Vowels in the English language can be confusing. English has incorporated many words from other languages. This has brought in a variety of vowel patterns. To hear the sounds for the various vowel patterns, listen to the sound story and the sound charts under the audio and video menu headings.
There are fifteen vowel sounds but there are only five vowels! This problem is solved in two ways. First, each single vowel can represent more than one sound. And second, vowels can work with other letters, either consonants are other vowels, to represent a variety of sounds. Don't worry, in this program the vowels are taught one at a time in a logical, easy to understand way.
The Sound City Reading program teaches the vowels and vowel patterns one at a time so that students can become very familiar with one pattern before going on to the next. Patterns that are similar are taught one after the other, so that students can see the similarities between them.
Students practice saying the vowel sounds they have learned from sound charts and flashcards daily. They also write new and review patterns, given the sounds, and use new patterns to spell and read words. This step by step process makes learning the vowels much easier.
The Fifteen Vowel Sounds
- You can hear each vowel and vowel pattern by saying the key words.
- Notice that each sound is printed in a different color. Because there are fifteen different sounds, there are fifteen different colors.
- Each vowel has two main sounds, the short sound and the long sound. These terms do not mean that the letters themselves are shorter or longer, and it does not mean that the sounds are shorter or longer. They are just the common terms used to indicate the two different sounds.
- The long vowel sound is the same as the name of the vowel.
- The colors for the short and long vowel sounds are related. For each vowel, the long sound is shown in a dark color, and the short vowel sound is shown in a lighter version of the same color.
Thirteen Sounds For Single Vowels
Two Sounds That Are Only Shown With These Vowel Pairs
The Schwa Sound
- In multi-syllable words, some syllables are pronounced more forcefully than others. These are called accented syllables.
- Some syllables are pronounced less forcefully than others. These are called unaccented syllables.
- The vowels in unaccented syllables are not pronounced in the usual way. They may sound like a very quick short i, short u, or dotted u sound, or they may be hardly pronounced at all.
These words have the schwa sound in the second syllable.
rib-bon pet-al sev-en
These words have the schwa sound in the first syllable.
com-plain po-lite sa-lute
These words have the schwa sound in the middle syllable.
com-pre-hend el-e-phant di-no-saur
In several situations, the letter e is not pronounced at all. We can say it is a "silent e." When teaching these patterns, place a small x above the e to remind students that it is not pronounced.
- Some multi-syllable words end with a "silent e" syllable: bot-tle, ap-ple, hum-ble, sprin-kle. All syllables must have at least one vowel, so the letter e is included at the end of the second syllable. However, it is not pronounced.
- The letter v is not used at the end of English words. The letter pattern _ve is used to show the /v / sound at the end of words: serve, carve, give, have. The e in this pattern is not pronounced.
- The _se and _ze patterns are used at the end of words that have a two-letter vowel pattern: mouse, horse, noise, moose and freeze, snooze, maize. The e is not pronounced. The _se pattern can sound like /s/ or /z/. The _ze pattern sounds like /z/.
- The _ce pattern is sometimes used at the end of words to show the /s/ sound: fence, chance, force, choice, fleece. The e is not pronounced.
- The _ge pattern is sometimes used at the end of words to show the /j/ sound: change, fringe,gorge, bulge. The e is not pronounced.
- In the following patterns, two vowels work together to show a single sound, but the vowels are separated by a consonant: safe, these, pine, home, flute, cube. The first vowel is pronounced as its long vowel sound. The second vowel is always the letter e and it is not pronounced at all. It is a "silent e."
There are six different patterns in which a vowel may show the short u sound for no apparent reason. Read "A Story About The Umbrella Vowels" to the students as a simple way to explain this concept.
Long Vowel Sounds
Long vowel sounds can be shown in four different ways.
- A single vowel is at the end of a syllable.
- Two vowels work together to show one long vowel sound. Pronounce the long sound for the first vowel. Do not pronounce the second vowel. We say, "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking."
- Two vowels work together to show one long vowel sound, but they are separated by a consonant. We call this a "split vowel" pattern. The second vowel is always the letter e. Pronounce the long sound for the first vowel, Do not pronounce the second vowel. Even though the vowels are separated, we still say, "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." When teaching these patterns, show students how to draw a bracket below the pattern, starting at the first vowel and ending at the second vowel, to draw attention to the fact that the vowels work together.
- A vowel is followed by one or more consonants. We call this a "follow the leader" pattern. The vowel gets to say its name because it goes first. (These patterns must be memorized, because in most words a single vowel followed by one or more consonants represents its short vowel sound: last, went, wisp, soft, jump.)
Dotted Vowel Sounds
In this program, vowel sounds that are neither long nor short are classified as dotted vowel sounds. These vowels do not represent their usual sounds. Sometimes these sounds are represent by single vowels, sometimes they are represented by vowel pairs, and sometimes they are represented by vowel-consonant combinations.
Odd O Patterns
These patterns all begin with the letter o. Most of them do not show the sound you would expect. The sounds for these patterns must be memorized. Some of these patterns can represent more than one sound.
R-Controlled Vowels (Bossy R Patterns)
When the letter r follows a vowel, it affects its sound. The vowel and the letter r are pronounced as a unit. When you see an r-controlled vowel, you can't pronounce the vowel in the expected way. You have to learn the sound for each pattern individually. In some bossy r patterns, you only hear the /r/ sound; you don't hear the vowel at all. In other patterns the vowel is heard but it may not be the sound you would expect.
Shady Short Vowels
In shady short vowels, the vowels are not the sounds you would expect.
- The ea/head pattern has the short e sound instead of the long e sound in some words. It is printed in the same light green color as short e.
- In the a/father pattern the a is pronounced like a short o sound. It is printed in the same light orange color as short o.
- In the y/gymnastics pattern the y is pronounced like short i. It is printed in the same light violet color as short i.
Y As A Vowel
The letter y acts as a vowel in some words. It can represent three different vowel sounds.
The patterns ye and y_e also represent vowel sounds.
- y = long i sound my, by, try, sky, python, myself At the end of a one syllable word or the end of a first syllable
- y = long e sound happy, funny, empty, family At the end of a multi-syllable word
- y = short i sound gymnastics, lynx, cylinder, pyramid In the middle of a syllable
The patterns ye and y_e also represent vowel sounds.
- ye = long i sound rye, dye, lye, bye
- y_e = long i sound type, style, rhyme