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How to Teach Short a Words | 9 Practical Tips

The first step in teaching students to read is to learn the letter sounds. For some instances, learning vowels can become very tricky for kindergarten kids. The vowel sound can be spelled differently and may struggle with your student’s ability to spell the word correctly. But before you start teaching CVC words, make sure your students can identify the beginning and ending sounds. Start teaching one vowel at a time in the most common patterns. Patterns (word families) are consistent and predictable in spelling, making them the perfect place to start.

short a words

Word families are a group of words that have a common pattern. Examples: cat, rat, sat, mat, and hat are words from the AT word family. They all have short A sounds and common letter combinations.

Once you cover one word family, move to the next one. Make the learning process consistent. Use the same activities; this makes students more comfortable knowing what to expect during the class and focuses on learning short a words. When you cover a few word families, start mixing up the short a words. Students will identify the short sound and the word family.

Learning the CVC words by word family brings a lot of benefits

Teach the short a words in the common patterns, such as -at, -ad, -an, -am, -at word families. Start with one word family first (we recommend the following order: -at, -am, -ap, -an, and -ad) and break the words by its family. That means, instead of breaking c-a-t or ca-t, split the word by family: c-at.

9 Practical Tips to Build Essential Phonics Skills and Learn Short a Words

Tip #1

Always use visuals; it helps students to visualize the concept. Make it accessible for each student; when someone struggles with spelling or identifying the word, they can easily use it as a reference. Classroom posters are compelling visual tools for your classroom.

Tip #2

Listening skills are important! Make your students listen and identify the vowel sound. Say the word aloud: “Cat.” Ask your students what vowel sound they hear. Go around the room asking for more examples of the short a sound.

Tip #3

Naming pictures with sound and word family. Print, cut out, and prepare reading flashcards. The short vowel or word family is highlighted in a different color. It makes it easy for a student to identify and isolate the sound (and better remember it in the future).

Show one card and ask students: Does anyone know what letter it has? “It is the letter a. We call this letter a vowel. It makes the ‘aaa’ sound, like cat or apple. We call it short a sound.” Repeat practice, but this time ask your students to identify the word family they hear.

Tip #4

Identifying each unique sound. Print, cut out and prepare clip cards (you will need a few clothespins). Pass the clip cards with a short word. Have your students identify the short vowel and clip the clothespin to the corresponding sound.

This activity is great for independent practice. As well, it promotes fine motor skills and makes learning fun and interactive. Move forward and ask your students to identify the word family and attach the clothespins to the equal family.

Tip #5

Now, when your students are comfortable identifying the vowel sound, it’s time to practice spelling and writing. Practice one word at a time. At this age, the best approach is to make learning as much hands-on and active as possible. Simple writing and tracing practice can become boring and less effective. Here are a few great hands-on worksheets for your lesson.

Practice the short sound:
Please have your student look at the picture and say it aloud. Let her glue letters to make a word. Stamp it! Or, as an alternative, write letters on the round stickers, or use the plastic letters to construct the word. Use any method your child comfortable with.

Think and identify the short sound. Here you can also come creatively. Your student can circle the vowel sound, make a dot using the do-a-dot marker, place a button on the corresponding sound, etc. Make it easy and fun! Finally, ask your kindergarten to read, trace, and write (while reading, point each word with a finger).

Practice the -at word family:
With these worksheets, your students will identify the word family (make a dot!). Read and pick the right word, then read a short sentence. All sentences combine words from the Pre-primer Dolch list and short vowel words. Students will also build, stamp, and trace the word family. In the end, they will look for pictures from the same word family and color them.

This practice helps to build strong reading and spelling skills for kindergarten students. If your child still struggles with identifying the short a sound or word family, you can add extra activities to help them.

Tip #6

Finally, it is time to review the short a words and check your student’s progress. You will review your student’s ability to read, spell, and identify the word family. Spelling dictionaries are great! It combines writing practice, coloring, and spelling.

Tip #7

After spelling practice, let your students read a short story. Each story combines Dolch pre-primer word list and short a words. Each story accompanies by three cards. Your students need to paste them in the right sequence. Afterward, there are two questions about the text. Working on these stories, students learn to read and analyze the text.

Tip #8

Cut and paste activity is great to sort the word family by a picture or by word. Students can complete one or both versions, and you can combine pictures and words.

You can use these cards to play a memory game as well! Students can match the picture and the word, or picture-picture word-word, depending on your goals (in this case, print the second page two times).

Tip #9

Afterward, review the concept in one sheet. With this worksheet, you will see whether your students catch and fix the concept or need a little more practice. The worksheet includes all five words from a word family and covers the following activities: read the short a word, identify the vowel, construct the word, and spell it. For a fun side, students can color the picture for each word.