Teaching Tips

The Vowel Elevator: A Visual-Kinesthetic Way to Expand the Vowel Space

  • Nancy C. Elliot (University of Oregon)


The concept of the vowel space can be difficult to envision for ELLs, teachers -in- training, and even students of linguistics. The English vowel system is a particular challenge for learners, partly due to the precise target areas required for a system with five levels of vowel height. Teachers can help students with this challenge by using the metaphor of the Vowel Elevator, a visual-auditory-kinesthetic method of pronunciation practice that helps students comprehend and expand their vowel space using movement, sight, and sound, while keeping the whole system in the basic organization of high-mid- low and front-central-back articulation. The mouth is represented as a buildingwith elevators that move between stories “ with different languages having different numbers of stories“ and learners practice the movements with simple hand gestures that accompany their tongue movements as they produce the sounds and view images of the elevator stopping at particular floors. Learners can visualize the vowel space, move around in it more accurately, and attach sound associations to the movements.

How to Cite:

Elliot, N. C., (2017) “The Vowel Elevator: A Visual-Kinesthetic Way to Expand the Vowel Space”, Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Proceedings 9(1).

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Published on
31 Dec 2017