Short Vowel a Activities and a freebie!

I don't know about you, but I LOVE to teach phonics! I love watching the students' knowledge grow. They come into first grade barely knowing their short vowels and most of them leave knowing their long vowels. First graders learn so much this year and that's why I love teaching first grade. Another reason I like teaching phonics, is because in my school, it's the one subject we get to teach how we feel is best for our students. We use strict curriculum for all of our other subjects, so this gives me some free space to teach it how I see fit.

One of the first phonics skills that I teach and review in first grade is short vowel a.  After we’ve practiced our rhyming and reviewed our letter sounds and add our phonemic awareness program into the routine, we get started on short a.  At our school, kindergartners learn the short vowels, but many of my students come in with this sound still not mastered, especially in writing and decoding.  
To teach and review this skill, I use my Short a Vowel Activities Product.   I created this product as a way to teach this skill to the whole group, small group and individuals.  The whole group activities allow me to teach the skill to the whole class, the small group activities allow my students to practice the skill and the independent activities provide a quick assessment.
This is this product in use in my first grade classroom.  Please don’t judge the photo quality of the pictures below.  I want you to see it in use so my focus is not on the quality of the photo but on the use of the product-plus I'm no professional photographer-all though sometimes I wish I were.  

Scaffolding we go…let's start with all of the components I use to teach a phonics skill. Let's think ALLLLLL the way back to your undergrad teaching classes...remember the term scaffold? Well, let me tell you, it is alive and well. I know it, use it and love it. Let me explain...
I start any phonics or word work skill with a large group activity-typically a sort-the I do part. I explain and teach the sound or skill we are learning using visual posters. In this case I teach the students that short a says /a/ as in apple. I have them repeat after me, a-apple-/a/. I then go on to demonstrate the sort we will be doing. I do the first couple words or pictures and put them under the correct heading-explicitly teaching the skill. After I have done several and I feel that my students understand what I am teaching, I have the kids come up and help me finish the large group sort-the we do! As we complete the sort, I have the students tell me the picture or word and where it goes and why-making sure they can explain their thinking.
After the large group sort, sometimes on the same day or a different day (just depends on our time-we usually only have 15-20 minutes for word work) I will break them into small groups or partners to complete the skill we just did together.  This is still the we do.  They are doing it in their group or with their partner, working together to complete the task correctly.  I will also sometimes do this as a center activity so they can practice this task in a small group several times.
Once I feel that the students have a good understanding of the skill I will have them do an independent activity to assess-the you do.  This is sometimes a cut, sort and glue or sometimes a worksheet.  In this product, there is a cut, sort and glue for each sort and some no-prep, print and go worksheets as well.  I tend to stay away from a lot of worksheets that just have students write.  I think they are perfect for morning work or to assess but I don't know about your kids, but my kids like to be active.  Sitting and completing a worksheet is just not their style, nor mine-let's let them manipulate words and pictures to help them learn.  
That's it, easy peasy, right? Haha, if only it were that simple. You know some students will get it right away and some won't until you've retaught and practiced the skill for 3 weeks. You will have to reteach some and try to challenge others. That's just how our classrooms work and that's what makes teaching so fun-there is never a dull moment.  
The skill that was just demonstrated above is the short a or not short a. Students have to listen for the short a sound in pictures and decide if it says short a or not. That is the first skill I usually teach. Students need to be able to hear and decipher the sound before they can use it in writing or read it. It's the whole idea that phonemic awareness is the base for learning to read. Let's not go into that now, that could be a whole other blog post.

Included in the short a vowel pack that I use are two other short a activities that have whole group, small group and independent activities-don't forget about that scaffolding.  

The other skills I teach with short a are:
Picture and word match
Word families
Other things I like to do with a phonics skills include reading poems or songs. How cute is this poem? Thanks to my creative mother-in-law for helping me write poems that my students can read and work with to practice our phonics skills.
I also like making anchor charts as a class. This will then go up in our classroom as a tool for the students to use when they are reading and writing. Each word family card is also included in the product.
There are so many ways to teach phonics skills. There are so many programs and other TpT sellers who also have great products! This is how I do it and this is what works for me.  
If you want to get an idea of what my full product is like, here is a freebie you can try out. It is a small sample of the full product. I hope you like it!
That's it, that's all I've got for you today. Please let me know in the comments how you like to teach phonics. I'm always looking for more ideas.

Happy Teaching!

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