It is incredible, isn't it!

Beginning Reading

Teaching Decoding with Short Vowels

By: Rebecca Smith


I. Rationale:

            In order for children to learn how to read, it is crucial that they be able to identify letters and the sounds that they make.  The letter-sound correspondence will be the basis of reading and so that is why it is so important for teachers to go over each letter of the alphabet specifically, especially the tricky ones like the short vowels.  I have chosen to teach a short vowel because it is difficult when the letter name is one thing and the letter says something else.  We will go over the i = /i/ sound in this lesson, spelling words with it, being able to identify it in print and spoken aloud.  My goal for today is to make sure that each student can pick out the short “i” sound in a spoken word as well as be able to read the short “i” sound in whole texts readings.  Each letter is crucial to the success of a child’s reading, so it is important for students to learn this letter and accomplish this goal to move forward.


II. Materials

1. A board and a marker for the teacher.

2. A letterbox set and letter set for the teacher (so larger).

3. A copy of Tin Man Fix It for each student or pair of students.

4. Primary Paper for the students

5. Pencils for the students

6. List of Pseudowords.

Ex: rit, mip, lig, gif, tig, sil, wiv, gip


III. Procedures:

Explain Why:

“Today we are going to talk about the short i.  Does anyone know what sound that makes?”  Make sure that the students can hear the sound when either another student, or I as the teacher must provide the sound.  “This is a very important letter in our alphabet, it is not just any letter, it is one of five special letters.  Does anyone know what that is? …. That’s right, a vowel!  Vowels are very important because they are in every single word.  The vowels can be kind of tricky because they make at least two very different sounds.  But today we are going over the short i.


I would take the first couple of minutes of the lesson to review what we have learned so far.  I do not think it necessary to review each of the correspondences we may have talked about, however, I will review the other short vowels that we have gone over, like the short a and the short e.  To do this, I will ask the students about the sounds these letters make. I would ask them to give me a couple of examples of words that contain these short vowels.  Going over the long vowels may just further confuse the class, so I would not review those on this day if I had for some reason already taught those.

 Explain How:

“Today we will be talking about the sound of the short i, finding ways to help us remember it, spelling words that have this and other short vowel sounds that we have discussed, as well as reading a story that has a lot of short i  words in it.”


“Ok, a way that helps me to remember the short i sound is kind of like if you get clue on your fingers and it becomes icky sticky.  Can everyone shake their hand out as if your hands were icky sticky.  Great!  Now everyone say ‘icky stick’ with me as we do it!  Great job!”  At this point I would write the tongue twister up on the board so that all of the students could see it.  “Our tongue twister for today is ‘It is incredible, isn’t it?’  Can everyone read that with me?  Great!  Ok, now I believe that there are some short i sounds in this tongue twister, let’s say it together and every time we hear that short i sound, let’s drag it out and do our hand motion with it.  ‘Iiiit iiiis iiiincrediiiible iiiisn’t iiiit?’  Ok, great job, let’s do it one more time.”  We would do this several times until I am sure that each of the students is doing the activity and everyone seems to grasp the idea of the short i.

 Simple Practice:

“Now we are going to work with our letter boxes.  Everyone lay the letters out so that you can see all of your lower case letters.”  My hope is that each child may be able to do this on their own, however I realize that students may have to pair up.  They may either help each other spell the words or they may take turns spelling the words using the letterboxes if necessary.  On the board I will use a large letter box set with large letters.  “Ok, does everyone remember how to use the letterboxes?  We want to put only one sound in each box.  Sometimes two letters make one sound, but we may put both letters into the same box.  The first word is ‘it,’ so for this word we only need two boxes out.”  I would continue the letterbox activity, guiding the students, walking around and making sure that each student is spelling the word correctly.  I would also spell the words on the board after I was sure that most of the students had spelled what they could.  Some other words I would use for two phonemes would be in and as.  It is important to mix in the short e and the short a, since we have already gone over those and so that that way the students have to really listen for the vowel, not just assume that it is a short i.  For three phonemes: sit, red and lick.  For four phonemes: flip, brick and snack.  For five phonemes: blink, slept, crisp, string.  And for six phonemes: strand.

            To continue with this activity, I would then spell some of these words up on the board and call on students to read them aloud to the class.

Whole Texts:

            Again, I would hope that each student could have a copy of Tin Man Fix It, but if not, sharing with a partner is fine.  “Everyone pull out their copy of Tin Man Fix It.  We are going to read this aloud as a class.  I want each of you to read one of the sentences out loud.”  I will go around the room and allow for each student to read one sentence aloud.  If need be, we will read the story twice, but since each sentence has examples of the short i then it will be a good way for me to see if the students have grasped the idea or not.


            If time allows, I would love to have each of the students meet with me individually and read the list of pseudowords I have created that have short i in them.  Some examples of pseudowords would be: rit, mip, lig, sil, gif, wiv, tig, gip, and any other words that I may think up that have a short i sound.

            Also, to make sure that each student was able to complete the activity and is able to identify the short i I will ask each student to write a sentence on their primary paper that includes a word with the short i in it.  I will ask them to circle the word that contains the short i sound and tell them that it can be any sentence, about anything but that it must contain at least one short i word in the sentence.

IV. Reference

Nick’s Icky Sticky Fingers by: Erin Carey


Icky Fingers by: Jenni Anderson


Tin Man Fix It  Educational Insights, 1990.

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