We have a similar problem with short e. The key word is EGG. Well, when we say EGG the e sounds similar to the long a sound. So we have a dog name Eddy that loves to eat eggs. We can still use the Jolly Phonics action and story pictures BUT our key word is Eddy. Here is the song we use:
Short i and short e can be difficult to distinguish. And since we always like to spell our sounds - not just read them - we practice a lot. Last week we sorted pictures according to the vowel sounds we heard.
We pulled out a picture from a doggie basket.
Said the word.
Listened for the sound.
Pressed the button so the doggie would bark and wag and our wonderful work.