Basic English, Zero English

All about vowels – activities and a song for young learners

Metalinguistic knowledge (knowledge about language) is important for all children, but especially for children learning English as an additional language. I use these activities to introduce very young children to the basic alphabetic categories they will encounter throughout their schooling. I’ve used the song and activities with children aged 3 – 7. They all seem to enjoy it, and we have even performed it for parents.

The key learning objectives for these activities are:

  • Children will learn that the English alphabet contains 5 vowels.
  • Children will learn the letter names of the vowels.
  • Children will be able to identify vowels within a word
  • Children will begin to understand and use the terms alphabet, letter, word, vowel.
  • Children will also gain exposure to the written forms of the English words that they are most likely to encounter.

  • vowels lesson plan
    All About Vowels lesson plan

    This lesson plan gives instructions for 4 quick and simple games, a song about vowels, ways to extend the song for more advanced learners, and a template letter to send home to families. Suitable for very young children with little or no prior experience with English literacy.

    vowels song lyrics
    ‘The Vowels Song’ lyrics sheet

    Warning! It’s catchy!

    vowels song lyrics
    Vowels (+ y) cards.

    These are large one-to-a-page cards, that I use for class games, displays, and when the children are performing the song. The vowels are color-coded to make their names easier to remember. I tried to use colors that sound like their names. A is gray, E is green, I is white, O is yellow, U is blue. I didn’t color code Y because it isn’t a vowel, and I couldn’t for the life of me think of a color that rhymed with it! They are all lower case, as that is the case in which children are far more likely to encounter letters, and is also the case that is used for the words in the later activities. It’s important to remind the children that this lesson uses the letter names, and not letter sounds. The distinction between letter sounds and letter names can be confusing at first, but stick with it – it’s important!

    100 common words
    Vocabulary cards: 100 most common words.

    I use these for extension activities. Children practice finding the vowels in these familiar words. The common words were taken from the Dolch List of common words, and are roughly in order of frequency. Words with ‘y’ instead of a vowel are at the end of the set.

    100 common words highlighted
    Vocabulary cards: 100 most common words with vowels highlighted.

    This set contains the same words as above, but with the vowels highlighted and color-coded. This makes it easier for young children to identify the vowels.

    100 common nouns
    Vocabulary cards: 100 most common nouns.

    For English language learners, I find that many of the common words from the Dolch List are abstract and difficult to understand, so I use this list instead. This is the Dolch list of common nouns found in children’s books. I added a few that I was surprised to see missing from the list – ‘Mom’, ‘Mum’, ‘Dad’, ‘computer’ and ‘book’.

    100 common nouns highlighted
    Vocabulary cards: 100 most common nouns with vowels highlighted.

    These are the same words as above, but with the vowels highlighted and color-coded.

    common nouns illustrated
    Vocabulary cards: 100 most common nouns with images.

    The same words again, but with images for each word. A few of these words (such as ‘good-bye’) were very difficult to represent, so I’ve left them blank. Others, such as ‘home’ or ‘mother’ were very difficult to represent in just one image. I’ve done the best that I can, but if you have any suggestions or comments, please contact me.

    words with Y
    Vocabulary cards: words with ‘y’

    Introduce these when your students are ready to learn the exceptions to the rule!

    Blank word cards
    Blank word cards.

    Use these if you think I’ve forgotten any important words, or if you want to use the student’s names.

    How do you teach your young learners about vowels? Leave us a comment!

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5 thoughts on “All about vowels – activities and a song for young learners

  1. Hahah – you are right! The song is super catchy 🙂

    The Brown-Bag Teacher

    Posted by Catherine Reed | January 28, 2013, 6:04 pm
  2. Thanks for visiting Catherine! Hopefully you’ve managed to get the song out of your head by now 🙂

    Posted by Early Years English | January 30, 2013, 10:09 am
  3. This is great! It makes sense to teach non-English speakers the basic sounds in English. If looks like you will extend to high frequency and academic words in the next step. What will you do in the mean time when they are unable to speak any English in the class. It normal for Ell students to loose interest during class. What are some engagement strategies you use?

    Posted by Nga Lai | May 22, 2016, 9:29 pm
  4. Thanks for your comment! Honestly, I don’t find ELL students lose interest too quickly. But engagement strategies I use are keeping all the activities short and active. I make sure they aren’t listening for longer than about 3 minutes at a time (unless I’m reading a picture book). Keep a mix of listening, speaking, drawing, reading, watching, singing, moving etc. I always make sure the class know what to expect that day so I give them a visual timetable so they know they will be reading a story, then speaking, then drawing, then writing. There’s a good visual timetable here:

    Posted by C | May 25, 2016, 10:33 am


  1. Pingback: Vowels letter | Generaltis - February 12, 2013

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