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How to Teach Phonograms

mother teaching phonograms to child

Understanding phonograms is vital to your child’s success in reading and spelling—but the thought of teaching them may seem intimidating. Fear not! Phonograms are actually very simple to understand and easy to teach.

Let’s start with a quick definition.

What Are Phonograms?

A phonogram is a letter or combination of letters that represent a sound. For example:

  • CK is a phonogram that says /k/ as in clock.
  • S is a phonogram that says /s/ as in sat or /z/ as in has.
  • OY is a phonogram that says /oi/ as in boy.

The word phonogram comes from Greek and is literally translated as the “written symbol for a sound.”

definition and pronunciation of phonogram

Why Should You Teach Phonograms?

Simply put, phonograms make learning to read and spell much easier!

Take a look at the word past. If you pronounce the word slowly to hear the individual sounds, you will hear four different sounds: /p//ă//s//t/. For each sound, we can write down a phonogram. This 10-second video shows exactly how this is done.

That was an easy example, but the same principle also applies to multisyllable words. Here’s the word winter.

As you can see, your child doesn’t need to remember w-i-n-t-e-r as a random string of letters. Instead, he can just segment the word and represent each sound with a phonogram.

Listen to the Phonograms with Our Free App

Just click a button below to hear the correct pronunciation of the phonograms.

(If you are on a slow internet connection, there may be a slight delay. The downloaded version of the app will not experience this delay.)

You can download the free app on your computer, tablet, or phone here.

The button colors match the colors of our letter tiles to reinforce learning, and the phonograms are arranged in logical groupings, matching the labels provided with the letter tiles.

Phonograms Are Like Building Blocks

Phonograms are the building blocks of almost every English word. In fact, a study of 17,000 words showed that the vast majority of words follow the regular phonogram sounds. Only 3% of the words are completely irregular (such as said and of).1 This means that there are very few words that must be learned through repetition and rote memorization.

Since phonograms represent sounds, the number of letters in a word doesn’t necessarily correspond to the number of phonograms. Here are some examples:

graphic showing that phonograms correspond with sounds

How to Teach Phonograms

If you’ve been hanging around our blog for a while, you know by now that we teach everything very incrementally, step-by-step. It would overwhelm most kids to have to learn all the phonograms at once, so we teach just a few phonograms at a time. Once your child has mastered those, we introduce a few more.

Flashcards (known as Phonogram Cards) are an efficient way to teach and review the phonograms, and we include them right in the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs.

The front of the card shows the phonogram. This is the side you show your student.

front of DGE phonogram card

The back of the card has information for you, the teacher. It shows the sound of the phonogram, along with a key word.

back of DGE phonogram card

If you are using All About Reading or All About Spelling, these steps are included right in the lesson plans.

  1. Show the Phonogram Card.
  2. Demonstrate the sound.
  3. Have your student repeat the sound.
  4. After several repetitions, see if the student can say the sound without your prompting.

The goal is to flip through the flashcards and have your student say the phonograms without pausing to think.

Organizing Your Phonogram Review Cards

To stay organized, sort the Phonogram Cards behind three dividers:

  • “Review” divider: Cards that your child is currently learning go here.
  • “Mastered” divider: This is where you’ll put the Phonogram Cards that your child knows inside and out.
  • “Future Lessons” divider: This is the parking spot for cards that haven’t been presented yet.
All About Reading review box with dividers and cards

And this is important: after your child knows the phonograms, don’t forget to review! Quickly flip through a handful of cards at the beginning of every lesson to keep them fresh in your child’s mind.

Download These 4 Free Printable Games to Practice Phonograms

There’s no better way to review phonograms than by playing a game! Choose one of these games (or all four!) to make practice time go by more quickly.

preview of Try Not to Moo game

Try Not to Moo

Try Not to Moo is an effective and super silly new way to practice phonograms that makes review time extra me-moo-rable! Designed to be used in conjunction with All About Reading or All About Spelling, this activity can also be used independently.

Get instant access to Try Not to Moo!

Click to download Swatting Phonograms activity

Swatting Phonograms

If your phonograms review and practice sessions are falling a little flat, here’s a great hands-on activity that you can slip in whenever you have a few extra minutes. It’s so much fun your child might not even realize he’s practicing!

Check out our super fun (and kind of gross) Swatting Phonograms activity!

preview of Fun with Phonograms Game

Fun with Phonograms

Playing games is a great way to reinforce learning with children, and our easy-to-assemble printable game boards give you five different ways to have fun with phonograms! It’s as easy as 1-2-3—just download, print, and play!

Get instant access to Fun with Phonograms!

Phonogram Jungle Bingo Game

Phonogram Jungle Bingo

It’s easy to review phonograms when you have a great game to play! And who doesn’t love a good game of Bingo? Just print our jungle-themed bingo boards and grab your phonogram cards. You’re ready to go!

Download the PDF for Phonogram Jungle Bingo!

The Bottom Line for Teaching Phonograms

With phonograms, reading and spelling are much easier! Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • An understanding of phonograms is vital to your child’s success in reading and spelling.
  • Phonograms are simple to understand and easy to teach.
  • Tools like the Phonogram Cards, the Phonogram Sounds App, and simple games are a great way to help your child master the phonograms.
  • Review is essential!

Was this post on phonograms helpful to you? Let me know in the comments below! And then download our “20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling” for even more great information!


20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling

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Tee

says:

Thank You I’m new to homeschooling my kids and this is such helpful information

Prisca

says:

Very informative

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Prisca.

Merlissa Supersad-Reviero

says:

This was very informative!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Merlissa.

J

says:

Looking forward to more great ideas for teaching reading and spelling.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you.

roberta

says:

love this Thanks.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Roberta!

Karen Alexander

says:

Excellent, thank you so much. I will try these ideas in class tomorrow.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I hope the ideas go over well in your class, Karen!

Roslyn Ferres

says:

The explanation of the unfamiliar word “phonogram” is an easy to remember and meaningful one. I like its simplicity. To explicitly demonstrate why we need to learn our phonograms and how it helps with spelling and reading success, gives purpose to the explanation. Also the hear, see and do approach to the learning is appealing to more than one sense. It all combines to emphasise good teaching practice.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Roslyn. It’s good to know this blog post is helpful and informative in explaining phonograms and their importance.

Sinah

says:

Love your site, it’s very helpful

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Sinah! I’m pleased to hear you have found the site so helpful.

Akshay Mote

says:

Yes3

Sarah

says:

I am learning the phonograms along with my student, who is dyslexic, and English is not her first language. I love the games! We are working on the All About Spelling and I am hopeful that this will make English manageable for her. Reading the blog keeps me motivated and I am sure we will see results! Thanks for all the tips. I feel supported in this endeavor, not just a customer who buys a product and that is the end of the contact. I really appreciate it!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Oh, Sarah! I’m so pleased to hear that you feel supported! We definitely want to help parents and teachers feel that way and it is wonderful to know we have been successful with at least one person. Thank you so much for letting us know!

cyndi

says:

These simple lessons are amazing. My non-reader became an avid reader without even realizing he was learning how to read! He just had fun. Thank you All About Learning Press.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I love that your child “just had fun” and became an avid reader, Cyndi! What a great way to learn!

A.

says:

Great ideas!

Jessica R

says:

This idea helps me integrate articulation therapy with my daughter too! Thanks

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jessica!

Rebecca

says:

Thanks for the information. I hope to reach my second son to read as well as his big brother. I’m new to learning about your materials. Thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Rebecca. Let me know if you have questions about placement or anything else. I’m happy to help!

Kerstin

says:

The program’s teaching methods make so much sense. I’d love to try it out with my 5 year and 3 1/2 year old granddaughters.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Kerstin! Let me know if you have questions about placement or anything else.

Christina S.

says:

I really want to teach my daughter to read with phonics, but it does seem intimidating. I’m hoping the AAR programs help me through it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Christina,
All About Reading is designed to be Easy to Teach. However, if you have questions or concerns, please let me know.

Dee L

says:

We are planning to start AAR1 soon. My daughter has some experience with phonograms through Montessori and we are excited to get started with this program. Thanks for the explanation about phonograms.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Dee! If you have any questions as you begin All About Reading, just let me know.

Priya

says:

Thank you for the useful info.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Priya.

Ron Ablang

says:

This is hard.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry, Ron. Is there something specific you are finding difficult or need help with?

Glenda

says:

I love all the extras that we get by following All About Reading. In fact, I haven’t found 1 thing I haven’t loved about this program and it’s developer. I only wish that I knew these things or could have had these resources many years earlier. My severely dyslexic 10 y. o. grandson’s response upon reading his first story level 1, was priceless. His face all alight, he closed the book, hugged it tightly to himself and exclaimed “ I’m gonna take this book to my room. !”

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It was wonderful to read your grandson’s response to the first story, Glenda! Heartwarming! I’m so pleased that All About Reading is helping him.

Andrea D

says:

It just makes sense. Which is probably why this program has been such a hit in our house!

Christine Tipton

says:

This is my first year using this program. We are using Level 1 and Level 3! We are all very excited about this program. It is so hands on and fun!!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m pleased to hear that All About Reading is working so well for you this year, Christine!

Carol B

says:

Always good ideas and games to make learning fun! Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Carol!

Dhivya

says:

Wooow wonderful blog about to teach how to read using phonograms. I am new to teach readng for my kid and this blog is crisp and easily understandable nd easily can be implemented through okay in the way kids can understand. Thank you so much.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re so welcome, Dhivya! I’m glad this is so helpful for you.

Cherry

says:

Thank You for these free activities, a big help indeed. God bless.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Cherry. I’m happy these will be a help to you.

Rosella Balingit

says:

Hi , I am a SPED Masters Student in the Philippines , and I am interested to use your materials for my study. How can I contact you? Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, please contact us, Rosella. Our email is [email protected].

Genevieve

says:

We just started AAR level 1, and we’re enjoying it so much! My six-year-old has been struggling to master the basic letter sounds for a long time… One day he’ll have a sound down and the next day he won’t. Would you just recommend a ton of repetition with different games? Or is there anything else we should be doing? He’s really good at blending, but often forgets one of the phonograms in a word, which has really held us up from getting rolling with reading.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Genevieve,
I’m sorry your son is struggling with the letter sounds. I do have a couple of recommendations.

First, you are probably already doing this, but just to be sure, review the phonogram sounds daily, 5 days a week. Students that struggle with memory need frequent reviewing to keep knowledge in their memories. You can use the games here, review with the phonogram cards, and also review using the letter tiles. Keep reviewing even after he seems to get it down until at least a full week passes, and he still knows them after a Monday. Then, any time he hesitates or is unsure about a phonogram while sounding out a word, put the phonogram back into daily review for at least another week. Check out our How to Make Reading and Spelling “Stick” blog post.

Second, only work on three or four new phonograms at a time. Do not move past lesson 1 until he has those four phonograms down well. Not necessarily perfectly, but well enough that adding four more in lesson 2 doesn’t cause a problem. Our Pre-reading level works on letter sounds, so going over three or four per lesson in All About Reading level 1 is typically review for students. If you find your child finds it difficult to master four letter sounds per lesson, you may need to stop All About Reading level 1 until he learns the first sound of each letter. Check out our How the “Funnel Concept” Affects Learning blog post.

We have a free Help Your Child’s Memory ebook that I think you may find helpful.

If you are already implementing these, or if you try them for a couple of weeks and don’t notice improvement, please let me know.

Pegi Merriman

says:

Thank you for these amazing phonogram games! I have found so many lessons to reinforce with these. “Swat!” and “Jungle Bingo” are favorites!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Pegi! Thank you for letting us know that you’re enjoying these games.

Rebekah Elefante

says:

Thank you for this! We are just starting out with phonograms and this will help her a lot in learning.

Rebecca

says:

Great tips