Understanding phonics is the basic skill a child must acquire to be able to read well. Teaching kids the vowel sounds is best achieved with a combination of audio and visual inputs. Therefore, it is vital to have kids read and listen to the vowel sounds through stories and songs. While teaching vowels, begin with short vowel sounds, using examples that are easy to comprehend, and later move on to more complicated long vowel sounds and other vowel rules.
Pick an age-appropriate story that has rhyming words and read it aloud in the classroom. Before you begin reading, tell the kids to listen carefully since they have to identify something special about the story. When you finish with the reading, ask the children to say what they observed in the story. Listen to all answers, providing clues if necessary, and slowly guide the kids towards the fact that the story contains rhyming words.
Write down a few rhyming words on the blackboard. Begin with words with the short vowel "a" sound like cat and mat, and ask kids to think of other words that sound the same. You will probably find them saying words like "bat," "fat," "sat" and "rat". Write down all their contributions and have the kids say these words aloud in chorus. Repeat this exercise for each of the other vowels: "e," "i," "o" and "u".
Browse Internet sites such as Songs for Teaching (See Resource 1) to find fun songs about vowels and their sounds. Music is a great way to get children to understand the vowels. Download and play these songs for each vowel as you teach it to the kids. Encourage them to learn and sing the song.
Download and print vowel sound worksheets from websites such as TeachNology and KidZone (See Resources 2 and 3). These sheets contain words and pictures of each vowel sound. Have kids colour these pictures as they say the words.
Practice each vowel sound through the use of words with these sounds until the children are comfortable identifying each sound. Gradually introduce kids to the rules of pronouncing vowels depending on where the vowel is located within the word. For instance, ask kids to say sentences such as "I like cookies" and, "There was a small girl." Draw their attention to the sound of the vowels "I" and "a." Explain that words that are stand-alone vowels say their own name. Explain the concept of how single vowels that come at the end of a word say their own name. Give examples of words such as "me," "he" and "she."
Lead the children from these simple rules to the more complex ones such as the double vowel rule. Write down words like "boat," "goat," "piece," "niece," "seat" and "heat" and ask kids to say the words aloud. Ask them to observe how there are two vowels together, but only the first one's sound is pronounced.
During the process of learning vowels, if children come up with words that are exceptions to the rules you are explaining, don't try explaining it then and there. Tell them some words are different and set them aside to deal with later. Teach about substitute vowels like "w" and "y" and the rule of silent "e" after kids have mastered the basic vowel sounds. Refer to the vowel teaching plan provided by the National Right to Read Foundation (See Resource 4) to teach phonics in a systematic way.