ALEX Learning Activity


Distinguishing Long and Short Vowel Sounds

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Ginger Henderson
System:Monroe County
School:Excel High School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 2413
Distinguishing Long and Short Vowel Sounds
Digital Tool/Resource:
Basic 4 box Elkonin Boxes
Web Address – URL:

In this phonemic awareness small group activity, the teacher will provide instruction on distinguishing long and short vowel sounds. The students will segment words into their individual phonemes using counters. Students will then isolate and identify the vowel sound as short or long.

This activity results from the ALEX Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
21 ) Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes). [RF.1.2]

a. Distinguish long from short vowel sounds in spoken single-syllable words. [RF.1.2a]

b. Orally produce single-syllable words by blending sounds (phonemes), including consonant blends. [RF.1.2b]

c. Isolate and pronounce initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in spoken single-syllable words. [RF.1.2c]

d. Segment spoken single-syllable words into their complete sequence of individual sounds (phonemes). [RF.1.2d]

Learning Objectives:

Students will push counters into Elkonin boxes as they segment phonemes in single syllable words. Students will then isolate and identify the medial vowel sound as long or short.

Students will attain at least 80% mastery in segmenting, blending, isolating and distinguishing the vowel sound.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

1. Remind students that sounds are put together to make words. Tell students that in today's activity they will be listening for the vowel sound in words. Remind students that vowels can make long sounds or short sounds. Use the Short and Long Vowel Flashcards or Anchor Chart with coding marks Saxon Phonics tool to review the sounds of short and long vowels. Model by pointing to each letter, producing the sound, and saying the word for the picture. Then have students touch or use a finger to trace each of the letters as they produce the short and long vowel sounds.

2. Show students the learning tool Basic 4 box Elkonin Boxes and explain that you will use a counter to stand for each sound in the word. Use pennies, chips, or other small counters during the segmentation activity.

3. Place four counters just above the line on the page. Model by saying a one syllable word, such as hid. Push a counter into a box on the Basic 4 box Elkonin Boxes tool for each sound as you segment: /h/, /ĭ/, /d/.

4. Place your index finger on the dot under the boxes and slide your finger across the page in the direction of the arrow as you blend the word: hid

5. Ask students how many sounds are in the word (3). Point out that you pushed up three counters, one for each sound in the word. There are three sounds in the word hid: /h/, /ĭ/, /d/.

6. Touch the middle counter and say: What sound is here? /ĭ/. The vowel sound we hear in this word is /ĭ/. The sound /ĭ/ is short. Tell students to use the thumb and index finger on one hand to show that this sound is short by holding up the fingers a short distance apart.

7. Repeat the activity using a word with a long vowel sound, such as hide. Tell students to open their arms wide to show that /ī/ is a long vowel sound.

8. Provide each student in the group with a copy of the Basic 4 box Elkonin Boxes tool. Then give each student four counters and have them place the counters just above the line on the page.

9. Provide students with guided practice using the words below as you first segment and blend the word and then isolate and distinguish the medial vowel. Follow the same model as outlined above, this time with the students producing the sounds, pushing the counters, and sliding their finger to blend along with you. After blending, have students hold up their fingers or their arms to show if the vowel sound is short or long.

  • fun (3 phonemes, short)
  • sat (3 phonemes, short)
  • cake (3 phonemes, long)
  • rice (3 phonemes, long)
  • hope (3 phonemes, long)
  • sip (3 phonemes, short)
  • meet (3 phonemes, long)
  • set (3 phonemes, short)

10. To culminate, give students one of the following words and observe their performance. Students should first segment and blend the word independently, then distinguish the medial vowel sound as long or short by holding up fingers or arms.

  • pat (3 phonemes, short)
  • same (3 phonemes, long)
  • beat (3 phonemes, long)
  • ripe (3 phonemes, long)
  • hop (3 phonemes, short)
  • lip (3 phonemes, short)
  • team (3 phonemes, long)
  • pet (3 phonemes, short)
  • boat (3 phonemes, long)

Use additional words as necessary to continue independent practice.

Assessment Strategies:

Observe students' performance as they independently segment, blend, isolate, and distinguish phonemes. Mastery is achieved when students attain at least 80% accuracy in distinguishing long and short vowels.

Advanced Preparation:

Print a copy of the Short and Long Vowel Flashcards or Anchor Chart with coding marks Saxon Phonics for use in the introductory activity.

Print and laminate a teacher copy plus one copy for each student of the Basic 4 box Elkonin Boxes tool. Secure enough counters for each student to have four, plus four counters for teacher use.

Variation Tips (optional):

The tool Short and Long Vowel Chart can be printed and placed in a plastic sleeve for student reference in the classroom or additional copies can be placed in the students' notebooks/folders for reference as needed.

Notes or Recommendations (optional):

This lesson is best suited for small group instruction.

  Keywords and Search Tags  
Keywords and Search Tags: distinguish vowel sounds, long vowels, multisensory, phonemic awareness, phonological awareness, short vowels