Teaching vowels in a homeschool setting doesn't have to be boring. While repetition of the vowels and their sounds is a common teaching method, other supplemental activities add fun to the concept.
Understanding Vowel Sounds
Why are vowels so important? A solid understanding of the vowels and their sounds proves a useful skill as kids begin reading and deciphering new words. The challenge in teaching vowels lies in the difference between the long and short sounds. Throw in the silent "e" and you've got a recipe for confusion.
One way for kids to think about the differences is in terms of names and nicknames. Each vowel has a name (the long vowel sound) but it also has a nickname (the short vowel sound). Of course there are cases when words don't exactly follow a predictable pattern but this concept is a good introductory lesson for young kids learning their vowels.
Activities for Teaching Vowels
These activities can work for teaching any letter sound but work particularly well for vowels.
Repetition of the vowel sounds helps solidify them for young kids. Simply chanting each vowel and its corresponding sound is a simple repetitive practice technique. Flash cards with the vowels and corresponding pictures are another way to practice the vowels.
Matching games and activities allow the students to connect each vowel with its sound. Create a letter card for each vowel by writing them on individual note cards. Create a matching set of pictures cards. Each of the picture cards should have an image with a different vowel sound. The kids must match the letters with the corresponding pictures.
Word families help reinforce the vowel sounds. Choose a word family for each vowel sound that allows for a list of several words. Examples include "-at", "-et", "-in", "-ob" and "-un". Let the kids think of as many words that fit within each family as possible. Record the word families and hang them on the wall for later review.
Songs are a fun educational tool for teaching vowels. The Songs for Teaching website includes several songs for teaching vowel sounds. You can also make up your own songs by changing the words of familiar childhood songs to focus on teaching vowel sounds.
This activity works well as a small group project or as individual worksheets. Choose words with only one vowel in them. When you make the worksheet, write each word, replacing the vowel with a blank. The students fill in the blank with the correct vowel to complete the word. If the word has more than one possible vowel, add a picture of the word you want the students to write.
To modify this activity for a group of kids, write the word on a sentence strip or on a dry erase board. As a group, decide which vowel should go in the blank. Add in the vowel and read the word together.
Head to the library and pick up a stack of picture books that relate to the vowel sounds you're teaching. If you're working on the short a sound, find a book about cats or bats. Read the book aloud and keep it around for the kids to review on their own.
Homemade books that highlight the vowel sounds offer further practice. Create a template for the pages with each vowel on its own page. The kids can add pictures of words that contain each vowel. They can read the books as a review as a time filler. Another option is to create a separate group book about each vowel sound. Include a picture and the corresponding word on each page of the book. For example, the short U book might include pictures of an umbrella, bun, hut and the sun.
Sort objects and images based on vowel sounds. Provide a stack of pictures or a pile or toys and other objects. The name of each item or picture should have only one vowel sound in it to avoid confusion. The kids sort the objects into separate piles based on their vowel sounds.
Vowels in Action
Once the kids have an understanding of the vowels and their associated sounds, they can put that knowledge to work. Deciphering words and learning the rules of vowels in context opens up a world of learning and reading for young kids. Teaching vowels is one of the necessary building blocks along the way.