How to say the sounds
Spoken English is generally thought to use 44 sounds, or 'phonemes'. Twenty of these are vowel sounds and 24 are consonant sounds.
A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word
e.g. c- a -t in cat or sh-o-p in shop.
In some words we blend two or three single sounds and say them together very quickly as in bl, cr, dr, gl thr etc. Children need to understand that these count as separate sounds.
In other words we find digraphs. This is when two letters represent one new sound:
e.g. c and h saying ch as in chop
Or o and a saying o as in coat
Similarly a trigraph is when we have three letters representing one new sound:
e.g. a, i and r saying air in fair
Or i, g and h saying igh in light
We teach digraphs and trigraphs as single letters, and move to teaching joined cursive letters in Year 2.
Remember to pronounce the sounds carefully. Avoid temptation to lengthen sounds as this can really confuse children when they are trying to blend and segment when reading and writing.
Some children struggle with phonics if they consider each letter in a word as a separate sound.
e.g. b-o-a-t instead of b-oa-t
Or c-h-u-r-ch instead of ch-ur-ch
This is why it is vital that we help children to recognise digraphs and trigraphs and we have daily revision sessions in school to go over all the sounds.
It is also important that children learn the names of the letters. We teach them to distinguish between the number of sounds in a word and the number of letters
e.g. flower has 6 letters but 4 sounds f-l-ow-er
Tuesday has 7 letters but only 5 sounds t-ue-s-d-ay.
Children need to continuously revisit the sound patterns they have learnt to ensure that they are not just learning them for their weekly spelling tests. We need to make sure that the children retain the more complex sound patterns and apply these when they are reading and writing independently.
We often use the idea of sound buttons with the children. Give your child a word and ask them to write the sound buttons underneath. A small circle indicates a single sound and a larger oval represents a digraph or trigraph.
We also use phoneme frames as another strategy to help the children distinguish between different sounds in a word. One sound fits into a box for example:
Draw a phoneme frame if your child is struggling to spell a word. (Remember the number of boxes matches the number of sounds in a word and not the number of letters) Encourage your child to put in the sounds they already know, especially the first sound and the last sound.