The alphabet is made up of 26 letters that include five vowels and 21 consonants. Vowel letters are a, e, i, o and u. There are three different type of vowel sounds; short vowel, long vowel and special vowel sounds. Long and special vowel sounds have many different vowel letter combinations that affect what vowel sounds we hear in words. It is important to understand all of the different vowel sounds to improve fluency and vocabulary when reading.
Short Vowel Sound Lessons
Short vowel sounds are the "soft" sounds of the vowels, a, e, i, o and u we hear in words. The word "cat" has the soft vowel sound of a and the word dog has the short vowel sound of o. To teach short vowel sounds, write cVc or small one-syllable three letter words on a whiteboard. Some words you can use are rat, hen, tub, pot and did. Read each word to the students. Then explain that when vowels are by themselves, they say a soft sound. Review the soft sounds with the students. Then point to the words and have the students read them aloud as a group. Lastly, make up cVc words with the students for more practice.
Long Vowel Sound Lessons
Long vowel sounds are "hard" sounds vowels make. A "hard" vowel sound is when a vowel says its name in a word. For example, rain, like, paint and lake are all long vowel words. In order for a vowel to be long, it must be paired with another vowel in a word or the word must end in "e." To make sure students understand this, write some long and short vowel words on the whiteboard or in chalk outside. Tell the students to point out the long vowel words and circle them. Then practice saying the words together. For extra practice, have the students make long vowel words in groups.
Special Vowel Sound Lessons
Special vowel sounds are words where the vowel sounds do not follow the typical patterns of long and short vowels. Instead, the vowels make another type of vowel sound when paired together. Words with special vowel sounds are boy, coin, cow, book and moon. In each word, the vowels do not follow the rules of short or long vowel words. To teach this, introduce the vowel patterns in one of the words previously mentioned. Explain that vowel pairs like "oo" or "oi" make a different sound then other long vowels, so they are special. Write examples of these words on the whiteboard, then practice reciting and spelling the words together.
R-Controlled Vowel Lessons
R-controlled vowels are vowels that are next to the letter "r" in a word and you cannot hear the vowel sound in the word because of that. The words bird, hair, fern, torn and burn are all r-controlled vowel words. To teach this, read some of the previous sample words to the students. Then have the students spell them out. Watch how they spell the words and then write the correct spelling on the board. Explain to the students that the "r" sound distorts the vowel sound and can make learning how to spell the word confusing. Practice again with more words that have "r" in them.
Sandra Romo has written education- and family-related articles since 2005. Romo is a professor of journalism and public relations at California Baptist University. She also owns Innovative Intellects, an educational consulting and curriculum development company.