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Long And Short Vowels For Preschoolers – Differences and Examples

You may have wondered why ‘a’ in ‘Jack’ and ‘Jake’ sound different, or why the words ‘cub’ and ‘cube’ have similar spellings but are pronounced differently! It is a fair confusion, but once you understand a few rules of phonics, you will under these pronunciations better. 


The sounds of each of the letters of the English alphabet can vary to a vast degree. The same letter may have different sounds in all words. It can be a challenge to teach preschoolers how to read and spell words in English as the letters have different sounds depending on how and where they are used. One way to gain clarity in this regard is to understand the concept of short and long vowels for kindergarten


When Should Kids Start Learning About Short And Long Vowel? 

After your child has learnt the alphabet and their sounds, and are able to spell a few basic words with each letter and vowel sounds, it is time to teach them the difference between short and long vowels. The sooner the concepts are clear to them, the easier it will be for them to learn spellings and pronunciations. 


Importance Of Teaching Short & Long Vowel To Kids 

While writing their spellings, they may be confused between words like fit and feet, and wonder where which vowel sound is to be used. To help them through this, we must teach them about long and short vowels. Learning these rules have several advantages: 

  1. Learning the right pronunciations of words 
  2. Comprehending spellings 
  3. Understanding the basics of phonics 
  4. Improves reading and comprehension skills 
  5. Expands vocabulary 
  6. Boosts confidence while talking 

What Are Short Vowels? 

There are five vowels in the English alphabet. In many words, these vowels do not make a long sound. They make a short vowel sound instead. How can you tell the difference? Finding short vowels is actually pretty easy: if it doesn’t sound like any of the vowel letters, then you know it’s a short vowel! Short vowels usually sound like the following: 

  • A = ‘ah’ as in ‘apple’ 
  • E = ‘eh’ as in ‘egg’ 
  • I = ‘ih’ as in ‘insect’ 
  • O = ‘awe’ as in ‘bog’ 
  • U = ‘uh’ as in ‘tug’ 

Examples Of Short Vowels 

  • Aa:  ‘fat’, ‘map’, ‘hand’, ‘lamp’, ‘glass’ 
  • Ee:  ‘egg’, ‘red’, ‘nest’, ‘bell’, ‘smell’ 
  • Ii:  ‘pig’, ‘rib’, ‘fist’, ‘milk’, ‘swim’ 
  • Oo:  ‘fox’, ‘hop’, ‘rod’, ‘drop’, ‘pond’ 
  • Uu:  ‘sum’, ‘run’, ‘fun’, ‘hug’ 

How To Teach Short Vowel Sounds? 

Since short vowels are more consistent in their spelling, this is a good place to start teaching your child. 

1. Begin With The Names Of The Vowels

Teaching your child A, E, I, O, U is the first step in helping them get learn vowels. Take these one vowel at a time to avoid overwhelming your little one. 


2. Differentiate Between The Vowels

Many children may struggle with differentiating between the vowels. For instance, a child may write “cet” instead of “cat” because the two vowels may be percieved to have a somewhat similar sound. This is why it’s important to make the letters distinct.

3. Introduce Word Families

Word families are a group of words that have a common pattern or features. Helping children learn these allows them to spell and sound out related words.


For example:  A child who learns the word family -at, will have an easier time spelling cat, mat, hat, etc. 

  • Remember to take it one word-family at a time to prevent your child from feeling overwhelmed with all the new information. 
  • Sound out CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) words by stressing on the phonemes.
    For example: say /t/…/a/…/p/… and then blend the sounds together to pronounce tap. 

What Are Long Vowels? 

A long vowel sounds like the name of the letter. For example, a ‘long A’ sounds like the letter A. A ‘long E’ sounds like the letter E. So when does a vowel make a ‘long vowel’ sound? This usually happens one of two ways: 


The first way to make a long vowel sound is to put two vowels next to each other. When two vowels appear next to each other, the word usually makes a long sound of the first vowel. This is the case in words like ‘bead,’ ‘seed,’ ‘mail,’ and ‘boat.’ Notice how the word ‘bead’ makes the long E sound and the word ‘mail’ makes the long A sound. 

The second way to make a long vowel sound is to place an E at the end of a word. Placing an E at the end of a word also creates a long vowel sound. This happens in words like ‘bake,’ ‘bike,’ ‘mote,’ ‘mute.’ Notice how the word ‘mute’ makes the long ‘U’ sound and the word ‘bike’ makes the long ‘I’ sound.  


Examples Of Long Vowels

  • Aa:  ‘fate’, ‘pain’, ‘game’, ‘mail’, ‘whale’ 
  • Ee:  ‘ear’, ‘sea’, ‘heal’, ‘weak’, ‘three’ 
  • Ii:  ‘hide’, ‘tile’, ‘lime’, ‘wipe’, ‘prize’ 
  • Oo:  ‘road’, ‘goat’, ‘bone’, ‘note’, ‘roast’ 
  • Uu:  ‘rule’, ‘true’, ‘dune’, ‘flute’, ‘fruit 

How To Teach Long Vowel Sounds? 

1. Form Long Vowel Sounds 

Although long vowel sounds are typically easier for kids to learn to pronounce, they are commonly taught short vowels first. This is because it usually takes two vowels to make a long sound. This can be tricky for kids to understand at first.

To get started with long vowel sounds, we begin teaching the silent e. It’s important for kids to understand that every vowel will change its sound when a silent e is put after the CVC form of a word. For instance, if you put an e after the CVC word tap, the word changes to tape, and the vowel sound produced changes. 


To help your child grasp this concept, begin with phonemic awareness. Ask them: 

Are tap and tape the same?

Say the individual sounds slowly — t-a-p and t-ae-p.
What changed? 

You can also use magnetic letters to help illustrate the power of the silent e. 

First, show your child the letter a. Make the short sound and then explain that you will give the power to its own name. Who can give the power? E! Tap the magnetic e on the magnetic a, adding it to the end of the word after, and — voila! — you now have a new word. 

Using magnetic letters, you can then change tap to tape, bit to bite, dot to dote, and so on. While your child will hear that the sound changes, using magnetic letters will help them see what vowel contributes to the change in sound. 

You can also use flip cards to demonstrate this concept. Fold the last eighth or so of an index card, and then write a CVC word, like tap, on the unfolded part and an e on the folded part. When you unfold the card, the word will change from tap to tape! 

Note: The long o and u sounds can be a bit more complicated, so we recommend holding off on those until your child has gotten a good grasp on the others. 

2. Correct The Spelling 

To help your child gain a better understanding of long vowel sounds, why not play a game to help strengthen their knowledge? 

To play this game, show your child the incorrect spelling of a CVC word and have them correct it.

For example: Using magnetic letters, spell out f-i-n-o but pronounce it as fine. Now your child, who’s learned the power of the silent e, will be able to replace the o with an e.

Rules For Using Long And Short Vowels 

Here are some basic long and short vowel rules to help your preschooler understand the concept well. Do remember that rules have exceptions too.

1. When a word has only one vowel and ends with a consonant, the vowel makes a short sound.

  • ‘a’ in ‘jam’ 
  • ‘e’ in ‘west’ 
  • ‘o’ in ‘hot’ 
  • ‘i’ in ‘fish’ 
  • ‘u’ in ‘cup’ 

2. When a word has two vowels separated by two or more letters, the first vowel makes a short sound 

  • as in ‘apple’ 
  • as in ‘octopus’ 
  • as in ‘basket’ 
  • as in ‘elephant’ 
  • as in ‘umbrella’ 

3. When a word ends with the letter ‘e’ (magic ‘e’/ silent ‘e’), the first vowel makes a long sound 

  • ‘cap’ becomes ‘cape’ 
  • ‘kit’ becomes ‘kite’ 
  • ‘tub’ becomes ‘tube’  
  • as in ‘game’ 
  • as in ‘time’ 

4. When a word has two vowels walking together the first one does the talking. The first vowel makes a long sound and the second vowel remains silent.

  • as in ‘tie’ 
  • as in ‘boat’ 
  • as in ‘rain’ 
  • as in ‘value’ 
  • as in ‘feet’ 

What Is The Difference Between Short Vowel And Long Vowel? 

Now that you have understood how to use short vowels vs long vowels, you will be able to recognise the difference in the words and their spellings and pronunciations. Keep in mind that when a vowel makes the sound of a particular letter, then it is a short sound. However, when the vowel sounds like the letter’s name, then it makes a long sound. The sound the vowel makes depends on its position in the word and the letters that surround it. This is the main difference between long and short vowel sounds.

Simple Questions To Help Kids Revise Short Vowel vs Long Vowel 

In the following sentences, identify whether the vowel in bold is pronounced as short or long: 

1) The ice cubes fell on the floor 

2) Brijesh Mama made us all recite the National Anthem. 

3) The cake is delicious! 

4) Sheetal has won the championship. 

5) Let’s try to change the tires on our own. 

6) The pigs are covered in mud, which makes them harder to catch. 

7) Can we go for our swim practice today? 

8) The lights are strung across the hall. 

9) You will need a code to open the safe. 

10) I don’t know if I’m willing to pay such a huge amount of money.


1) Short 

2) Long 

3) Long 

4) Short 

5) Long 

6) Short 

7) Short 

8) Short 

9) Long 

10) Long 

With this lesson on long and short vowels, we hope that your child has learnt some basic rules for how to pronounce various English words. There are always some exceptions to rules but this is the broad sense in which they can understand the concept of phonics and how letters are pronounced based on their position in the word or due to their neighbouring letters. Keep reading around and practice parking in English to improve your knowledge about the use and pronunciations of vowels.

Also Read:

Vowels and Consonants for Kindergarten
How to Teach Lowercase Letters to Preschoolers
Introducing Singular and Plural Nouns to Kids

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