InkedPhase 2 phonemes and explanation_LI

Unfogging Phonics

Learning how to read nowadays feels a million miles away from the way I learnt when I was at school; I remember learning the alphabet and having lists of words, but I don’t ever remember sounding a word out! In fact, I can’t recall a lot about the process at all!

Becoming a teacher made me really start to think about how children actually learn to read. Phonics began to become more important in the classroom and in the last few years it feels like everyone is talking about it, with a lot of technical language thrown in!

So, here is the first part of our guide to phonics – we’re going to be talking about just one little bit….

Cue – technical word…



The smallest unit of sound that can be made with either 1,2,3 or 4 letters

What does that mean?

So here are some examples – try them out… each one only makes one sound…

  1. a (a one letter phoneme)
  2. ch (a two letter phoneme – like in the word chair)
  3. igh (a three letter phoneme – like in the word light)
  4. ough (a four letter phoneme – like in the word cough)

Why is it even important?

Phonemes are like bricks; they allow us to build words and put them together in all sorts of different ways to make new words – that’s what makes them fun! Once you’ve learnt a few it’s easy to start making up your own words. So, if you learn the sounds…

s, a, t, p, i, n

you can make up loads of words; sat, pin, pit, in, it…..

This is why children don’t usually learn the alphabet in order these days.

But how you say them is important too…this is the moment to stop reading and have a look/listen to the video attached to this post – it explains the right way to say each of the sounds.

Each of the sounds is what we call a ‘pure sound’ that means it doesn’t have an ‘uh’ sound attached. Try saying ‘t’ – do you actually say ‘tuh’?

It’s important to keep each sound ‘pure’ because that makes it easier for children to put the sounds together into words.

Fun Activity for you to try….

When you’re talking to your child split a simple word up into the sounds…

“can you get your b-a-g please?”
“shall we pop to the sh-o-p?”
“can you point to your kn-ee-s?”

This will help them to hear the individual sounds which make up a word and start to blend it together.

Hope this begins to unscramble some of the fog around phonics – watch out for more blogs to explain more aspects of early language.