Pumpkin Vowels

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Students will be able to recognize the short vowel sound made by a, e, i, o, and u.

Big Idea

Learning the connections between letters and sounds is hard work for kindergarteners. Dr. Pompo and the rest of the pumpkins in town make learning short vowel sounds a little bit easier!


15 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.


When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I ask them to stand up and get ready for a movement activity. They will need to stand up carefully and do washing machine arms to make sure they have enough space to move without bumping into their neighbors.

Before I play the song I remind the students that they are in control of their body and it will only do what you tell it to do. Telling my students they are in control of their body takes away from students saying, “He made me bump into him.”

I tell the students we are going to do certain movements when we hear certain sounds. For example, “When we hear the short vowel sound /a/ we are going to reach up in the air. When we hear the short vowel sound /e/ we are going to touch our head. When we hear the short vowel sound /i/ we are going to touch our shoulders. When we hear the short vowel sound /o/ we are going to put our hands on our hips. Finally when we hear the short vowel sound /u/ we are going to touch the ground. Are you ready? Here we go.”  


When the song is over I sing the Sit Down Song


35 minutes

“The book for today is called Dr. Pompo’s Nose. This book is written and illustrated by Joost Elffers and Saxton Freymann. Looking at the cover of the book what can you tell me about what I might expect to find inside?”

I select a couple of students to respond to the question.

“I think you may be right Alisha. I think the characters are all going to be pumpkins which means the book is make-believe. Who remembers what another term for make-believe is?”

“Fiction is right Emily. Well let’s go ahead and read the book and see just what is going on.”


Once the story begins it does not take long for the students to catch onto the fact the book rhymes. We briefly discuss the words that rhyme but I do not spend too much time on this as it is not going to be the main focus of the lesson.    


During reading, the students and I will discuss words like absentminded, ridiculous, ancient, fossil, etc. I like to point out the pumpkin faces and the expressions on them. I also like to discuss the way Ms. Sniffen talks and why she talks that way. I have the students hold their noses and we all practice talking like Ms. Sniffen.


After I have finished reading I ask the students if they can recall the vowel song we listened too before the story. I ask them to recall some of the sounds. “Can anyone tell me a vowel and the short sound it makes?”

I get as many students to respond as needed to get all of the vowels and their sounds mentioned.

“Great. Now can anyone tell me the short vowel sound they hear in the word Nimkin?”

“You are right Rachel is it /i/. It actually happens twice in the name Nimkin.” I will annunciate or exaggerate the vowel sound so the students hear it.

“How about in the word Sniffin?”

“Right Everett. It is the /i/ sound again.”

“What about the word fossil?”

I continue along this line of questioning with the words pumpkin, Wrinkle, etc.

Once I feel the students have a firm understanding of what I am asking, I tell them they will be sorting objects by short vowel sounds.

“Today at one of your integrated work stations you will have a variety of items at the table. It will be your job, along with your table members, to put the items in the correct short vowel sound pumpkin.” Pumpkin Short Vowel Sorting Activity

“Once you have sorted the items, you will record at least one item on the vowel sound recording sheet. Everyone got it?”


Now I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go have some vowel sorting fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Allow the students about 15 minutes to complete the task. Remind the students to check the visual timer to check how much time they have and to use their time wisely.   


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

I remind students to put their completed work in the “completed work” bin and those that are not complete go into the “under construction” bin to be completed when the student has some spare time or at free choice center time.  

Once everyone is seated on their spot I tell the students the “exit slip” for today is to tell me a word that has a short vowel sound it. “You will need to tell me the word and then the short vowel sound. For example, my word is bump. It has the /u/ sound in it.”

I use the Fair Sticks to select the order in which the students go. If a student is unable to give me a word, they have two choices. They can either ask a friend for help, or they can select to wait until the end and I will help them out. Once a student has successfully given me a word and stated the word’s short vowel sound he/she is able to get some hand sanitizer and go get his/her snack.


5 minutes

Call the each student over during a time which fits into your classroom schedule. I call my students over to work with me during free choice centers time or at integrated work station time (only if I have enough parent volunteers and I am not working a station myself).

Show a student at least one short vowel sound card from the sorting activity cards. Ask the student to identify the short vowel sound he/she hears.

Record student responses on the Short Vowel Sound Checklist and place with the student's work in his/her portfolio. 


Students play a vowel sound game on the computer during reading work station time. This game is from the website Learning Games For Kids  Another activity is to listen and follow along with the stars on the Starfall website. I tell the students to use the vowels at the bottom of the alphabet page. 



Students build one of the vowel books from the book Build-a-Skill Instant Books: Word families – Short Vowels published by Creative Teaching Press. ISBN 13: 978-1-59198-408-5