The minimalist's guide to short and long vowels

We commonly use around 15 vowel sounds in English. Helping students decode what they see, so that they know how to say it is very important. But doing this isn’t easy! Here is a quick lesson for 10 of the sounds. Remember, though, as with any lesson, regular review is necessary!

1. Write the alphabet on the board. Help students identify which letters are vowels and which are consonants.

2. Explain that there are two main vowel sounds for each vowel – long and short. Long vowels sound like the vowel saying its name. Talk about the general rule: in words with one vowel, the vowel is usually the short sound. In words with two vowels, the first is often long and the second is silent: When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.

3. Write the following information on the board, or hand it out to each student:


short a: am; I am happy.

long a: name; What’s your name?


short e: bed; I sleep in my bed.

long e: meet; Nice to meet you.


short i: sit; Please sit down.

long i; time; What time is it?


short o: hot; It is hot.

long o: home; I go home after class.


short u: much; How much is the rent?

long u: excuse; Excuse me?

(Thank you to Intercambio’s long-time teacher, Anne Kelly, for this great exercise!)

*Note this is a very simplified explanation that works very well with students who don’t need to know complicated rules of phonetics!