Young children can start exploring vowel sounds as early as saying A, E, I, O, U, but it's often harder to teach children the long and short versions of these vowels.
You will notice that early years children often miss the vowel sounds from their writing because they aren't aware of them yet. This is often a great time to start exploring the vowel sounds as part of your study of beginning sounds in the alphabet.
Why teach vowel sounds?
Understanding vowel sounds is a fundamental part of learning to read and write. Vowels give meaning to words and often change their meaning when said in their short or long form or when two vowels are placed together.
What vowel should I start with?
A good place to start is the short vowel sounds because they are the ones students will most likely be familiar with for example 'a is for apple'.
What's the best way to teach vowel sounds?
Pick one short vowel sound (such as 'a') and create a physical action to go with it. Some teachers use 'a a apple' and eat an imaginary apple. Every time you say the short vowel 'a' be sure to reinforce the 'a a apple' or whichever physical action you have chosen. The repetition of word + action makes learning more memorable for later recall
Once children understand each of the 5 short vowel sounds and their actions, make sure you look for them regularly when reading a big book, for example, as a whole class.
Encourage children to use a mirror when making vowel sounds so they can see the shape of their mouths. These worksheets show each child the mouth shape they need to make when looking for a word with a particular vowel sound.
When should I move on to long vowel sounds?
Once children have a good grasp of short vowel sounds, they can move to long vowel sounds.
I always teach the saying 'long vowels say their name' as a way to remember if a vowel is long or short. For example, long 'o' the mouth has a large open shape 'old' but the short 'o' sound has a smaller opening of the mouth 'ostrich'. At first, the difference can be difficult to spot but practising with a mirror is very helpful.
Let students do lots and lots of sorting activities with long and short vowel sounds to practice this new skill and demonstrate what they have learnt. Remember that you should ensure children know to look for context clues within the picture to help them.
A paper sort such as this one, can make a great formative assessment tool for teachers.
What should I teach next?
Once children can demonstrate they understand the different vowel sounds, you might consider introducing the silent e idea that makes the vowel say its name.
Make sure you explore all the other letters of the alphabet with their beginning sounds; this way, you can compare the vowels that have two sounds and the other letters that only have one (at this stage).
If you like these activities, you can find them in the Beginning Sounds Alphabet Worksheets and Activities pack here.
Subscribers can also download two vowel sounds posters free in the Freebie Library.
You can also save 30% by purchasing the Alphabet Bundle here.