The fifth step is to provide effective instruction and practice for the five short vowels and to use a formative assessment to determine mastery. Teachers need to have back-up lessons in case the student does not master the short vowels on the formative assessment. A solid foundation will allow students to learn additional reading skills.

Teachers who would like to use my short vowels lessons and formative assessment to remediate short vowels are welcome to download this workshop from my Teaching Reading Strategies program:

Get the Short Vowels Phonics Workshop FREE Resource:

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is designed for non-readers or below grade level readers ages eight–adult. This full-year, 55 minutes per day program provides both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). Affordable and evidence-based, the program features the 54 Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables for each lesson and designed for older students. The digital and print word recognition activities and decodables are also available as a half-year (or 30 minutes per day) option in The Science of Reading Intervention Program. Both programs include the easy-to-teach, interactive 5 Daily Google Slide Activities.


Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic ELA and Reading Assessments FREE Resource:

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