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Teaching Vowels

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Teaching Vowel Sounds

How can teaching vowels help with pronunciation?

A student learning any language will have trouble with pronunciation, and when we find a student stumbling over a new word, we're often tempted to employ the ol "Repeat after me..." technique in one form or another. However, this strategy seldom produces any lasting results and the unfortunate student will quickly slip back into mispronunciation five minutes later. Why is this the case? Repetition seldom produces understanding, and it's understanding, or the why, that has a lasting effect on learning. If a learner has the tools to understand why they're mispronouncing a word, and even more, how to correct themself, then they can really begin to improve. Since vowel errors are often at the heart of many pronunciation errors, teaching students to recognize and correctly pronounce both long and short vowel sounds can be a very useful tool. It creates a vocabulary set of sorts with which teachers can explain how to properly pronounce words, as well as identify what a student is doing wrong. It also enables learners to ultimately diagnose their own and each others' errors and correct them.

ex: A Spanish speaker is pronouncing hit as heat and doesn't know how to correct his mistake....After they have learned to recognize and produce a short i and long e, the teacher will have the tools to explain what they're doing wrong and the student will have the understanding to know how to fix it.

Order of Instruction:

  1. Teach students to recognize syllables in words. You can do this by writing a two syllable word on the board and tapping out the syllables as you pronounce it to the class.
  2. Then draw a vertical line through the word at the point where the syllables divide and number each syllable.
  3. Next, elicit more two syllable words and repeat the process, this time asking the students to tell you where to draw the line. Then repeat with some three syllable words...
  4. Practice with the syllable train game.

  5. After practicing recognizing syllables through the syllable train game, teach students to identify syllable stress [i.e. which syllable is loudest/strongest]. You can do this by writing another two syllable word on the board, and asking students to draw the line and number the syllables.

         for example:cre|ate.

  6. Then pronounce the word with the first syllable stressed. Then repeat this with the second syllable stressed, and ask students which one sounds better. Feel free to exaggerate the pronunciation of each way to make it clear.
  7. Draw a small mark over the second syllable to indicate that it's stressed.
  8. Repeat this process with other words...
  9. Optional Practice: One way to practice syllable stress is to dictate a a list of different multi-syllable words and ask students work with a partner to I.D. the stressed syllable.

  10. * Some teachers like to try to get students to memorize sets of rules to guide them in applying word stress; for example, two-syllable verbs usually take second syllable stress while two-syllable nouns take first... However, there are lots of exceptions to such rules/patterns, and I've found that they're of little practical help. Rather, it's better to let learners listen to a new word and determine which syllable they hear the stress on...In other words, this is an area where recognition and repetition is more useful than prediction.

At this point we're ready to begin the lessons on vowel sounds

Up Next... How to begin


page last modified: February 9, 2016

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