Vowels are the most difficult of the phonemes to teach. Consonants generally don’t differ that much between language and, crucially, consonants have things touch – tongue between the teeth, bottom lip on the teeth etc – which makes it easier to describe to students. Vowels on the other hand have anything in the mouth making contact with another part. This makes it difficult to explain to students. Of course, we have the classic ‘mouth map’ that we can show students but that seems quite academic.
Students get a much better sense of where vowel sounds are produced using the colour chart attached below. Having two words that students can practice gives them double the chance to FEEL where the sounds are produced. The left side is the front of the mouth, the right is the back of the throat.
However, even when practicing, students are frequently sat closer to their partner, speaking softly. This is not good for FEELING where a vowel is being produced. For that, we need VOLUME.
Solution 1: separating out the students. Get them at opposite ends of the classroom having to speak to their partners. The extra volume necessary helps them to concentrate on where the sound is coming from, using the colour chart.
Solution 2: if you don’t have space – play music. The extra volume will force the students to speak up.
A loud classroom is a productive classroom.
The colour chart is not mine, so I’ve put the source on the bottom of the chart.