Learning Consonants and Vowels

“Books are the quietest of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ~ Charles W. Eliot


In this segment of my explanations I’ll use italics for what I say and what I’m thinking. So any verbiage in italics indicates the actual vocabulary that I use and the way I present each initial consonant or vowel. When it’s bold font, it will be as if I’m talking to your child.

For each lesson with both consonants and vowels, after a letter is taught, it’s important to review the letter taught the last time. As lessons and letters increase, review the last several letters before moving on to teach each new one. Make certain they know the sound of the letter in a word.

Games and/or activities are used for review or reinforcement. Eg. put the letters in a box, or hat, tin can, etc. Draw out a letter and have the child say the sound that letter makes. You can take turns with your child too. Sometimes it’s fun if you make a mistake and your child catches you making an error.

The sequence I’ve used for teaching consonant sounds would be: s, t, m, f, b, p, l, c, n, g, d, r, k, h, j, w, y, v, q, z, x.

There is flexibility in teaching the consonant sequence. Some teachers insert a short vowel ă after the first two or three consonants. And, I can see the advantage, but I’m presenting the way I’ve always done it and I know it works. Phonics is taught along side my reading, so it’s a separate lesson from the reading lesson. Because I would teach both a phonics lesson and a reading lesson each day, they’d both be addressed frequently and besides, they overlap one to another. Of course, we’re teaching the English language where there are many exceptions, so keep that in mind! Some letters have more than one sound, but I teach basics first, then introduce any exceptions later.

I start by teaching the initial consonant sound of the word ‘sun’. The sound is /s/. I put a picture of the sun on chart paper but you could use regular computer paper. Print a capital and lower case letter beside the picture like this ‘Ss’. This is what I say:

Today we’re going to learn about the sound that starts the word “sun”. LISTEN CAREFULLY … “sun”. What sound do you hear at the beginning of the word “sun”?

The child responds with /s/

That’s right! …good! s..s..s…”sun”. Can you hear the sound that starts the word “soap”? What sound do you hear?

The response is /s/.

How about … sand … sat … snowman … school?

Your child should be listening for the sound at the beginning and tell you the sound /s/.

That’s right! /s/. WHAT LETTER MAKES THE ‘s’ SOUND? Yes, it’s /s/! Good listening!

Your child would give you the words again, maybe some new ones, as you print them. I’d do it on paper that can be used for review and for practicing the words. Each consonant should be a new page. I’d print the words in lower case, with a different color marker probably red, just for the first letter ‘s’ of each word…. sun, soap, sand, sat, snowman, school. This is so the child will notice the letter being studied. If possible make a picture of the word beside the word. Some won’t have pictures (oh well!)

Can you think of any other words that might start like ‘sun’?

The child will offer several words which are added to the list of ‘s’ words. Read the list with the child.

Say the words out loud and LISTEN for the /s/ sound.

The child may need a bit of help here. Read the list of words with your child. You may have about 6 or 7 words. Don’t do too many. Try to get words that are things or nouns. Read them again together, then let your child try it by himself. This is establishing the sound of /s/ and the words that start with /s/. To understand there is a co-relation between letter, sound and word is very significant. The child is acquiring auditory discrimination for the sound /s/.


There are actually 3 pages for the letter ‘s’ that I have prepared. The instructions are on the pages. You will find the ‘s’ worksheet on the list of consonant worksheets.


Vowel Introduction

Although children have heard the vowels in the alphabet, they’ve not had an intensive lesson on them. So we’ll start with a re-introduction before teaching the short vowel sound ă. Have a chart of the vowel letters and point to each letter as you say it.

The Vowels are:    a   e   i   o   u   and sometimes   y.

We’ll learn about “y” later. Right now we’ll focus on a, e, i, o, u.

Please say them with me:   a   e   i   o   u   

You could clap to the vowels with a rhythm like this

“a….pause..…e..…pause,.. i, o, u.” Make it like a sing-song.

Clap with me to this rhythm, a, e, i, o, u. Again, and again and again.

Can you tell me the name of one vowel? Another? One more.. Good!

Listen to these letters and now, can you tell me if “b” is a vowel.. “m, p, o, j, i” ?

Now, a let’s have some physical activity. Stand if I say a vowel,…. sit if it is a consonant. “m, p, i, j, g, c, a, d, f, u, e, l, r, o, w, q, a, s….etc..Good.

Clapping with the rhythm as above

Let’s say and clap out the vowels.  a, e, i, o, u.

The vowels are different from consonants because they have two sounds, a long sound and a short sound.

You already know their long sound because you already know their names ā, ē, ī, ō, ū. When they say their long sound, they say their own name.

So now we are going to learn their short sounds.

Please show your child the marks we use to signify the long sound which is like a hyphen above the vowel as above. To show the short vowel mark is like a little smile above the vowel. Like this ă, ĕ, ĭ, ŏ, ŭ.

To show that a vowel is long or short these are the marks we use above the letter, like ă or a small smile above the vowel.

Introduce The Short Vowel Sound ă

The sound of the short vowel ă is the same as the sound in “apple”, …“ant”,… “alligator”… “actor”… “astronaut”.

Most of the time, the short vowel ă is in the middle of a word between two consonants.

Listen carefully because this time I’m going to say the short vowel ă sound in the middle of a word.

Can you hear the short sound of ă in these words? cat…man…pan…lamb…back…map…jam

Now let’s play a listening game. When I say a word and you hear the short vowel sound for ă then put two hands up. If there is no short ă in the word, put two hands down. Ready? sat…but…cap…sit….mat….flat….box….man….sap…clip…clap… Good!

Now let’s write some short ă words.

The child gives some short vowel ‘a’ words and the parent writes them on paper, printing the “a” in red, making sure to mark the short vowel – like ă. Parent reads words while pointing to them. Drawing pictures if you can.

Read these words with me. Lets practice the list of words a few times.

This activity page emphasizes auditory discrimination with lots of short a words and other sounds included. Vowel Rule #1 – When there is one vowel between two consonants, it usually says its short sound. Introduce the Worksheet #1 on Short ă sounds. Go over the pictures so each item will be identified for your child. Make sure they know what each item is.


Long Vowel Information

The Long Vowels are a little easier for children to recognize or hear because they say their own name as they do in the alphabet.

However, for them to say their own name they must have another vowel beside them and that vowel acts as a silent letter. For example, mail… the ‘a’ is long and says its own name and the ‘i’ is silent.

Other examples, ‘beat’ the ‘e’ is long the ‘a’ is silent… or the word ‘feel’ the first ‘e’ is long and the second ‘e’ is silent.

Sometimes there are two vowels and one is a silent ‘e’ at the end of the word…like in the word ’cake’ the first vowel ‘a’ says its name and the ‘e’ is silent.

Or the word ‘plane’ the ‘a’ is long and the ‘e’ is silent, or the word ‘fire’ the ‘i’ is long and the ‘e’ is silent. Other words might be…pale, cape, pine, kite, came, gate, boat, mule, etc.

Another variation of a long vowel sound is the letter ‘y’ which we mentioned earlier. It is a vowel mostly when it is at the end of a word. For example ‘fly’ the sound is a long ‘i’, or in ‘baby’ the ‘y’ sounds like a long e. So when the ‘y’ says ‘i’ or ‘e’ it acts as a vowel.

Other times the ‘y’ can be a silent vowel, as in the word ‘day’ where the ‘a’ is long and the ‘y’ is silent./p>

To mark the silent vowels in a word we use this sign “/” to cross out silent letters.

Of course, we’re teaching the English language where there are many exceptions, so keep that in mind!


Long Vowel Lesson

Today we’re going to learn about Long Vowels. Listen carefully to these words and tell me the name of the vowel you hear. ….sail, tail, grain.

Your child will say he hears the ‘a’ sound.

Good! You’re right. Now let’s see how to spell those words.

Parent prints them on a page using red printed letters for the ‘ai’ combination.

Can you think of any other long a words? Maybe the words plain, snail, and gain.

Your child might say cake, bake, trail and skate. Write these on the paper and show
how they both make the same sound in different ways. Print both vowels in red so the child can see the differences in the letter combinations. Discuss how they look but they make the same sound for the vowel.

Take a look at these words. Can you tell me how they are different? How are the vowels the same?

Now tell them the vowel rule for long vowels. When two vowels are together the first says it’s name and the second vowel is silent. You might make a list of long vowel ‘a’ words and read them to your child and then read them together slowly, while pointing at each letter of each word.

Now we’ll do an activity sheet on the long a words.

Continue with teaching the other long vowels, showing the various ways the vowels are combined in words. This may take a week or more. Make sure they know how to recognize both short vowels and long vowels.Review everything often.It is necessary for lots of games and activities to reinforce these basic phonetic skills so the child has a very firm foundation in order to be an efficient reader. Practice so the child knows these without having to think back and knows them by spontaneous recall.

The basics of Phonics is covered, but there is much more to do. I’ll continue the lessons on my blogs, for example blends like bl, cl, pl, fl, gl, sl, then the others like fr, cr, etc..

The digraphs where one sound is made with these letters ch, sh, wh, but the th has two sounds. Also to cover yet are the letter combinations, like oi, oy, ow, ou, oo, au, aw etc..

On my blogs I’ll state the phonics rules which are about ten or so, including games and activities, with worksheets for consonants, and vowels.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the experience. Although it’s challenging and sometimes frustrating, it is rewarding work and very worthwhile in the end, when your child develops into an excellent, confident reader.


Reading with You Nationwide!