Since it’s hard to hear, short e sound words can be tricky for children to read. Grab a free short e sound word list to teach your child.
“Let’s write the word ‘pet,’ ” I encouraged my first-grade daughter.
She wrote “p” and then gave up: “I can’t do it.”
It was at that moment that my suspicion of a learning disability was confirmed.
Many children struggle to hear the short e sound. And most do not have a learning disability like dyslexia. It’s just it’s a tricky sound to distinguish.
So your child will likely need a lot of practice with the short e vowel sound words. The free short e sound word list and picture chart below are great resources to use with your child.
What is the short e sound?
The short e is the sound you hear at the beginning of the word “elephant” or in the middle of the word “hen.”
If it is hard for you to hear the short e in “elephant,” think of the word “edge” or “Eddie.” Some teachers refer to the elephant as Eddie the Elephant to help their students hear the /e/.
Some children say the first sound in elephant is L. However, L is a letter name, not a sound.
I explain the sounds /e/ /l/ make the letter name L. Model this for your child by holding up your fingers. Touch one and say /e/ and the next and say /l/.
Please note when you see a letter between slashes, it means the sound. When the letter e between slashes like /e/, it refers to this short e sound.
Sometimes you will see the letter e spell other sounds. This is because letters do not make sounds – they are used to represent sounds.
Written language is a code of speech sounds represented by symbols – letters. When learning to read, your child is breaking the code.
What is the short e and the long e sound?
Now you’re probably wondering: “What is the short e sound and the long e sound?”
Think about the difference between the words “pet” and “Pete.” Pet has the /e/, or the short e sound.
Pete has /ē/ or the long e sound. Long e is the sound that says the letter name E.
These other word pairs demonstrate the difference between short and long e:
- men and mean
- set and seat
- bed and bead
When you are first teaching your child to read, just stick to the short vowel sounds. However, it is good for you to know the long vowel sounds.
This will help you as you teach phonics step-by-step.
Short e Word Families
Another way to teach your child the short e sound is through short e word families.
The brain naturally recognizes patterns. So learning to read some common word families can be really helpful.
However, do not be reliant on this as the main way to teach sounding out words phonetically. Children need a lot of practice matching sounds to a letter or a group of letters.
Some common short e word families are:
Short E Word List Printable
You can grab a free short e word list printable. Just enter your information in the box below.
I have grouped words in this list based on the consonant rules. If your child is just beginning to read, start with CVC words.
The words are broken into these groups:
- CVC Words
- Short e words with beginning and ending blends
- Digraph words with short e
- Other consonant spelling patterns
CVC Words with Short e
This is a CVC words list with the short e vowel sound:
Short e words with beginning blends
These are some words that have a short e with a beginning blend:
Short E Words with Ending Blends
This word list has short e vowel with ending blends:
Short e words with digraphs
This word list has words with a consonant digraph and short e vowel:
Short e words with spelling rules
These short e words have spelling rules like -dge or have a combination of blends and digraphs. These are the most complex for reading and spelling:
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Short e Sound Words with Pictures
You can grab this free picture chart for short e sound words. When learning sounds, many children need to anchor the sound with a familiar object.
The short e sound words with pictures included in this free printable chart are:
You can display this chart for your child as a reference. You can also use it to develop phonemic awareness.
Say: “I’m thinking of the word /h/ /e/ /n/. Point to the word.” Your child should blend it together into hen and point to the picture.
When short e is tricky
Short e can be the trickiest of all the short vowel sounds. It is easily confused with short i.
Use a mirror to show your child the difference between how short e and i are pronounced.
Think about the words pen and pin. It can be really hard for adults to hear the subtle difference.
When I show my kindergarten students the difference in my mouth and lips as I say “pen” and “pin,” it makes it more concrete for them to hear the sounds, too.
Need more help with short vowel sounds?
Listen, learning to hear sounds and pronounce them is really hard for a lot of parents. After all, we were not taught this way in school.
Written language is a code. Our speech sounds are represented by symbols – called letters!
Before you can teach your child to read, you need to understand the 44 sounds that make up English. That’s why I teach this in my course Sounds School.
In Sounds School, you will learn:
- the 44 sounds in English
- how to say the sounds correctly
- a procedure to teach your child the sounds
- a routine for reviewing taught sounds
- how to use the sounds to build words for your child to read
- a method for practicing all the ways to spell a particular sound
Short E Worksheets
If you’re looking for worksheets to develop your child’s awareness of the short e sound, check out these worksheets in the Printable Parents’ Shop.
CVC Word Mapping Worksheets
Word mapping fast tracks learning to read and spell. When children match sounds to letters, it works with how we know the brain stores words.
This resource is organized into word families. The short e word family words included in this resource are:
Successive Blending Worksheets
32 pages of practice with blending short vowel CVC words.
The short e word family worksheets included in this resource are: