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Do your children struggle with vowels? Do they find it difficult to grasp the different variants of the vowels? Are you tired of looking for effective ways to teach vowels to preschoolers? Then your search ends here. This article talks about ways to teach vowel sounds to your kids.
But before you get into it, it is important to understand the meaning of vowels, the reason for your kids to learn them, and the right age to do it.
What are vowels?
Out of the 26 letters of the English alphabet, letters A, E, I, O, and U are called vowels. Letters other than these 5 are called consonants. Vowels are present within all the words found in the English Language. So without learning vowel sounds, it is impossible to pronounce any word in the language.
So, what’s the difference between vowels and consonants? The difference lies in the way they are pronounced. When vowels are produced, there is no restriction of the passage of air from the lungs to the mouth. But when consonants are produced, the air passage is restricted by either the throat, lips, teeth, or tongue.
There are two types of vowel sounds in the English Language- long vowels and short vowels. Long vowel sounds are pronounced like the letter it designates, while short vowel sounds are pronounced differently from the letter it designates. Short vowel sounds always occur after a consonant and cannot be placed at the end of a syllable.
Why is it important to teach your children vowels?
Teaching vowels are crucial to develop good reading skills in children. It helps children understand the difference between CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words like pat and pit, bat and bet, etc. Without a good understanding of vowels, children often find it difficult to read and spell words right. So, learning vowel sounds is indispensable in your children’s life.
But if you’re wondering what’s the right age for your children to learn vowels, then read on.
How to Identify if your children are ready to learn vowels?
Vowels are the building blocks of the English language. Understanding the difference between long and short vowels can seem like a herculean task for your children if they aren’t ready to learn vowels. And here’s how you can know whether your little champs are ready.
When kids learn to distinguish between beginning and ending sounds in words, it is a sign that they are ready to learn vowels. To know this, pay close attention to the way they spell CVC words like PEN or PIN. The sound they produce will often be wrong. But the good news here is that they are now aware of the existence of something else between P and N. They can now hear some other sound between P and N.
And this development of recognizing vowel sounds is a sign for you to introduce vowels to your children!
How to teach vowel sounds to your children?
Here are some actionable tips to teach vowels to your preschoolers:
Begin by teaching them the names of each vowel. The chief aim here is to make the kids learn, repeat, and memorise the vowels. There are many activities for teaching vowel sounds. Some of them are as follows:
Using songs to teach vowel sounds is the most effective way to begin. Children enjoy singing songs and consider it a fun activity rather than a learning activity. Tweaking the nursery rhyme ‘Old MacDonald’ is one of the most popular ways to teach vowels. Instead of the usual ‘Ee i ee i o’, substitute it with ‘A, E, I, O, U.’ You can find the animated video of this new version here.
Some children find it easy to grasp things when they learn by touching or by physical means. They are called kinesthetic-tactile learners. If your children belong to this category, teaching hand motions is the easiest way to teach them vowels. They will learn to find a connection between hand motion, vowel sound, and shape. This helps them to learn faster and retain longer.
2. Short Vowels Before Long Vowels
Introduce your children to vowels by teaching them short vowels first. Having a thorough understanding of short vowels is required before learning long vowels. If your children fail to grasp short and long vowels, it will have an undesirable effect on their reading skills.
Constant revision is the only shortcut to make kids good with vowels. There are many interesting activities for teaching short vowel sounds to children. Some of the most effective and easy ones are here:
Placards made out of ice cream sticks and paper can be used to teach short vowels to kids. Each short vowel should be written on a single placard. In this activity, you should say words aloud and ask your children to raise the placard with the right short vowel in it.
For example, your kids should hold up the placard with the vowel ‘a’ if you say the word CAT aloud. If you say the word SIT aloud, your kids should hold up the placard with ‘i’ in it.
Making kids trace vowels on sand is a multi-sensory approach and hence is one of the most effective ways to teach them vowel sounds. To perform this activity, spread sand on a plate and give it to your kids. Then say a vowel sound aloud, make kids repeat the sound, and make them trace the vowel on the sand.
If you find it difficult to find sand, download any sand drawing apps from Google Play. This would be a new experience for the kids and will help retain their interest for a longer time.
Make children practice saying vowels in front of a mirror. When they observe the shape of their mouth while pronouncing these vowels, they will understand the subtle difference in pronunciation.
For instance, voicing vowels ‘e’ and ‘i’ can be confusing for many early learners. But when they practice in front of a mirror, they will learn to distinguish it better.
3. Take it to the Next Level with Long Vowels
Once your children master short vowels, then you can move to long vowels. Long vowels are quite tricky so give children ample time to understand them. The different spellings of long-vowels can be quite overwhelming for them if introduced all at once. Hence, it is important to introduce one vowel at a time.
Just like with short vowels, practice is the only way for your child to wade through the initial confusion. There are many activities to teach long vowels interestingly. Some of them are:
This is a simple but effective activity to help children get familiar with long and short vowels. Say a word aloud and ask your children to identify if the vowel used in the word is short or long. Worksheets available on the internet for long and short vowels can come in handy for this activity.
So if you say the word CAKE, children should identify and say that the vowel used is ‘Long A.’If you say the word ‘BAT,’ they should identify that the vowel used is ‘Short A.’
Another interesting activity you can try with your kids is sorting. You can create a list of words using long vowels and ask them to sort them into groups of different long vowels. You can either write the words or download a worksheet for the same.
Give words like snake, train, grapes, and whale. The children should be able to group them under the different long vowel forms of ‘A.’ For example, the word snake should come under the group ‘a-i’ and so on.
This is a bit more advanced than the rest of the activities. Hence, it is suitable once your children become experts at other activities mentioned. The task involves giving them three or four spellings of a word as options and asking them to choose the right one. The options included should be spelling variations of the same long vowel.
For example, you can give options, payne, pain, and pane and ask your children to identify the right word.
Vowels are a hard nut to crack for your little champs. And practice is the only way to help them grasp it. But take an effort to make the learning process as easy and interesting as possible. Follow the fun activities described in this article and watch them fall in love with vowels.