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# 1.1: Always Vowels: < a >, < e >, < i >, < o >

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

1. Our alphabet has twenty-six letters. Some are VOWELS and some are CONSONANTS.

The four letters that are always vowels are <a>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{a}>\end{align*}, <e>, <i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*} and <o>.

2. Underline the vowel letters in each word:

\underline{{i}}ts\underline{{e}}lfj\underline{{oi}}nb\underline{{e}}tt\underline{{e}}rma\underline{{gic}}br\underline{{i}}dg\underline{{e}}kn\underline{{ee}}r\underline{{a}}bb\underline{{i}}t\underline{{a}}sk\underline{{i}}ngv\underline{{i}}ll\underline{{a}}gef\underline{{a}}v\underline{{o}}rth\underline{{ei}}r\underline{{o}}ft\underline{{e}}n\begin{align*}&\text{\underline{{i}}ts\underline{{e}}lf}\surd && \text{ma\underline{{gic}}}\surd && \text{r\underline{{a}}bb\underline{{i}}t}\surd && \text{f\underline{{a}}v\underline{{o}}r}\surd\\ &\text{j\underline{{oi}}n}\surd && \text{br\underline{{i}}dg\underline{{e}}}\surd && \text{\underline{{a}}sk\underline{{i}}ng}\surd && \text{th\underline{{ei}}r}\surd\\ &\text{b\underline{{e}}tt\underline{{e}}r}\surd && \text{kn\underline{{ee}}}\surd && \text{v\underline{{i}}ll\underline{{a}}ge}\surd && \text{\underline{{o}}ft\underline{{e}}n}\end{align*}

3. Now sort the words into these four groups and check them off the list as we have done with itself and join. Be careful: Most words go into more than one group:

Words with the ...
vowel <a>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{a}>\end{align*} vowel <e> vowel <i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*} vowel <o>
magic itself itself join
rabbit better join favor
village knee bridge
favor village rabbit
often village
their

4. When we talk about letters, we put pointed brackets around them, like this:

<a> <e> <i> <o>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{a}> \ <\mathrm{e}> \ <\mathrm{i}> \ <\mathrm{o}>\end{align*}

5. Fill in the blanks. (Don't forget the pointed brackets!) Four letters that are always vowels are <a>\begin{align*}\underline{<\mathrm{a}>}\end{align*}, <e>, <i>\begin{align*}\underline{<\mathrm{i}>}\end{align*}, and <o>.

6. Underline each vowel letter:

\underline{{a}}b\underline{{o}}v\underline{{e}}b\underline{{oa}}rdv\underline{{o}}t\underline{{e}}dch\underline{{a}}nc\underline{{e}}wh\underline{{o}}s\underline{{e}}r\underline{e}g\underline{io}nh\underline{{ei}}ghtb\underline{{e}}li\underline{{e}}v\underline{{e}}\underline{{i}}mp\underline{{o}}rt\underline{{a}}ntb\underline{{e}}h\underline{{i}}ndph\underline{{o}}n\underline{{e}}g\underline{{o}}v\underline{{e}}rnm\underline{{e}}nt\begin{align*}&\text{\underline{{a}}b\underline{{o}}v\underline{{e}}} && \text{ch\underline{{a}}nc\underline{{e}}} && \text{h\underline{{ei}}ght} && \text{b\underline{{e}}h\underline{{i}}nd}\\ &\text{b\underline{{oa}}rd} && \text{wh\underline{{o}}s\underline{{e}}} && \text{b\underline{{e}}li\underline{{e}}v\underline{{e}}} && \text{ph\underline{{o}}n\underline{{e}}}\\ &\text{v\underline{{o}}t\underline{{e}}d} && \text{r\underline{e}g\underline{io}n} && \text{\underline{{i}}mp\underline{{o}}rt\underline{{a}}nt} && \text{g\underline{{o}}v\underline{{e}}rnm\underline{{e}}nt}\end{align*}

7. Now sort the words into these groups and check them off the list:

Words with the ...
vowel <a>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{a}>\end{align*} vowel <e> vowel <i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*} vowel <o>
above above region above
board voted height board
chance chance believe voted
important whose important whose
region behind region
height important
believe phone
behind government
phone
government

8. Four letters that are always vowels are <a>\begin{align*}\underline{<\mathrm{a}>}\end{align*}, <e>, <i>\begin{align*}\underline{<\mathrm{i}>}\end{align*} and <o>.

Did you remember the pointed brackets?

Teaching Notes.

1. You may find the analysis of vowels and consonants here somewhat different from what you are used to. You may find some parents surprised, perhaps even concerned, by it. Generally, we treat a letter as a vowel when it spells a vowel sound and as a consonant when it spells a consonant sound. It is important to make the distinction as we do, also, because it helps make more rational some of the spelling rules. For instance, students will soon learn that when we add a suffix that starts with a vowel to a word that ends with a final single consonant letter preceded by a single vowel letter, the final consonant letter must be twinned: hop + p + ing = hopping. If we don't recognize that, for instance, <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*} and <w> can sometimes be consonants and sometimes vowels (as discussed in Lesson Three), then we have trouble with this twinning rule. For instance, if <w> is treated as always a consonant, then it should be twinned in a word like towing, which, of course, it is not. And if <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*} is treated as always a vowel, then a word like quiz wouldn't fill the requirements for the twinning rule (since it would have two vowels preceding the final <z>), and the <z> wouldn't be twinned, which, of course, it is. Perhaps the handiest source for more information about how over the centuries some of our letters have come to serve double duty as both vowels and consonants is the series of entries in the Oxford English Dictionary at each letter. See also AES, pp. 207-212.

The following optional page provides a quick rationale for making the distinctions that we do in the next three lessons between the vowel and consonant functions of <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*}, <w>, and <y>. If you think the students would benefit from this kind of rationale for the distinction-making, you can distribute copies of it to them.

Why Sometimes a Vowel, Sometimes a Consonant?

Realizing that <y>, <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*}, and <w> are sometimes vowels, sometimes consonants helps us make sense of spelling.

You will soon learn that when we add a suffix like -ing to a word that ends with a single consonant with a single vowel right in front of it, we must add a twin consonant letter: So if we start with the word hop and add -ing to it, we get the following:

single vowel  hop + ingsingle consonant\begin{align*}& \text{single vowel}\\ & \ \ \quad \big|\\ & \quad \text{hop + ing}\\ & \qquad \big|\\ & \text{single consonant}\end{align*}

which becomes

added twin consonant    hop + p + ing\begin{align*}& \text{added twin consonant}\\ & \qquad \quad \ \ \big|\\ & \ \ \text{hop + p + ing}\end{align*}

Thus, we get hopping, with twin <p>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{p}>\end{align*}'s.

If <w> and <y> were always consonants, we would have to twin them when we add -ing to words like crow and toy, which would lead to the incorrect spellings <crowwing> and <toyying> rather than the correct crowing and toying. In such cases, <w> and <y> are vowels, so we do not twin them.

And if <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*} were always a vowel, words like quit and quiz would have two vowel letters in front of the <t> and <z> rather than just one, which means that when we added ing to them, we would not twin the <t> and <z>. That would give us the incorrect spellings <quiting> and <quizing> rather than the correct spellings quitting and quizzing. In such cases, <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*} is a consonant and so we do twin the <t> and <z>.

The following historical notes may help clarify the consonant-vowel distinctions offered here:

The letters <u,w,y>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u,w,y}>\end{align*}, have a common ancestry: They all derive from a primitive pre-Greek <V>, which also produced the modern consonant <v>. The late arising <w> began as the doublet <vv>, which in time became the ligature we call “double <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*}

The letter <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*} developed as a variant form of <v> and was used in Latin to spell both vowel and consonant sounds. In Latin <qv> was used to spell [kw]. In French and then English this became <qu>. In some words that have come into English the [kw] has simplified to [k], especially words that came in through French, but the spelling with <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*} remains. In English up into the 17th\begin{align*}17^{\mathrm{th}}\end{align*} century <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*}and <v> continued to be used as two forms of the same letter, each spelling both vowel and consonant sounds. As late as the 1580s\begin{align*}1580's\end{align*} the Elizabethan language arts teacher Richard Mulcaster in his spelling text, The Elementarie, illustrates this double usage when he says that in addition to spelling vowel sounds, <v> “is vsed consonantlike also . . . when it leadeth a sounding vowell in the same syllab[le], as vantage, reuiue [revive], deliuer [deliver], or the silent e in the end, as beleue, reproue [believe, reprove]” (116)\begin{align*}(116)\end{align*}. By the late 17th\begin{align*}17^{\mathrm{th}}\end{align*} century the distinction between <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*} as vowel and <v> as consonant had been firmly established, though the <u>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{u}>\end{align*} spelling of the consonant [w] persists in a few words.

The letter <w> was originally a consonant. The use of <w> as a vowel in <aw>, <ew>, <ow> derives from an Old English consonant [w], which over time became vocalized, or pronounced as a vowel rather than a consonant. Notice the parallel with <au>, <eu>, and <ou>.

Originally in Old English, <y> was used strictly to spell vowel sounds though not the [i] and [i¯]\begin{align*}[\mathrm{\bar{i}}]\end{align*} it spells today. Later it came to be used as a variant of <i>\begin{align*}<\mathrm{i}>\end{align*}, or actually as a substitute for the doublet <ii>, which does not occur in native English words. In the 13th\begin{align*}13^{\mathrm{th}}\end{align*} century, scribes began to use <y> in place of the Middle English consonant yogh (<3>), which spelled a sound much like our modern [y] and whose shape resembles <y>. This was the beginning of the use of <y> as a consonant.

Perhaps even Mulcaster felt a bit uneasy about this double usage of letters, for he concludes his discussion of <v> with the following: “This duble force of... v is set from the latin, and therefor it is neither the vncertaintie of our writing, nor the vnstedfastnesse of our tung, for to vse anie letter to a duble use” (116).

2. Item 3: It is important that the youngsters copy the words into the blanks correctly spelled. It is also important that the youngsters develop work habits that help them keep track of their data and where they are in the work process. Thus, the seemingly trivial issue of checking off the words from the list as they sort them into the table is in fact not trivial at all.

Some youngsters may need some help with the concept that a single word can go into more than one group. Remind them that a word goes into a group in this lesson if it has just one certain characteristic. And since a word can have several characteristics, it can go into several different groups. It all depends on what characteristics we use to define the various groups. You might point out to the youngsters that each of them can go into different groups: one group might be of people in this grade, another might be of people in this school, another might be of people born in a certain month, another might be of people from the state of North Dakota, and so on. The way that groups and categories depend on selected characteristics is important beyond the realm of spelling and even beyond the larger realm of inductive reasoning.

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