Before young learners can get to sight words, they’ll need to be able to identify the core of every word: vowels. The defining characteristic of a vowel is that the tongue does not touch the roof of the mouth, teeth, or lips when pronounced. The good news is students have only a short list to master: A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y.
Get Started With Vowels
Sounding out vowels is a great way to understand their primary characteristic: that the tongue does not make contact with another part of the mouth during pronunciation. While the tongue doesn’t touch anything else, its position and motion are key to how vowels sound.
The International Phonetic Alphabet has identified several tongue and lip actions that affect how a vowel is articulated.
The three primary vowel articulation factors are:
- Height: the vertical location of the tongue, as it relates to the roof of the mouth or the jaw. The terms close, near-close, close-mid, mid, open-mid, near-open, and open all relate to where on the spectrum the tongue is located, from high (close) to low (open).
- Backness: the location of the tongue, in relation to the back of the mouth. There are five terms to describe backness: front, near-front, central, near-back, and back.
- Roundedness: this characteristic refers to the lips, not the tongue. In general, more backness equals more rounded the lips.
Other types of vowel sounds include or are influenced by nasalization, vibrating vocal cords, advanced and retracted tongues, rhotic vowels, and contractions in the vocal tract.
To help young learners easily progress toward recognizing syllables
, let them try their hand at the engaging Education.com vowel activities above. Your students will quickly remember that even though the letters A, E, I, O, U (and sometimes Y) can be pronounced in different ways, they are all important for how they connect to the consonants around them.