Remembering what sounds each letter makes is critical to learning how to read, as well as becoming a progressively better reader as a child moves from grade to grade. Vowels can be tricky because they each have a long sound and a short sound, and that can confuse even the best of early readers. Teach your child clever tricks and show her entertaining activities to help her remember her short vowel sounds, and she'll have that part of reading down pat in no time.
Make the action of saying each short vowel something easy and interesting to remember. Remind your child that when she says the short "a" sound, it makes her mouth shaped the same as if she were going to take a huge bite out of an apple. By using the apple, she's remembering that apple as the short "a" sound at the beginning, which will help her make that connection as she's learning how to read. You might help her remember the other short vowels by saying that the way her mouth forms when she's saying short "e" is the same as when she makes a scary face. A short "i" reminder can be as simple as reminding your child to scratch an "i"tch, and short "o" can be as easy as remembering to open wide like when she goes to the doctor. Make a connection between flying "u"p for short "u."
Sing Made-up Songs
Many children learn more effectively when they're being creative and using their imaginations. Made-up songs that help her remember what sound each short vowel makes can be an effective way to improve her literacy skills. Perhaps you could sing that the alligator eats the apple that the ants left behind or that the elephant mails an egg in an envelope. Make the songs as silly and creative as possible because it will engage your child in learning the letter sounds, and it will also help her remember those sounds in the future.
Short Vowel Hunts
Give your child a picture dictionary, which you can check out from the library, and encourage her to go through the book and find words with each of the short vowel sounds. Perhaps she could look for an umbrella and a pair of underwear for short "u" or an octopus and octagon for short "o." The act of hunting for words encourages your child to practice the short vowel sounds and make connections between each sound and the letter it represents, which will help her remember them in the future. Extend the activity by hunting for short vowel words while you're running errands. It's easy to find an apple at the grocery store or an envelope at the post office, and hunting for these objects is another way for your child to make connections between the vowels and the sounds they represent.
Draw and Write
Give your child a list of words that include a variety of short vowel sounds, such as ant, apple, elephant and igloo. Ask her to draw a picture of each word so she can have a visual image of words that contain each of the short vowel sounds. When she's done drawing her pictures, ask her to tell you a story that uses as many of the words as possible. As she says the words out loud, she'll be practicing the short vowel sounds, but she'll also be making connections between the sounds and words that contain those sounds. Older children might enjoy writing their story first and then reading it out loud.