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How Do I Teach Vowel Sounds in Kindergarten?

by Christopher Cascio, studioD

Students will enter your kindergarten class with assorted reading abilities. Some will have developed strong, foundational skill sets in preschool or at home; some might have trouble recognizing the difference between long and short vowel sounds, and others might have difficulty even reading the alphabet. Teaching your kindergartners about vowel sounds hinges upon helping each of them to recognize common letter patterns and then to understand how those letter patterns relate to specific sounds.

Guided Reading for Pattern Recognition

Choose a book that your students enjoy, and read it to them. After you finish the book, point out some of the simpler, common words, and have your students repeat them. Then have students identify the vowel sounds and vowels responsible for those sounds. Explain how very simple alterations to those words can change the vowel sounds. For example, if you focus on the word "tap," help them identify that the "a" makes the short "Aa" sound. Then explain that by adding an "e" to the end, the word becomes "tape," and the short "Aa" becomes a long "Aa." This is an effective way to guide your students from the consonant-vowel-consonant pattern for short vowel sounds to the vowel-consonant-vowel pattern for long vowel sounds.

Illustrated Work Sheets for Association Practice

Work sheets are effective for teaching vowel sounds because they can simultaneously display both the words and the images that represent specific ideas. For example, on a work sheet that teaches the short "Aa" sound, you might find the word "apple" underneath an image of an apple and the word "alligator" underneath the image of an alligator. Students can then use the pictures as guides to infer the sound that the letter "A" makes: Because students know that "apple" starts with the short "Aa" sound, and because they can see that the word begins with an "A," they can conclude that the "A" in the word "apple" makes the short "Aa" sound.

Songs for Catchy Reinforcement

Songs about letters and words are another helpful tool for teaching your students about vowel sounds. For example, the Between the Lions section of pbskids.org offers a free song called "Double-o" that is all about how double o's make the "oo" sound. The song even includes a video. By themselves, songs are useful because they are catchy, and by being catchy they help children retain the information they contain. This song is particularly effective because it both explains the concept of the "oo" sound while giving specific examples, and because the video uses images of the examples and the letters, it’s reinforcing the lesson with phonics.

Interactive Games for Fun, Sensory Immersion

Interactive games are yet another way to incorporate visual words, oral training and images into one lesson that your students use rather than simply receive. For example, the "Short 'Aa'" phonics game on kidzphonics.com requires that players drag the letter "a" into the blank space within brief words that use the short "Aa" sound. Each page displays the word with the "a" missing and an image of the word, while a voice guides the player by sounding out the word and the short "Aa" sound by itself.

About the Author

Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."

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