Kids don't need to know every consonant and its corresponding sound in order to learn to read, but mastering short and long vowels is often the place to start.
The vowels make more than one sound, so students should learn that there are short and long vowels. Yes, there are also r-controlled vowels, vowels teams and schwa sounds, but it's important to start with just the basics first.
SHORT VOWELS: CVC, CCVC Patterns
The most common phonics letter pattern to make a short vowel sound is the three letter consonant/vowel/consonant (CVC) word pattern.
These make up the dozens of simple three letter words such as:
cat, dog, win, bug, hot, pen
Next, there are four letter words with a short vowel sound that start with two consonant letters that are either a digraph or a blend (CCVC).
A consonant digraph is two letters that make one sound (e.g. ch, sh, th, wh).
A consonant blend is two (or more) consonant letters that make individual sounds (e.g. tr, fl, st, str)
Examples of words with short vowels that follow a CCVC pattern (either digraph or blend) include:
digraphs: chip, shop, whip, thin
blends: stop, flat, glum, trip
I've always used red and blue (lowercase) magnetic letters for making and breaking words in phonics instruction. It visually shows the important difference between vowels and consonants. A divided plastic case helps keep letters easily accessible and organized.
LONG VOWEL: CVCe Pattern
The first long vowel letter pattern taught is the (CVCe) pattern and it's called many names such as silent e, bossy e, or magic e.
Examples of words that follow the CVCe pattern include:
bike, rope, tube, nose, fame
The silent e ending can turn some short vowel CVC words into long vowel CVCe words.
fin becomes fine
bit becomes bite
tap becomes tape
man becomes mane
Next, silent e words can include a digraph...
such as...shape, choke, whale
or a blend...
such as slide, trade, crude, scope
I like to teach phonics using phonics poetry because skills such as short and long vowels can be taught within the context of real reading. Phonics skills should always be brought back to text.
Remember, phonics is primarily a decoding skill, but decoding (sounding out) on its own, is not reading.
Short phonics poetry not only targets decoding skills, but it builds other important aspects of reading such as vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.
One thing is for certain. When learning to read, it's important to learn those amazing short and long vowels!