Prior to understanding explicit phonics and the spelling rules that are the standard for written English I passed on the following wealth of information found in the basal reading teacher's manual, "A vowel is any letter that is not a consonant. A consonant is any letter that is not a vowel."
True confession. I stumbled and mumbled my way through the definitions without realizing their importance. An appalling lack of information about the two types of letters that build words! I can't get those students back but I am a testament that teachers should never stop their own learning process.
STEP 6 provides you with all the information you need to ensure that even young students understand the concepts of vowels and consonants. You can help them feel the difference between a vowel and consonant sound. Encourage them to pay attention to consonant sounds that close their mouth and vowel sounds that leave their mouth open. Practice stretching out a vowel sound to see if they can make it loud. Watch as they produce consonant sounds that have them hissing or spitting but truly understand the purpose of these short, quick sounds.
Take your students' knowledge further than reciting the vowels, "A,E,I,O,U and sometimes Y." STEPS Support offers classes that will keep you learning!