The IPA or International Phonetic Alphabet is an alphabet of sounds (not letters). It is used to show how to pronounce words.
Using the IPA in your class is a useful tool to give your students. It will help them understand the pronunciation of English words they find in the dictionary and also enables you to explain pronunciation quickly and efficiently to them.
The IPA does not necessarily need to be introduced in one go; some teachers will slowly introduce different characters on an as-needs basis. The most common sound in English is the schwa sound: /ə/. This occurs in words like
about – /əbəʊt/
america – /əmɛrɪkə/
Note how sounds are usually placed between sloping lines.
This sound symbol can, for example, be taught early on and then built upon with other IPA symbols as the need arises. For transcribing text into the IPA you can try the free PhoTransEdit software.
Many fonts do not support all the IPA characters and you may have difficulty getting them to show correctly in your word processor.
If this is the case you will need to download and install an IPA compatible font. There are several available and the IPA fonts page from the International Phonetic Association has more details on where to get them and how to install them.