Phonics Step 1: Introduce the vowels and their short sounds
using Chart 1.

Goals: In step 1, the primary goals are letter recognition and learning the short vowel sounds
using clue words.

Vowels and their short sounds

Short Vowels

Short vowels are marked with a symbol called a 'breve.'

Step 1: How-To Ideas

Introduce the five vowels and their short sounds using Chart 1 and individual flash cards for each vowel.

For example: Using alphabet flash cards, introduce the letter ‘a’ by name and by short sound.
  You ‘read’ the flash card by saying: A says ă,  ă apple. *

Vowel a card
A says ă,  ă apple.

Introduce and read each of the 5 vowel flash cards the same way.

Vowel e card E says ĕĕ   egg

Vowel i card
I says ĭĭ   igloo

Vowel o card
O says ŏŏ   octopus

Vowel u card
U says ŭŭ   umbrella


* Note:

On our sample flashcards, we have included the printed ‘a’ as well as the cursive ‘a.’ As you will want to teach writing along with reading, we recommend the following:
* For those who are supplementing classroom instruction, choose the style of the letters that the classroom
teacher is presenting.
* For those who are teaching reading to a student who has not yet entered school, we recommend that you
contact the school that your child will eventually enter and teach whatever they are presenting.
* For those who are homeschooling, you are of course free to decide which form of the letters you want to

[JFYI: Prior to the 1940s, when the Dick and Jane readers surged in popularity, children were first taught to write in cursive. The free flow of the cursive style was easier for young children to master and by learning to write in cursive first, most developed excellent handwriting styles. There are quite a few sound arguments for returning to the cursive style and if you have a choice in this matter, we encourage you to do some Internet research on the subject.

Although many public schools today have eliminated the teaching of cursive handwriting, you can find private schools that actually begin with some form of cursive as early as three-year-old kindergarten. The Abeka reading/writing curriculum that we recommend gives parents both options.

To see examples of the most popular handwriting styles, see our links page.


Read the chart with clue words:

  • A says ă,   apple
  • E says ĕ, ĕ   egg
  • I says  ĭ,  ĭ   igloo
  • O says ŏ, ŏ  octopus
  • U says ŭ, ŭ  umbrella

Then read just the vowel sounds:

Notice that the short vowels produce a sing-songy sound when they are read very quickly in order. Students pick up on this sound and so it becomes necessary to mix up the order to be sure learning [and not just memorization] is taking place.


In addition to using Chart 1 and the flash cards, provide some practice in listening to words that begin with each vowel [in its short sound]. Remember, we want our students to listen for sounds and then associate them with the letters that are producing the sounds.

Next, introduce words that have the short vowel sounds within the words. Make sure that your flash cards include only the short vowel sounds.




Continue drilling the short vowel sounds as you go on to introduce Step 2. For fun, engaging drill practice, use variety including activity books, phonics readers, interactive web sites, etc. For our recommendations, please visit our links page.

A Note Concerning Steps 1-3:


While it is important to progress on to Step 2 BEFORE your child has mastered all of the short vowel sounds, it is very important that you continue drilling until there is no hesitation in identifying and pronouncing the short vowels!

This completes our Step 1 ideas. Now let’s move on to Step 2.