Vowels and Consonants: B and P

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“B” is the second letter of the alphabet and our first consonant. Any letter that is not a vowel (A, E, I, O, or U), is a consonant. Where vowels are mostly unobstructed sound flowing out, consonants involve manipulation with a combination of mouth movements. Consonants are just as important as vowels for your child’s English pronunciation, so make sure to practice phonics lessons often.

If you need any help with vowels and consonants, you can take a look at our Vowels and Consonants Home Page.

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Consonant Pairs

In English, most of our consonants come in pairs which we call consonant pairs. Consonant pairs are two different sounds that share the same mouth movements (you make the sound in the same way). The only difference is, one of the sounds in the pair is voiced and one of the sounds is unvoiced.

Learning the English consonants in their pairs can help your child understand the small differences between very similar sounds in English pronunciation. For our next few posts, we will be teaching the consonants of the alphabet in their consonant pairs. In this article, we will be looking at the letters “B” and “P”.

Bilabial Sounds and Stop Consonants

“B” and “P” are both what are called “bilabial sounds“. A bilabial sound is a sound that is created by bringing both of your lips together. In both /b/ and /p/, the sound is made by bringing your upper and lower lip together and forcing air out in a bursting sound. “B” and “P” are also both stop consonants. A stop consonant is a sound where the airflow is fully stopped, before it is pushed out in a burst of air. When you start making the /b/ or /p/ sound, your lips are together, stopping any air from escaping. You will then open your lips and release the air to make a bursting sound.

How to Pronounce B

`The /b/ sound is made with a short puff of air coming from closed lips. When done correctly, you should be able to feel a short puff of air coming out of your child’s mouth.  As well, /b/ is a voiced consonant (vocal cords are vibrating). Make sure your child is making a voiced sound by feeling their voice box when they make the sound.

Teacher’s Tip: Voicing is important. If your child does the unvoiced version of the /b/ sound, it will actually be the /p/ sound.

The IPA symbol for /b/ is b.

Common words with /b/:

  1. Bear
  2. Brother
  3. Bat
  4. Ball
  5. Boy
  6. Bus

How to Pronounce P

The /p/ sound is made in the same way as the /b/ sound, the only difference will be that /p/ is unvoiced. Have your child make the same mouth movement as in /b/, and then have them not vibrate their vocal cords. This should make a /p/ sound. Double-check that your child is doing it right by lightly placing a finger on their vocal cords, so you can feel whether there is any vibrations. The /p/ sound should only be coming from the air coming out of your mouth, and not from your vocal cords.

The IPA symbol for /p/ is p.

Common words with /p/:

  1. Pig
  2. Pie
  3. Pear
  4. Shape
  5. Ship
  6. Shop
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Other Vowel and Consonant Lessons That You Might Like

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How to Teach Your Child Vowels and Consonants

  1. Print out our flashcards or make your own. You want to make sure the flashcard has the letter on one side and a picture on the other for your child to associate with the sound.
  2. Teach the name of the letter and the sound that that letter makes to your child. If you do not feel confident in making the sound correctly yourself, you can use the videos we have provided in our Member’s Section.
  3. Teach your child the word that is associated with this letter ( A is for apple, /a/ /a/ apple). If possible, have them draw the word it is associated with.
  4. If your child is old enough, teach them how to write the letter (both the small and big version). Make sure to emphasize the name and the sound that the letter makes while your child is writing.
  5. Verify with a teacher or native English speaker that your child is making the sound correctly

After Your Child Has Learned This Sound

Once you know your child is making the sounds correctly, you should look to practice phonics as much as possible. Basic phonics are incredibly important, and getting this right now will help your child in the future. Remember that the more one-on-one practice time you can give your children, the better they will be in their English pronunciation. It also does not need to be textbooks and flashcards memorization, here is a list of fun activities you can do to practice with your children. No one knows your child better than you, make English time more fun by pairing it with activities they like to do. Anything from coloring, reading, or more active games will be helpful if they are practicing and thinking about the sounds and letters.

Practicing should continue for a while, but when you want to teach something new, you can begin to look at a different phonics lesson. Links for all of these can be found above. As well, you can check their progress on their English pronunciation with some of our assessment quizzes in our Member’s Section.

I Have More Questions

If you have any more questions about this phonics lesson, practicing these sounds, or where to go from here, we have a couple of resources for you here at The Learner’s Nook.

  1. Here is a glossary of terms we use in these guides which may help clear up some confusion.
  2. Here is a diagram of a mouth with labels if you do not understand which part of the mouth should be moving.
  3. Here you can see a general overview of how to teach phonics to your ESL children which may be what you are looking for.
  4. Join our members club to book some time with us to ask us your questions.

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