Short A Sounds: Word Lists, Decodable Texts & Practice Activities

Teaching students to recognize and pronounce certain letter sounds can be a difficult task, especially if you have a child who struggles with reading and writing in general.

Short A Sounds: Word Lists, Decodable Texts & Practice Activities

Some of the most difficult sounds to learn in the English language are the various vowel sounds. Beyond simply learning the names of the letters, there are multiple sounds that a single letter can make. 

The short A sound is one of the most common vowel sounds that your child is likely to come across, especially in rudimentary reading activities.

Thankfully, there are a few ways that can make teaching this sound to a child easier.

From activities to understanding exactly how to make the correct sound with their mouth, this article will help you to successfully help your child to grasp the short A sound. 

What Is The Short A Sound?

In terms of phonics, the short A sound is an open middle vowel sound. As the name suggests, the short A sound is a brief sound that can either be found at the beginning of a word or in the middle of a word.

It is unusual to find the short A sound at the end of words that your child is likely to be encountering with their reading. 

Words that begin with the short A sound are most likely to be used by teachers and parents when introducing the vowel sound to children.

This is because it is easier for your child to isolate the sound when it comes at the beginning of the word as opposed to the middle of a word. This is a great way to avoid confusion for your child when introducing it as a completely new sound. 

When you are introducing the short A sound to your child or student, you should begin by stating the word aloud to them. This should be accompanied by the written word to help them recognize spelling patterns.

Once you have stated the word once or twice, you should ask your child to repeat the first sound in the word (the short A sound). From here, you can ask them to identify the letter in the word that makes the short A sound.

This is the perfect way to build a strong foundation for practicing the short A sound in both simple and complex words. 

We will look at ways you can practice the short A sound with your child below.

However, it is important to note that when you are practicing a new letter sound with your child, they should be allowed to master the sound at the start of a word before moving on to identifying the sound in the middle of a word.

A big part of mastering a skill such as this is confidence, therefore, you should be prepared to practice for as long as the child needs to feel confident in their abilities. 

What Does The Short A Sound Look Like?

An area of teaching new sounds to children that can often be overlooked is teaching them what the sound should look like as well as what it sounds like.

This isn’t referring to how the sound looks when it is spelled phonetically. Instead, it refers to the movement of the mouth and tongue when creating the sound.

This is a really important thing to teach your child to make sure that they are forming their sounds correctly and clearly. 

For the short A sound, the jaw should be lowered so that the mouth can open wide enough to make the sound. The tongue and teeth should be visible.

The sound is formed by pushing the tongue forward in the mouth. The tip of the tongue should be pressed against the back of the lower teeth.

You should demonstrate the positioning of the tongue and jaw when teaching the short A sound to children.

It can also be useful to have your child practice the proper mouth formation in front of a mirror so they can see what they are doing and whether it matches what you are showing them.

Using a mirror can also be a fun way to introduce some silliness into the lesson or practice session which can break up the learning process and relax your student. 

How To Read The Short A Sound

When children are just starting out on their reading journey and are new to decoding sounds and words, the most common way they are going to encounter the short A sound is in consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words. 

Examples of the types of words your child may already be familiar with include cat, sad, map, apple, and flag. As your child begins to become more familiar with the short A sound and how to recognize it in words, they can be introduced to more complex, longer words.

In these words, the short A sound is likely to appear alongside letter blends. These words can include bank, stamp, clang, and flash, among others. 

Short A Sounds: Word Lists, Decodable Texts & Practice Activities

What Are The Short A Word Families?  

If you have taught letter sounds to children before, you will be familiar with word families. These are basically groups of words that feature the same combination of letter sounds and blends.

They can be an incredibly useful tool for teaching children letter sounds. For the short A sound, word families include:

  • -ab
  • -ad
  • -act
  • -ag
  • -am
  • -an
  • -at
  • -ax

As your child becomes familiar with the above word families, they can move on to slightly more complex ones such as:

  • -aft
  • -amp
  • -and
  • -ang
  • -ant
  • -ank
  • -ap
  • -ast
  • -ask
  • -ash

Using -at as an example word family, some of the words that belong to this family are as follows.

  • Bat
  • Cat
  • Flat
  • Pat
  • Stat
  • Sat
  • Tat
  • Brat
  • Frat
  • Gnat
  • Chat
  • Scat
  • That
  • Drat
  • Hat
  • Vat
  • Slat
  • Fat
  • Mat
  • spat

It is important to note that although the combination “ar” may seem like it belongs in this group of word families, these words actually fall into their own category.

You will find “ar” words in “r-controlled vowels”, a group of vowels that are neither short nor long vowels. Similarly, “aw” is considered a vowel team. As a result, it makes a different sound from the short A sound. 

Short A Decodable Text

As anyone who has read more than a single sentence will know, reading is about much more than reading a single word at a time. In order to read effectively, a child must learn how to decode the sounds of letters in a sentence.

In order to practice with your child, you will need to create some decodable texts. You should only begin this practice when your child is familiar and confident with multiple words that contain the short A sound. 

Begin by asking your child to read aloud a single word that uses the short A sound. You can repeat this step for as many words as you want.

In fact, it can be a good idea to cover all the short A sound words that you will be using in the decodable (see also: Learning Short U Sounds With Decodable Stories, Word Lists & Activities)text.

You should then create sentences from the words that the child read. Below are some examples of decodable texts with the short A sound. 

  • A rat ran at a van.
  • Sam had a nap.
  • Pam had ham. Tad had jam.
  • The lad had a tan cap

It is important to note that the sentences in the example above primarily feature CVC words. Once your child has mastered decoding these extremely simple sentences, you can create some more decodable texts which include consonant blends. 

  • Tad’s brand had caps.
  • The trap snags a yak.
  • Dad and Jan had a spat.
  • The crab grabs a clam.

You will notice that the example texts do not heavily feature words such as and, the, and is.

When you are coming up with your own decodable texts, you will find that it is difficult to write complete sentences without using these high-frequency words. Do not be afraid to use these words in your decoding sentences.

Because they are such high-frequency words, they are likely to be some of the first words that your child memorized. Therefore, they are unlikely to cause any confusion for your child. 

Activities For Practicing Short A Sounds       

When you are trying to learn anything new, practice is the thing that helps us to retain the new information we have. As a child, practicing something can become boring fast, especially if it isn’t interesting and stimulating.

Below are some activities to help you and your child practice the short A sound(see also: Short O Sounds With Word Families, Decodable Texts & Practice Activities). 

CVC Flashcard Sorting Game

One of the best games for learning different vowel sounds is the CVC flashcard sorting game. This game allows you to build the amount of cards you have to sort with each vowel sound your child learns. 

For the short A sound, you will need to write a word with a short A sound (see also: Learning Short I Sounds With Decodable Stories, Word Lists & Activities)on one side of the card.

On the other side of the card, draw or print a picture of the word. For example, for the word cat, write the word on one side and draw a picture of a cat on the other side. 

To begin with, focus on just the short A sound cards. Place them in a pile on the table with the image side facing up. For each card, encourage your student to say the name of the picture.

They can repeat the word out loud as many times as they need in order to identify the vowel sound. Do this for all of the short A sounds. 

As your child learns more vowel sounds, you can add different CVC flashcards to the pile. As your child goes through the cards, they should sort them into piles of their respective vowel sounds. 

Reading And Drawing Game

This is a great way for your child to get creative with their vowel practice. If you have a particularly creative or arty child, this is the perfect way to practice vowel sounds and comprehension. 

For this game, you will need to find or prepare some sentences that feature one or more short A sound words. You can either write these yourself or find some online.

Get your child to read the sentences aloud to you. Then, to test their comprehension, get them to draw a picture of what they read.

As they get more confident, you can add more sentences with more details so that your child can draw a more detailed picture.

Final Thoughts   

There are so many different ways that you can help your child to learn the short A sound. Different methods will work for different children because we all learn in different ways.

However, these word families, decodable texts, and what the sound looks like should help your child become more confident with their reading.

Suzy Anderson
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