The English Language has 18 vowel sounds, but only 5 actual vowels. (I know, "sometimes Y", but Y doesn't have its own sound, it borrows from E and I.) Where do we start? With the short vowel sounds! Why? Because close to 50% of the times those vowels are used, they make the short vowel sound.
I try to have the kids use their whole body wherever possible, as brain research tells us that movement aids learning. Hope on over to Elementary Matters to see how I teach those important short vowel sounds.