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How to Teach English Vowels & Consonants

Updated March 24, 2017

Teaching children how to distinguish "A,E,I,O,U and sometimes Y" from consonants can be a challenge. Similarly, adult second-language learners need to hear the difference in the sounds of the English vowels and consonants, especially as they differ from learners' native language. Pronunciation of vowels and consonants requires practice, since it is a motor skill. Look at the shape of the mouth for each sound. When teaching the sounds of vowels and consonants, overstress the sounds and have students practice in the mirror to improve their pronunciation.

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  1. Make an alphabet chart with large letters for the classroom. Teach the sounds of each letter. Give students a smaller copy and have them glue it onto the inside cover of their English books for easy reference.

  2. Circle the vowels in red to distinguish them from the consonants. Now that the students are familiar with the sounds, divide the alphabet into consonants and vowels and explain that vowels are the glue of the English language.

  3. Use the "C" for consonants and "V" for verbs approach to teach students the "jobs" that the letters do. In the word "dog," for example, the format is CVC. Pick 10 words the students know and go through the "C" and "V" process. Have the students spell their names using the formula.

  4. Stress that every word in English has to have a vowel. Give the students print material and have them circle the vowels in each word. It isn't important if they understand what they are reading for this vowel-search exercise.

  5. Make alphabet flashcards. Shuffle the deck and have the students identify if the letter they see is a vowel or a consonant. Also review the sound of the letter by having them repeat it.

  6. Repeat the "A,E,I,O,U and sometimes Y" phrase until it becomes a second-nature response to students when they are asked to name the vowels.

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About the Author

Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.

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