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Beginners Phonics

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Oh my, learning to read got sooo complicated!

Most of us mums learnt with “look & say”.

Very old school!!

So, whether our kids are beginning school or we’re teaching them at home, all this phonics stuff can be super confusing!!

I went searching for phonics apps for my 4 year old a few months back and just didn’t understand most of the lingo :-/

But, having put myself on a beginners crash course in everything phonics, we finally chose a program – We plumped for Reading Eggs – and we’re loving it!

Once you’ve got your head round the basic phonics lingo it’s really not too complicated. And it’s then easy to access loads of brilliant phonics games and other materials on Pinterest and sites like Teachers Pay Teachers.

So here’s my super quick beginners guide to phonics to get you started!

Beginners Guide to Phonics

1. Sounds

English has 44 basic sounds made up of 1 or more letters.

The 44 sounds are typically taught in the following order: s a t p i n m d g o c k/ck e u r h b f l j v w x y z qu ch sh th ng ai ee igh/ie oa oo (short as in book) oo (long as in cool) ar or ur/er ow/ou oi air ear ure

Sounds are not syllables. Syllables can be made up of more than 1 sound.

2. Phoneme

Sounds are also known as phonemes.

Some sounds that frequently go together e.g. br appear to be phonemes, but are actually consonant blends of two separate phonemes, i.e. b and r, because the mouth makes two separate shapes to say them.

3. Grapheme

Graphemes are the actual letters which represent a phoneme or sound.

4. Blending

Children learn to read with phonics by blending sounds together in order to make words.

5. Synthesising

Blending is usually known as synthesising in the UK.

6. Decoding

Decoding is the ability to read a word regardless of whether you know what it means.

7. Word Families

Word families are phonemes or sounds that frequently go together e.g. at, ot, it.

Some phonics experts warn about rushing too quickly into word families as it means children do not get enough practice blending their separate sounds.

Others say they keep early readers motivated by moving quickly on to words & sentences.

8. Segmenting

Segmenting is breaking words into sounds to work out how to spell them when writing.

9. Nonsense Words

Some phonics programmes include made up words to help kids practice segmenting words. Some teachers say they confuse more able readers who put a high value on meaning

10. Long Vowels

Vowels that sound like their capital name e.g. A in bake or E in bee.

11. Short Vowels

Vowels that sounds like their lower case name e.g. a in cat or e in bed.

12. High Frequency Words

Words that occur very frequently in English e.g. the, a, it. Children will read more fluently if they can recognise these quickly as whole words.

13. Sight Words

Words that children recognise quickly as whole words. Includes high frequency words but also other words. Children may learn irregular words that can not be sounded out as sight words.

As their reading progresses children recognise by sight words they previously blended.

14. Blended Phonics / Synthetic Phonics

An approach to phonics that focuses on blending sounds and segmenting words rather than context and meaning of words. Some teachers who support a whole language approach to reading are critical of the lack of attention given to context and meaning and believe phonics should not be used exclusively.

Synthetic phonics is the nationally recommended approach to teaching reading in the UK.

15. Dolch Sight Words

A list of 220 words that Dr Edward Dolch thought were most frequently used when teaching in the 1930s. The list was created before the development of phonics and some teachers are sceptical about its value.

16. Fry Sight Words

A list of 1,000 words Dr Edward Fry thought children should learn by sight to be fluent readers.

17. Graph

A sound or phoneme made up of one letter

18. Digraph

A sound or phoneme made up of two letters e.g. ck, qu, sh, ch, th

19. Trigraph

A sound or phoneme made up of three letters e.g. igh, air, ure

20. C-V-C

C-V-C words are simple words made up of consonant-vowel-consonant sounds.

21. C-V-C-e

C-V-C words with an e on the end which turns the vowel into a long vowel e.g. cake.

22. V-C-e

A sound pattern in which the e after the consonant lengthens the previous vowel e.g. delete.

23. Variant Vowels

Variant vowels are vowel sounds that can be spelt differently e.g. ow in cow and ou in house.

24. Look and Say

A traditional approach to reading where children recognised whole words shapes and learnt them by sight. Words they could not recognise they broke down into syllables.

Jennifer Hughes

Sunday 9th of February 2014

Pinning this from the weekly Kids Co-Op party, which I also host on Generation iKid!

Jennifer @ Generation iKid

Shannen Espelien

Tuesday 4th of February 2014

Wow, this was really helpful! When I taught my teen how to read about 10 years ago, I was so overwhelmed with trying to think all the way back to letter and sounds and breaking everything down. I wish I had more of a guide back then! These terms are really helpful, thank you!

Hopped over from You're Gonna Love it Tuesday!


Sunday 2nd of February 2014

Those are super tips. I always wondered what Dolch words were.

Debbie Jackson

Wednesday 29th of January 2014

Wow, you have a lot of good info here! Love the link up, too! Thanks for sharing at Mom's Library!

Alice Emma Thompson

Thursday 30th of January 2014

So glad you found it helpful Debbie x

Jelli B.

Wednesday 29th of January 2014

Gosh, I don't remember most of these terms. Homeschooling sure can make you feel dumb sometimes :) Thanks for the helpful tips and reading eggs recommendation, Alice.

Alice Emma Thompson

Thursday 30th of January 2014

I think it's just that phonics got so complicated with linguistic terms that you can't see the wood from the trees.

Have been a bit nervous about recommending anything in particular as I think reading programs are partly a question of personal taste but have been absolutely wowed by how well my daughter has done with Reading Eggs in a short time. And she just loves collecting all the eggs :-) xx