Now they might be ready to be receptive learners. Write the letter A on the board and ask someone the name of the letter. Don’t ask them how it is pronounced in Spanish (or English). Simply ask them for the letter’s name. Most likely, you will hear ey-ee – the English pronunciation of the letter when saying the ABCs. Then ask them how it is pronounced. Whatever you hear, offer another word that pronounces it differently, such as cat, warm and wager. Then, tell them that the letter A has a name in Spanish and that its name also happens to be its sound – always, then pronounce it for them and have them repeat it. Some students may begin to feel overly secure about the second misconception and may blurt out that Spanish is pronounced as it is written and so it is easy. Acknowledge the opinion but gently let them know that it is not exactly so, and to hang on.
The next letter gives you your opportunity to begin to crack this second misconception. The grapheme or written letter B is, as Spanish teachers know, equal to the V, both being pronounced hard or soft depending on context. The verb beber offers an example of each allophone (the first B is hard, the second is soft). I ask students to say Cuba (not CUE-bah, but KOO-bah), with a pencil eraser on their upper incisors. If they feel the air escape around the pencil and feel the way the B is softened, they have just learned that the pronunciation of that letter in Spanish, just as in English, can depend on where it is, and the the B between vowels is soft, not hard. Point this out very directly and then announce that these two pronunciations of this particular letter are slight, but that other letters of the Spanish alphabet will be pronounced quite differently and that they need to re-learn the alphabet. Now you can tell them that yes, Spanish is pronounced as written, but only if you already know how to pronounce it!
Finally, tell them that even though the same symbols are used, many of them have new sounds. You are now ready to proceed slowly through the letters and their new pronunciations, followed by even more special attention to the vowels. There are two other lesson plans, one for the natural sequence of the vowels from i-e-a-o-u and another for contextualizing them in five sentences, each of which in turn has a high concentration of each vowel.
You may find it helpful to use this article in conjunction with the article ABC: Listen to the Sounds of the Spanish Alphabet. There are links in the article to sound files for all 26 sounds of the Spanish alphabet, along with example words showing how the sounds are used in speech.
As you progress in your study of Spanish, you will need to face the details of grammar -- but they need not be painful. You can master the pronoun system, the past tenses and even the dreaded subjunctive!
>>> Lesson Plan: Sentences for Practicing Spanish Vowels
>>> Lesson Plan: How to Practice Spanish Vowel Sounds