The use of phonics in reading is designed to help students make the connection between the written words and the sounds of spoken words. When teaching students to read via phonics, teachers must explain the sounds the students are learning. Among the sounds are vowels, which are vital to each word. There are two types of vowels: long vowels and short vowels. Students must learn to recognize not only the sounds, but also when the sounds are used and how to determine which vowel sounds to make when they are reading.

Explain vowels to the students. To understand the vowel sounds, students must understand vowels and the purpose of vowels. Brain Pop Jr., a website that provide educational videos for K-3 students, asserts that teachers should explain that vowels are "a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y." Tell the students that the vowels are used to make words when combined with the consonants, which are all of the other letters in the alphabet.

Tell the students that vowels can make different sounds depending on the word. Give a few examples of how words may contain the same vowel but may sound different. For example, write out the words "show" and "soon." Although both words contain an "o," the use of the double vowel letter together changes the sound to a long vowel sound.

Show the students a few pictures with written words underneath. Focus first on short vowel sounds and then show words with long vowel sounds. Have the students sound out the word as it is shown and point out the sound the vowels make.

Give the students an assignment to write out the word lists and say the words as they write them. This will reinforce what vowel sounds the words make and when the vowel sounds differ for words.

Read a book aloud and have the students point out when there are short vowels and when there are long vowels. This will help them learn to recognize vowels and sounds in a variety of words.

Allow the students to play interactive story-book activities designed for vowel recognition. Scholastic, a resource for early-learning curriculum development, has online, interactive activities to help students learn vowel sounds.