A Simple Guide for Teaching Short Vowels Using Multi-Sensory


If you’re teaching short vowels using the Orton Gillingham approach, this guide has some direction and ideas for you. Let’s walk through effective strategies to help your students not only understand short vowels but also retain and use their knowledge.

Start with Phonemic Awareness

Developing a student’s phonemic awareness and the ability to clearly hear the vowel sounds is a great start. We want to engage them in listening activities to learn to identify and manipulate sounds in words.

This chart is in the “freebies” section and gives a list of activities you can do with students.

You can also use simple games like “I Spy” with sounds (“I spy something that starts with /?/”) is one idea.

Introduce One Vowel at a Time

If students are young, we should introduce each short vowel sound individually, and know that you can still be on the first vowel sound up to five lessons in (or more if there are retention issues).

Start with phonogram cards with pictures on them. Start with the card short a.

In teaching short vowels, we do not teach the a, e, i, o, u and y. We teach the order: a, i, o, u, e, y.  The reason is our dialect. Especially in the South, e and i can sound alike. In the North, a and o can sound similar when spoken. For this reason, and because we use a lot of phonemic awareness, teaching the sounds of the letters as well as the written and visual of them, we want to teach those letters apart.

Drills For Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic Learning

Using drill cards, have student say letter name, sounds and key word.

Have students write the letters as you dictate sounds in a word. Example, you say “big,” student writes the short i. Students can write the letter in sand, shaving cream, trace on sandpaper letters, or any other tactile method.

As you introduce more vowels, use vowel strips and have students go down the line saying the vowels sounds. For example, a and i on a vowel strip, they say /a/ /i/, /a/ /i/ reading the strip out loud.

Student points to the card or strip as the tutor/teacher says sound. For example, you say, /a/, and the student points to the a. You say /i/ and the student points to the i.

Student points to the letter as the tutor/teacher dictates words with these sounds. For example, pin, lab, man, sim. You say the word, student points to the short vowel making the sound.

Tutor/Teacher dictates words and the student says vowel sounds out loud. For example, teacher says pin, student says “i.”

Tutor/Teacher dictates a word and the student writes the whole word. For example, pig, pat, big, bat. Students can also write the letter in sand, shaving cream, trace on sandpaper letters, or any other tactile method.

As you add more short vowel sounds, use these same exercises with each one adding in more vowels as the student masters each sound.

Reminder Sentence

As you get all of the short vowels taught, you can put a reminder sentence on a card to remind students of the sounds: Ask If Odd Ed Is Up

There are other sentences as well, this is just the one I made up.

Introducing CVC with Short Vowels

Once a student understands the vowel sound and the consonant sound, introduce simple consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words that include the vowel.

As students become more comfortable with individual vowel sounds, they’ll start blending sounds to form words. Start by blending sounds orally before moving on to written words. This helps students understand how vowels function within words.

Reviewing Sounds

The cumulative nature of OG means that review and feedback are done regularly. Revisit previously learned vowels and words in each lesson plan to confirm retention.

You can tailor a student’s lessons to their needs. One student may still be on short a, five lessons into your teaching/tutoring while another student may have picked ran with vowel sounds and have mastery quickly. Adjust your teaching strategies to meet their needs, ensuring each lesson builds on the last.

Final Word

The backbone of Orton Gillingham is to use a multi-sensory approach to teaching and tutoring your students. This is especially important in the beginning when teaching short vowels (and beginning consonants). You want them to hear what they see and spell (write) what they hear.

*I’m referring to the scope & sequence in my Scope & Sequence Workbooks – you may have a different Scope & Sequence.

Helpful Links:

Links: Scope & Sequence Workbooks (these workbooks contain the mini-cards from the video): https://bit.ly/2YN0XDP

Link to Magnet Sheets (if you want to make magnet cards/strips): https://amzn.to/3lMPD2y

Link to White Board in video: https://amzn.to/3zxk1CL

Link to Paper to make Cards: https://amzn.to/3EKC3We

Drill Card Template (you can make drill cards on your computer): https://bit.ly/3Eb3LuO

Products to help Sandpaper letters:
Sandpaper Letters, Lowercase only: https://amzn.to/3APKAnq
Sandpaper Letters, Uppercase & Lowercase: https://amzn.to/3BXZ5XN
Bubble Popper: https://amzn.to/47lcBUm
Magnetic Letters: https://amzn.to/3Qt4nCU
Whisper Phones: https://amzn.to/3SA9rIe

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