Short E Sounds: Everything to Teach Your Child About This Vowel Sound

Learning the difference between vowels and consonants is a key part of learning any language.

When you are teaching your children to read, write, and speak, understanding the difference between these two types of letters is essential. But it is also important to teach them about the differences between these types of letters. 

Short E Sounds: Everything to Teach Your Child About This Vowel Sound

Vowels come in two different types of sounds: short and long sounds. When you are teaching a child to speak, then it is best to start with vowels because they have fewer variations.

Within this, you should focus on shorter vowels because they are a lot easier to master. 

In this guide, we’re focusing on short E sounds and taking a look at everything you should teach your child about this vowel sound. The short E isn’t the easiest vowel to master, so it will take some work to get there.

However, with the information in this guide, you will be in a great position to teach your child about the short E sound. 

Read on to find out more! 

What Should A Short E Sound Like?

First things first, let’s take a look at what a short E should sound like. Well, put plainly, the short E sound should sound like an “eh” when it is pronounced correctly.

It is a phonic that is difficult to understand but easy to pronounce, and that is because it is what is called a relaxed middle vowel sound. 

The short E sound is a sound that literally rolls off the tongue. When this sound is pronounced, the lips and jaws are relaxed. This contrasts with a lot of other sounds where the lips and jaw must be tense in order to execute the sound.

With the short E sound, the lips and jaw do not need to be wide open or rounded, instead, they can just rest easily, and this is what makes the sound so easy to execute. 

As you pronounce the middle E sound, the tongue will roll upward. So this sound literally rolls off your tongue without any tension or effort. In the middle of a word, this vowel is incredibly easy to pronounce as it flows easily. 

For some people, the sides of their tongue will rest against the top and bottom teeth during the pronouncing process of the short E. However, this will ultimately depend on the unique shape of your mouth. 

To ensure that you are pronouncing the sound correctly, most experts will recommend practicing saying this sound in front of the mirror.

Watching how the mouth moves when you pronounce this sound can allow you to execute the word perfectly.

This will not only work for adults but for children too. So getting your children to practice pronouncing this sound in front of the mirror can perfect their execution and really help them understand phonics. 

The Short E In CVC Words

When children are learning to read, the time in which they are most likely to encounter the short E sound is in CVC words.

CVC words are words that start with a consonant sound, have a vowel in the middle, and then end with another consonant. These words are very common, especially among materials read by younger children. 

Some of the first CVC words including a short E that your child will likely encounter include words such as “bed”, “men”, and “leg”.

There are lots of other CVC words including other vowels, such as “bag”, “big”, and “dog” that your child will encounter early in their learning journey. But for now, we’re focusing on CVC words including the short E. 

Introducing your child to CVC words is where the act of teaching the short E becomes more complex. In a lot of the CVC words we have just looked at, a short E is not pronounced as an “eh” in the same way that you would say “eh” when said alone.

That is why it will likely take your child a little while to wrap their head around their first short E CVC words. 

Once you have introduced your child to the short E in shorter, 3-letter CVC words, you can then begin to introduce slightly longer words.

There are lots of 4-letter CVC words including a short E, including “sled”, “step”, and “rest”. Introduce these in moderation as your child starts to master decoding shorter CVC words. 

When you are teaching your child about the short E sound it is essential that you do everything in moderation. You really need to avoid teaching your child too much all at once as this will make them overwhelmed.

Take things slowly and only move onto something once your child has mastered the skill that you are currently working on. 

What Are Short E Word Families?

When it comes to teaching the short E to your child, one of the hardest things to teach them is how to recognize spelling patterns when this vowel is included. One of the easiest ways to do this is through the use of word families. 

Word families are sets of words that all end with the same spelling pattern. Word families including the short E would include word endings that have the letter E within them.

They can be a little difficult to understand if you are new to word families, so below are some examples of word endings to make this easier to understand. 

  • -end
  • -eg
  • -ed
  • -en

So for example, the word family for the “-en” ending would include words such as “den”, “men”, “pen”, “Ben”, and so on.

Word families will also include longer words, so the “-ed” word family could include words such as “longed” and “wanted”, as well as words such as “bed”, “led”, and “red”. 

When looking at word categories, you might notice that the ending “-er” is missing from our list. That is because this word family does not belong to the short E group.

Instead, it belongs to a unique category of vowels called “R-controlled vowels”. So they are neither short nor long. At this stage of teaching, there is no need to worry about R-controlled vowels outside of knowing that they exist. 

We would suggest starting with shorter short E word families when you introduce the concept to your child. Then as they begin to master shorter families, you can then move on to the more advanced 3-letter word families.

Phonics aren’t that easy to understand, so when it comes to decoding words, you should always start with the easier ones when passing this information on. 


Understanding Short E Decodable Text

There is so much more to understanding the short E sound than simply learning how to say it. Learning to understand the short E includes much more than just being able to read a single word including this type of vowel.

That being said, beginning with shorter words and reading them aloud successfully is the best way to teach your child about these vowels. 

Once your child starts to learn how to read and pronounce words that include the short E, you should then move on to teaching them to decode text including these sounds.

Once they have mastered one word, start to put together sentences that contain multiple instances of this vowel. Then get your child to decode these sentences and read them aloud as it will really help them improve their knowledge. 

Some of the best short E decodable sentences include sentences such as: 

  • Ted fed the ten men
  • Ken wed Jen
  • Ben let Peg get wet

These are the basic short E decodable sentences we would begin with. At first, your child will likely be daunted by the sentences.

However, once they master the first one they will find that decoding these sentences isn’t as difficult as it first seemed.

Once your child has mastered sentences including just CVC words, you can move on to sentences that include a variety of different types of words. 

Some of the best complex decodable short E sentences to practice with your child include:

  • The red pen bled
  • The vet sent the best men
  • The jet sped west

After your child has mastered these slightly more complex sentences, the world is their oyster.

As they master decoding short E sentences, they will then be able to move on to much more complex sentences as they learn words and sentences that mix vowels and consonants. 

Introducing words such as “the” in the early stages of teaching them about short E sounds is a great idea. “The” is one of the most complex short E words that your child will learn, but it is also one of the most widely used in the English language.

So reinforcing how often the word “the” is used from early in life is a great idea. Get your child to memorize this word early on as it will make learning other words a lot easier later in their reading journey. 

Ways to Practice The Short E Sound

Once you have taught your child all about how to identify and pronounce the short E sound, you might be looking for ways for them to practice this sound.

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, so your child must learn how to pronounce this sound from early on in life. 

There are lots of different ways that you can get your child to practice the short E sound. Some of our favorite methods for this include decodable passages and books.

Below we have taken a look at these in a little more detail. 

Decodable Passages

Decodable passages are great for teaching your child about the short E sound. These passages are very similar to comprehension work that your child will do later in their education, so it is a great way to get them started. 

Decodable passages consist of passages of information in which the short E is used frequently.

The passages will come with activities that encourage your child to identify the short E sound and practice it. They are great fun and an excellent way to reinforce what you have taught them already. 


Another great way to get your child to practice the short E sound is through the use of books. Books are a great way to learn, and they will contain lots of different words that include the short E sound. 

Of course, there are a lot of books that will be too advanced for your child in their early learning stages. However, there are plenty of books designed for learning the short E sound.

Then, once your child has mastered this skill, they can move on to reading much more enjoyable books. With every book they read, they will be practicing the short E sound.


In short, the short E sound should sound like an “eh”. The short E is seen as a relaxed middle vowel sound because it easily rolls off the tongue when used in the middle of a word. 

The best way to practice the short E sound is to look in the mirror and recite the letter. That way you can really see the sound roll off the tongue, and this will allow you to confirm that it is being pronounced correctly. 

If you are interested in teaching your child about the short E vowel, this guide has all the information you could need for the task at hand. 

Thanks for reading!

Suzy Anderson
Scroll to Top