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The 44 English Phonemes

In the English Language there are more than 1,000,000 words, but within these words there are only 44 sounds.

/s/

/t/ /p/ /n/ /m/ /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/
/g/ /d/ /k/ /r/ /h/ /u/ /ai/ /ee/ /ie/
/b/ /f/ /l/ /j/ /v/ /oa/ /ue/ /oo/ /OO/
/w/ /ks/ /y/ /z/ /qu/ /ar/ /or/ /ow/ /oi/
/ch/ /sh/ /th/ /TH/ /ng/ /ul/ /er/ /ou/

Every word is made up of individual sounds called phonemes, if children can learn how to say these phonemes correctly and join them together,  then learning to read becomes a simple process for a young learner. Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skillfully.

The 44 English Phonemes

In the English Language there are more than 1,000,000 words, but within these words there are only 44 sounds.

Every word is made up of individual sounds called phonemes, if children can learn how to say these phonemes correctly and join them together,  then learning to read becomes a simple process for a young learner. Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skillfully.

Synthetic Phonics

Synthetic phonics is the modern approach in teaching reading and writing skills in the UK. Children are taught to read letters or groups of letters by saying the sound(s) they represent. The letter L, for example, sounds like /l/ as in lollipop.

Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 4 to 7.

Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment.

Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for a variety of 
reasons.

Children start to read words by first learning to recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes.

 /a/ as in ant
/i/ as in tin
/m/ as in Mr. Tim (mmm, not ‘muh)

Children start to read words by first learning to recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes.

 /a/ as in ant
/i/ as in tin
/m/ as in Mr. Tim (mmm, not ‘muh)

Next, they identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make.

/sh/ (ship)
/oo/ (spoon)
/ng/ (bang)

Next, they identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make.

/sh/ (ship)
/oo/ (spoon)
/ng/ (bang)

Then they learn to blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word. 

ship = ship
spoon = spoon
bang = bang

Then they learn to blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word. 

ship = ship
spoon = spoon
bang = bang

Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.

Blending

We combine sounds together to make words. For example, saying the sounds /m/oo/n/ fast enough and you should be able to hear the word moon. Students will be able to combine any number of sounds together to make words. If a child can independently blend then they can read.

m – oo – n = moon

Segmenting

The reverse of Blending, in Segmenting the student hears a whole word and then splits it up into the individual sounds (phonemes) that make it. For example, the word /fish/ is broken down into its component parts /f/i/sh/. As a result, students is able to spell words on their own.

 fish = f i sh
         . .  . 

Synthetic phonics is both fast and effective; letters are introduced quickly (two sound per week for most classes).

Week 1: s, a
Week 2: t, p
Week 3: i, n

How many words can you make with these letters: s, a, t, p, i, n ?

sat tap tin pan
nap sap tip pat
pin nip sip tan
pit nit ant

So, in only 3 weeks of teaching children can read write 15 words! Still unsure? Go to our Phonics Stages page and see for real how fast and effective Mr. Tim’s phonics programmes really are.