I have a group of first grade readers that I am earning every penny of my salary. :) One of my favorite groups (okay, they all are my favorites), but boy do I have to work hard to show any progress with them. It is a small group of 6 that just seems to struggle, struggle to keep sounds in their heads. To ask them to apply these sounds and switch them out during reading has been difficult to say the least. So I have tried several different ways to help them retain the sounds. One way they enjoyed was the flip book.
I wanted to be sure they knew the different vowel names. Then we not only practiced their sounds, but came up with a movement to go with each one. Brain based research says that we can remember better if we have a visual and a movement to go with what we are learning. So we did sign language for apple and egg. I couldn't find any to go with igloo and ostrich so we made up our own that made sense to them.
My kids also made their own short vowel books. They got to come up with the words that had short vowel sounds in them that were meaningful to them. To help them remember, I had to be sure they were connecting with words that had meaning to them. A few needed me to spell Optimus Prime for them for the short o page. I had no idea who that was!