Competency Puzzle “Listen & Speak with Understanding” Pieces E-01.01 to E-01.09: Simple, Complex, & All Vowel Sounds & Spellings in Names, Classifications, Description, Comparison, & Other Talk About Things
At the core of comprehension and articulation of words and syllables in American English are at least 16 Vowels, defined as “syllabic speech sounds produced without stopping the air in an open vocal tract (in contrast to Consonants). They’re ‘voiced’ (said with vibration of the vocal cords). As a language unit, a vowel forms the nucleus of a syllable.”
The article bases its explanation on four principles:
It’s the very existence of vowel sounds that defines syllables (the most basic units of meaning in speech).
In pronunciation practice, vowel sounds may be classified as “simple” (also called “lax,” “short,” or “pure”) vs. “complex” (“tense,” “long,” “doubled,” or “diphthongized”).
When vocabulary items are parts of phrases and longer pieces of discourse, it’s the vowel sounds of stressed (syllables in) words that need to be articulated precisely.
Finally, learners can improve the clarity of their vowel-sound pronunciation through a principle called “Vowel Lengthening” (before voiced consonants and even more at the ends of syllables).
Further, it puts forth and gives materials to download for steps in Vowel-Sound (& Vowel-Spelling) instruction:
Show diagrams of Where Vowel Sounds are Pronounced in the Mouth. Show Video of mouth movements. Learners can view their own pronunciation (motion) in mirrors.
Isolate Vowel Sounds by demonstrating & practicing their “muscularity.” Explain. Offer learners clear examples to repeat.
Compare your / their (recorded) pronunciation with Audio models, including those of contrasts between words in “Minimal Pairs” (items that differ only in their vowel sounds).
Thoroughly explore “Phonics Correspondences”—the correlations of 16 or more Vowel Sounds to the alphabetic letters that spell them in common to infrequent orthography. Work with phonetic symbols and/or dictionary sound respellings.
Recommended in the previous article—and usually reinforcing—are motivating games, puzzles, and activities that inundate learners with Vowels while they’re enjoying themselves, cooperating / competing, and absorbing valuable linguistic patterns and principles. These work especially well when used as suggested in accompanying Activity & Idea Books, which often include appropriately-leveled “Mini-Phonics & Spelling Courses.” Here are some of these to access directly:
Competency Puzzle “Listen & Speak with Understanding” Pieces E-01.01 to E-01.09: Vowel Sounds & Spellings in Names, Classification, Description, Comparison, & Other Talk About Things.
The main aim of this E-01.01 to E-01.09: Simple, Complex, & All Vowel Sounds & Spellings in Names, Classifications, Description, Comparison, & Other Talk About Things blog post is somewhat different. It’s to correlate the pedagogy of Vowel-Sound Recognition; Pronunciation, Articulation, Enunciation; Oral Reading; & Orthography with Subject Matter that naturally comes up at the beginning of instruction in Oral Language Skills—progress in Listening & Speaking in real-life contexts.
In educational situations, the three most general topics of oral interaction or expression are Things, Places, & People. And of these, the first— Things—is best suited to integration with instruction in Vowels. That’s because so much of its Vocabulary (Nouns & Adjectives) consists of one-syllable words in which Vowel Sounds predominate. Also, Things (Objects, Articles, Substances, Entities, Parts, Elements, Items, etc.) are the easiest notions to illustrate. Visuals depicting or suggesting things readily become elements in Phonics / Vocabulary Worksheets, Exercises, Card Decks, Puzzles, Board Games, and other hands-on materials.
Talk About Things is usually fun—or at least very practical in everyday matters. Sub-topics elicit conversation about shopping or purchases; making, maintaining, or fixing objects; collecting, sorting, and giving away stuff; and so on. There are often three major Competencies involved: the first is Naming Things (and Classifying them in attempts to explain what they are or to define them). The second is Describing Things (in many situations—like having lost or looking for them). And the last is Comparing Things (for decision-making).
Which structural Grammar is commonly involved in Talk About Things? First, there are aspects of several kinds of Nouns—notably Singular, Plural, & Uncountable; Identified (Definite) vs. Unidentified (Non-Specific)—plus the Quantity Words and Markers that precede them. Also, there are Adjectives, their forms and positions in noun phrases, and their degrees—Positive, Comparative, Superlative. Sentences with be may also refer or relate to (tangible) items. So might there is / are sentences with Location Phrasing; Adjectives after Linking Verbs; Nouns used as Sentence Subjects or Objects (of Verbs or Prepositions).
What kind of materials might merge the study of Vowels with “Talk About Things?” Here, from the three texts
are excerpts to download by clicking on their titles. Here’s what you can do with them:
Begin By Naming & Classifying Things with Simple-Vowel Words
In a diagram called Where to Pronounce the Nine “Simple” (Lax, “Short,” One-Letter) Vowel Sounds in the Mouth, the “simple vowels” are displayed in IPA
can practice differentiating items in the diagram.
Pedagogy on “the Spelling of Simple Vowel Sounds” displays visuals showing how to pronounce them. Illustrated Vocabulary of Item Names (“Only One Thing” / “More Than One Thing”)” not only have text users distinguishing between singular and plural. In columns headed by Vowel-Sound Symbols, they put missing Vowel Letters into labels for photos, later reading aloud the words and talking about them.
Next come Conversations—one about Singular / Uncountable items (a sack / bag; trash, garbage, it, junk), the other including plural nouns (markers, pencils, brushes, bushes). Participants read these aloud from one, two, or three kinds of symbols: IPA, Dictionary, and/or alphabetic letters. They then use the dialogs as templates for exchanges about what (Singular & Plural) Things are called in English.
After instructions on and practice in “Naming & Classifying Items,” the rest of Part One-1 consists of “Challenge Activities” for learners who want to surpass the basics in “Talking About Simple-Vowel Items.” There are vocabulary cues to use in defining pictured items, words and phrases to match with Sounds represented by Symbols, illustrations to label and discuss with be-sentences, alphabetic-letter Spellings to complete, and Classification Games to play—all while approaching proficiency in Simple- (Lax, “Short,” One-Letter) Vowel Sounds & Spellings.
Want more advanced material for targeted practice in Naming & Classifying Items? E-01.02 = Part One-1, Recognize, Pronounce, & Contrast Simple Vowel Sounds in Words for Things from Pronunciation Practice (Before Speaking), Sections 1.A to 1.D also begins with a Where to Pronounce the Nine “Simple” (Lax, “Short,” One-Letter) Vowel Sounds in the Mouth diagram. Pedagogy is in Sidebars. Sections include Picture-Word Grids with Sound-Symbol Column Headings; Contrasting (Illustrated) Simple-Vowel Words in Minimal Pairs & Groups; Fill-in-the-Letters Spelling-by-Vowel-Sound Lists; and relevant excerpts from the Pronunciation Practice Teacher’s Edition Answer Key & Audioscript.
E-01.03 = Part One-1: Talk About Things: Name & Classify Items (in Locations & Categories, Sections 1.A to 1.D of Before Speaking: Activities for Practice & Preparation in Oral Language Skills includes Simple-Vowel Vocabulary in its pedagogy & Exercises but doesn’t “insist” on them. Text users are offered Grammar Notes: Sentences with Be; 1.A. Ask & Give Names of Things; Grammar Notes: There Is/Are; 1.B. Name Things in Locations; *1.C Tell Changes in Things; Vocabulary / Grammar Notes: Categories, 1.D. Classify Things; ***1.E Give a Mini-Speech About Things. More Explanation is in Sidebars. Available separately is an extensive Answer Key of Suggested Responses to Text Activities.
Continue By Describing Things with Complex-Vowel Words
Want only material designed for novice to low-beginning language learners or new readers? How about Parts & Pieces E-01.04, Part One-2: Focused on Complex Vowel Sounds, Describe Singular & Plural Items, from Beginners Before Speaking with Pronunciation Principles (BegBeSp wPrPr)?
This ten-page excerpt parallels E-01.01: Part One-1, Simple Vowel Sounds. There’s a Diagram of “Where to Pronounce the Seven ‘Complex’ (Tense) Vowel Sounds in the Mouth.” Then comes illustrated explanation with audio of muscularity and spelling. Illustrated Vocabulary: “A Noun Phrase (“An Adjective + an Item”)” Grids combine singular and plural.
In columns headed by Complex-Vowel-Sound Symbols, text users put in missing Vowel Letters. In Conversation, from sound-symbols and/or alphabetic letters, they read aloud lines that describe a needed (hardware) item with more and more precision. They then use the dialog as templates for exchanges about how Things are described in English. “”Describe Items” sections offer (sentence-pattern) wording for Dimensions, Shape (Form), Texture (Feel), Material, Smell & Taste, Color & Pattern.
“Key words” are bait, beat, bite, boat, boot, bout, boy. Articulating, seeing, and hearing the sounds in words, learners distinguish them in group activities.
Pedagogy on “the Pronunciation & Spelling of Complex Vowel Sounds” (including before /r/ & /l/) appears in Sidebars. Participants “Say Words with Complex Vowel Sounds” displayed in illustrated grids. Asking and answering contextualized questions, they contrast items in Minimal Pairs & Groups. They learn (regular to exceptional) vowel spellings by supplying these in columns headed by Complex Vowel Sound-Symbols.
At an even more challenging level, E-01.06 = Part One-2: Talk About Things: Describe Objects, Sections 2.A to ***2E from Before Speaking, includes both Simple- & Complex-Vowel in One- & Multi-Syllabic Vocabulary items to read aloud, pronounce, and use in context. After Grammar & Vocabulary Notes: Adjectives of Description (Size, Shape, Color, Feel, Weight, Texture, Taste, Smell) after Linking Verbs, in 2.A text users “Tell & Ask About Pictured Items a-s.”
Having reviewed Negative Statements; Yes/No, Tag, & Choice-Questions, In 2.B participants get to “Describe Details (Materials & Parts) of Items 1-24” while matching specifics to the Whole Photos a-x they’re derived from. 2.C. has them “Classify Items by Purpose.” After Grammar Notes: Information Questions, in 2.D they Ask & Answer Questions About Object Description. In 2.E everyone gets to play games by identifying (parts of) real items by feel and appearance. Finally, the ***2-E: Give Mini-Speeches section gives instructions for versions of “Gift-Exchanges.”
Wrap It Up By Talking about Things with Phrasing That Compares & Contrasts All Vowel Sounds
After a Diagram titled Where to Pronounce 16 Simple & Complex Vowel Sounds in the Mouth comes “The Spelling of All Vowel Sounds.” Vocabulary sections display “Comparative / Superlative Noun Phrases” with colorful photos of multiple items to compare; phrases contrast Simple with Complex Vowel Sounds such as Challenge Activities: Use Comparatives & Superlatives relate (often less common or exceptional) spellings to 16 Vowel Sounds.
In connected discourse, Conversation: Compare Items discusses kinds of bread in detail. After notes on sentence patterns used to compare items come rows of visuals—with wording cues and samples—in seven Categories: Kinds of Bread (Food); Kinds of Fruit (Produce); Kinds of Outerwear (Clothing); Kinds of Jewelry (Accessories); Kinds of Seating (Furniture); Kinds of Kitchen Tools (Household Items); Kinds of Toys & Games (Playthings). And of course, culminating “Challenge Activities” get speakers to “sell one item” in each of these groupings by talking about their features in comparison to those of the others.
Spelling Lists for less common and exceptional alphabet-letter combos follow. Sidebars explain “Homophones” and differences in the “Pronunciation of Simple vs. Complex Vowel Sounds.” Finally, there’s plenty of “text to edit” by choosing appropriate words—from their vowel sounds and spellings—in Paragraphs of Comparison. Fun riddle-like activities based on vowel-sound “minimal pairs” complete the download.
Ready for Oral Skills material that elicits “Talk About Things” without the distraction of orthographic pronunciation pedagogy? E-01.09 = Part One-3: Compare Stuff, Sections 3.A to **3D from Before Speaking: Activities for Practice & Preparation in Oral Language Skills:
Throughout the E-01.09 Download, Grammar Notes give sentence templates and word forms for talking about Identical Features or Similarities; Differences; Adjectives & Adverbs; Comparatives & Superlatives; Uniqueness. Activities are laden with photos, as text users Tell Similarities & Differences between / among two or more Small Appliances, Kinds of Produce, Building Blocks, Paper Products, Navigation Tools, Toy Vehicles, Kinds of Bread, Pairs of Shoes, Tools, Holiday Decorations, Balls for Sports, Stationery Items, Hats, Telephones, and so on and so on and so on. . . . .
Later, they Compare Unequal Features of items or wording in simulated “newspaper advertising.” They Explain Choices. In two pages of Item Groupings a-p, they get to get to answer the classic logic question “Which of these things is not like the others (doesn’t ‘belong’)?” Examples are . . .
After “Summary Vocabulary Lists: Comparison of Items,” Part One-3 ends with customary “Mini-Speech” directives. Participants collect (print, online) advertising and use it to answer questions like “According to the ad, how is the product, service, or idea better than others of that kind? How is it the best of all?” Here again are some of the full products from which the above excerpts are taken:
For monthly email newsletters with free tips, tools, and resources for English language teachers and learners, sign up here!
About Work/Life English
For over 35 years, Work/Life English has been dedicated to improving the lives of English language learners. We offer a comprehensive range of fun, effective English language improvement lessons and activities to help adult education ESL educators successfully engage their English language students and improve their English competencies, leading to a host of positive effects in students’ professional and personal lives. Better English, Better Life. For more information, visit www.worklifeenglish.com.
Back to Blogs from Work/Life English