Short A words are a crucial part of learning to read in second grade, introducing students to the foundational principles of phonics and spelling. These activities and lists of short A words for second grade make it easy for students to expand their vocabulary, decode new words, and, most importantly, develop confidence in their emerging reading abilities!
As an educator, one of the best things you can do for your second graders is to offer them a strong background in both phonemic awareness and phonics. There are many ways to do that, but I recommend using principles from the science of reading to make sure your instruction is evidence-based and effective for all students.
In this post, I'll be breaking down precisely what short a words are, including several variations that may challenge your newest readers. I'll also offer an assortment of printable worksheets, phonics activities, and short a word lists to help your students practice reading and writing these words in fun and interactive ways.
Understanding Short A Words for Second Grade
Although many short a words are easy to read and decode, we want to simplify a few tricky aspects for early readers. Let's break down everything you need to know about these short vowel words to get your students started on the right foot!
In second grade, children develop their reading skills by learning phonics patterns, which they use to refine their understanding of the connection between letters and sounds. Although this is an excellent time for phonics, don't forget about phonemic awareness!
At this early point in their reading experiences, your students need plenty of opportunities to identify, separate, blend, and manipulate the phonemes in spoken words.
The great thing about short a words is that they all have a consistent short vowel sound, making them perfect for helping your students practice their phonemic and phonics skills simultaneously. They'll also help your students build their confidence as readers, which can make a huge difference in their reading performance!
What is a short a sound?
The short A sound is the most common sound connected with the letter A in the English language. It sounds like the a in apple or cat.
On the other hand, the long a sound "says its name." For example, in the word drain, you can hear the name of the letter a right in the middle of the word!
These free printable word lists for CVC words make it easy to find decodable words organised by vowel sound. You'll find a huge variety of words, including VC/CV, CVC, CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC, and even compound CVC words. They're perfect for whole-group instruction, small groups, and more!
Short-A Words List
Short a words are often one-syllable words, and many are CVC words, meaning they follow a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern. These words have a simple structure that helps young readers easily recognise and decode short vowel sounds.
These are my favourite words for beginning readers because they are consistent, which makes them a great way to practice decoding.
Short A CVC words include:
bad, bag, ban, bat, cab, can, cap, cat, dad, dam, fan, fat, gap, had, ham, hat, jab, lap, mad, man, map, mat, nap, pad, pat, rag, ram, rat, sag, sat, tab, tag, tan, tap, wag, zap
Short A CVCC and CCVC words include:
band, blab, brag, camp, calm, crab, damp, drag, flag, flat, flap, grab, hand, land, lamp, ramp, sand, scab, scan, snap, spat, slam, trap, tram
Digraphs with Short A Vowel
Digraphs are combinations of two consonants, making a single sound, either a vowel or a consonant sound. For short a words, digraphs often appear as consonants either before or after the short a sound.
Common digraphs include "sh", "th", "ck", and "ch."
- sh: cash, rash
- th: math, path
- ck: hack, lack
- ch: batch, latch
Short A Consonant Blends
Just like with the digraphs, the predictability of these short vowel words make it easy to apply new skills. Since the blends are completely decodable, they're a fun way to stretch those new decoding skills.
Using a sound and format students already know (like CVC words) makes learning to read these new sounds less cognitively demanding, so your second graders can learn these new spelling patterns quickly, and then apply them to other phonics skills such as adding prefixes, suffixes etc
Open and Closed Syllables
If you're teaching students syllable types, it can be helpful to explain that most closed syllables have a short vowel sound.
Open syllables end with a vowel sound and tend to have a long sound. Example: go, me, no
Closed syllables end with a consonant sound and usually have a short vowel sound. Example: nap, can, ban
Multisyllabic words can easily have both types of syllables, so it's really important to reinforce those early phonological awareness skills to identify syllables. If your students can do that, it's much easier for them to know when they hear an open syllable versus a closed one.
Nap/kin - two closed syllables, both have short vowels
Wag/on - the first vowel is a short a; the second vowel sounds like a short i
Short a sounds can be found in many vocabulary words. It can be more complicated to anticipate when a multisyllabic word has a long or short vowel sound, but these rules for short and long vowels make it a lot easier.
More advanced Short A words
Alternative spellings for Short A Words
Almost all short A words are spelled with 'a'. However, here are a few exceptions:
- 'ai' - plaid, plait
- 'al' - salmon
- 'ah' - fahrenheit
- 'i' - meringue
Should I focus on high frequency words with short vowels?
Although high frequency words (sometimes referred to as sight words) are common 2nd grade spelling words, I recommend being cautious with them. Teachers previously over-relied on flashcards and other memorisation tactics to help their students to learn these words.
These days, we know it's much more effective for students to learn how to decode these words using orthographic mapping, particularly sound boxes.
I don't recommend teaching sight words in isolation, but it can be helpful when students learn certain challenging words to make it easier to decode complex texts.
It's more important to me that your students can segment and blend phonemes than it is for them to know these words by heart.
Especially since many short a words are easy to pronounce, it's not worth spending too much time teaching your students to memorise these words when they could quickly learn them with just a few repetitions using sound boxes.
Short Vowel Spelling Games, Activities, and Resources
These are so many fun ways to teach short a words to your first graders or second graders! The following activities are different ways to teach, reinforce, or consolidate this new learning. They're great for the whole class, small groups, or independent work at literacy centers.
Word Building with The Hive's Word Builder Tool
Kids will love building words using the digital word builder on The Hive. As you can see in the example below, you can also use the word builder tool to target heart words.
Picture Word Sort
One of my favourite activities, especially for early readers, is to have them sort picture cards based on the individual sounds they hear in the words.
The great thing about these long and short vowel word sorts is that students don't need to read the word. Instead, they say or think the word and sort it by the vowel sound they hear.
This means students who aren't quite ready to read can still practice their phonemic skills without a teacher reading each word to them.
Students identify the correct spelling for words with the short /a/ phoneme. They can use pegs, clips or manipulatives to identify the correct word.
Students either match the pictures or the decodable sentences with short a words.
Students match the decodable sentences with short a words to the pictures.
Students match the decodable sentences with short a words to the pictures, then write the decodable sentence.
If you're looking for consolidation activities, you might also like the following CVC and CVCC CCVC Short A resources:
These image-heavy word search puzzles are a fun take on the traditional activity. Students have a word bank at the bottom with simple CVC words. Then, they must find the pictures that match the example words.
There are 15 mats - 3 for each of the short vowel sounds. This one is a great warm-up or a low-prep reading activity students can do with minimal support.
This short vowel activity is an excellent resource for students just learning to read! Your students will need to choose which word matches an image.
They are given three words to choose from, so they must practice listening carefully to the word to determine which spelling is correct.
Word Building Mats
I'm a big fan of word-building mats because they allow kids to get hands-on. They get to build the words they're trying to spell, whether using a toy car to spell the word or even rolling the letters out of playdoh!
These CVC word building mats all use short vowels, so you can use this activity for all the vowels. Scaffold it by adding the short a in the middle of the word, or have students practise spelling the whole word.
Short Vowel Four in a Row
This short vowel four in a row digital game is fun! This activity has several parts; students can practice just the short a sound or listen for all the short vowel sounds.
Snakes & Ladders
Young students love playing games, and this one is no exception! With ten different game boards, your students can practice their short vowel sounds for CVC, CVCC, and CCVC words. Use this one for your literacy centers!
You can use these CVC decodable sentences to assess fluency. They can be used with or without the timer and are perfect for building confidence!
You might also like the CVC word and CVCC CCVC words version too:
If you're looking for more resources to help your students become fantastic readers by the end of the year, don't miss my 250-page free ebook Phonics & Bee-yond!
It's an essential primer on teaching reading with a synthetic phonics focus, so it's perfect for teachers using principles from the science of reading. It's packed with manipulatives, instructional strategies, templates, sample lesson plans, and more!