Short U Words: Free Printable Word List + Activities

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Teaching short u words to your young learners can be fun and engaging! It doesn’t have to be a boring process.

In fact, if you really want your students to master the short sound in these words, your lessons shouldn’t be boring!

But how do you keep learning short u words from being boring?

Well, it’s actually really easy.

You do this by introducing a combination of explicit instruction immediately followed by interactive activities. 

So let’s look at short u words, how to teach the short “u” sound effectively, and fun activities you can incorporate into your lesson plans.

Short U Words List

Short U CVC Words

  • Cup
  • Pup
  • Rug
  • Bug
  • Hug
  • Dug
  • Jug
  • Mug
  • Pug
  • Tug
  • Cut
  • But
  • Hut
  • Nut
  • Rut
  • Bud
  • Mud
  • Sun
  • Fun
  • Run
  • Hum

Short U CVCC Words

  • Duck
  • Luck
  • Tuck
  • Muck
  • Buck
  • Yuck
  • Bump
  • Jump
  • Hump
  • Dump
  • Lump
  • Rump
  • Pump
  • Numb
  • Dumb
  • Bunk
  • Dunk
  • Hunk
  • Junk
  • Sunk

Short U CCVC Words

  • Plug
  • Slug
  • Drug
  • Glug
  • Drum
  • Slum
  • Glum
  • Plum

Short U CCVCC Words

  • Truck
  • Pluck
  • Cluck
  • Snuck
  • Stuck
  • Plump
  • Trump
  • Grump
  • Stump
  • Trunk
  • Flunk
  • Skunk
  • Crumb
  • Plumb


How to Teach Short U Words

Introduce the Short Vowel Sound

Start by introducing the short /u/ sound to the students. The sound is very different from the letter.

Most students learn to recognize the name of letters before they learn the sounds, so it is important to help them see how the sound is connected to the letter, but it isn’t the same thing as the letter.

Use simple language and explain that it’s the sound we hear in words like “cup” and “bug.” 

Remember to keep the focus on the sound, not the letter!

Teach Students to Use Their Eyes and Ears

Use flash cards and anchor charts with short u words (or cards with a picture of the word that represents the short u sound) to help students make the connection between what they see with their eyes and what they hear with their ears.

Again, we want them to understand that when we ask them to make the sound, they don’t say the letter name!

This will be tough for some students who have just gotten all of the letters memorized. They will automatically want to say the letter name and not the sound.

While there are many different ways to practice this, one of my favorites is having students say letter, sound, word.

If I was explicitly teaching short-u words and sounds, I would say…

  • “U” (letter name), “uh” (letter sound), “up” (word)

Start with simple words and gradually introduce longer words. Encourage them to say the words clearly, focusing on the short “u” sound.

Once students are exhibiting mastery of this skill, ask them to repeat the letter name, sound, and word activity.

However, you want to make it more difficult by asking them to name words with the short u sound at the beginning, middle or end of words.

And remember, for this activity, the words don’t have to be real words. They can be nonsense words, too!!

Explain How to Blend Words

Demonstrate how to blend sounds together to form words, and then have your students practice blending sounds together. 

For example, say the sounds “b” and “u” separately, and then ask them to blend them together to form the word “bu.” 

Gradually increase the complexity by adding different consonant sounds in front of the short “u.”

Discuss Word Families

One of the best ways to practice short u words is through rhyming activities involving word families.

The most common word families with the short u include…

  • up – (cup, pup)
  • ut – (rut, gut)
  • ug – (jug, mug)
  • un – (bun, run)
  • ud – (mud, bud)
  • um – (hum, drum)
  • uck – (luck, truck)
  • ump – (bump, stump)
  • unk – (bunk, skunk)

Start with real words that your students have heard and be sure to define those words that may be new to them.

Word Family Resources

Allow students to come up with nonsense words that follow the same pattern as the word family you are discussing and encourage them to come up with their own rhyming words.

This will make learning more enjoyable and memorable for them.

Read Books

I love children’s books so much!

In fact, I created an entire section of my blog to book recommendations because I believe strongly in the positive power of books on children.

Books are such an interactive way to teach abstract skills while also exposing children to the most common words they will hear in the English language.

Read age-appropriate books or stories every day to your students. Emphasize the short “u” sound when you encounter it within the story. 

Choose early readers that contain words with the short “u” sound to further reinforce the short u sound within the context of sentences and stories.

Provide Positive Reinforcement

Offer praise and positive feedback when the learner correctly identifies or uses words with the short “u” sound.

This provides them with confidence and the motivation to keep practicing.

Remember that patience is important when teaching phonics. 

Different learners may progress at different rates, so be flexible and adapt your teaching methods to suit the individual needs of each learner as best you can.

Short U Words Activities

Repetition is key to reinforcing the short “u” sound…and any new skill, for that matter!

So students need to have lots of opportunities to practice regularly.

From structured activities like sentence writing and everyday conversations to engaging activities in literacy centers, learners need to practice, practice, practice.

Sentence Writing

Give students sentence starters like, “I see a ____,” and let them fill in the blank with a short u word of their choosing.

This allows them to practice these words in context, and it also encourages them to come up with silly stories!

One additional tip…

If you give students the opportunity to draw pictures that correspond with their stories and sentences, they are much more likely to be engaged.

Word Recognition

Show students a list of words with all of the short vowels. Then, have them circle words with the short u sound.

You can provide whiteboards for students to write on, or create simple printable worksheets that students can use to practice word recognition.

Phonics Games

Provide phonics games that focus on the short “u” sound.

Initially, students simply need to recognize the sound, but they should quickly progress to the point where they can easily identify words that make the short u sound. 

There are many educational apps and online games that are incredibly helpful.

But don’t ignore the power of physical games that focus on phonics and short vowel sounds. Here are a few great ones…

The key to making sure that your students actually practice the skills they are learning is through direct instruction and then incorporating games and activities.

If our goal is to make sure our students master the short u sound, we have to continuously reinforce their knowledge through engaging activities and review previously learned words regularly.

Remember, kindergarten kids have relatively short attention spans and we need to honor that by keeping our lessons short and engaging. 

Incorporate a variety of teaching methods to cater to different learning styles and make learning the short “u” sound a fun and memorable experience for all of your students.