Many beginning readers have trouble pronouncing two- and three-letter words which begin with a short vowel such as at and ink. Children can pronounce “cat” yet not “at.”
Just as it is easier for children to learn consonant sounds, it seems easier for them to learn words which begin with consonants than to learn words which begin with vowels.
As a result, I teach CVC words first, including words with beginning and ending blends. Then I teach VC or VCC words. Many one-syllable short-vowel, words begin with a vowel and end with consonant blends. I teach such CVCC words before I teach VCC words.
First I introduce two-letter words, some of which (in, on) children have already learned as sight words. Other two-letter words include Al, am, an, at, ax, Ed, ex if, it, ox, up and us.
One problem in teaching such words is that many of these words don’t have pictures which form a meaningful association for children. How do you picture “us,” for example. Two girls, arm in arm? The student will say “girls” or “friends” or “sisters” but not “us.” Another problem is that some of these words, such as “ex” and “ox” are not familiar to children. When I can, I find pictures and make flash cards to help children associate words with pictures. But that is hard.
After I teach two-letter VC words, I teach three-letter VCC words, including add, alp, ant, app, ask, asp, act, aft, and, egg, elk, elm, elf, end, egg, imp, ink, and off. By teaching, I mean making words of letter tiles for children to read, and then asking them to make the words I say, again using letter tiles. I also play BINGO using cards with these words on them. I make lists to read (boring but necessary). We review these words often. I write sentences using these words for children to read, sometimes in the form of a question which they must answer with a yes or no. (Can an ant ask an egg to sit? Can an elk add 2 + 2? The sillier, the better.)
You can’t assume that because a child can read “cat,” she can also read “act.” Tiny words beginning with short vowel sounds should be taught explicitly and should be reviewed until you are sure the child can sound them out properly.