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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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Wiebke

says:

We just started with phonograms and are already stuck. My son struggles with letters that have more than one sound and it is getting frustrating for him. I will download the freebies and hope they help to make learning more fun.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wiebke,
All About Reading starts with just the most common sound of each letter, and after the student is sounding out simple words easily, then starts slowly teaching the remaining sounds. By the time the student finishes Level 1, they have learned all the sounds of all the letters. However, many children need to continue to review those phonograms regularly for a year or more before they are fully mastered.

If you would like more help or have questions, please let me know.

Wiebke

says:

Yes, I would love more assistance.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sure thing, Wiebke.

Work on one letter for as long as it takes for him to master that one letter. You could do alphabetical order, or you could start with the first letter of his name. Do activities focused on that letter. Check out the many free Letter Learning activity downloads we have on our blog.

Write the letter in Salt Trays or other stuff like shaving cream, paint, chalk on the sidewalk, whatever. Have him say the letter sounds as he writes the letter. Be sure to have him say the sounds in the order given in this blog post. They are ordered in that way so that the most common sound is first, then the next most common, and so on. Always using the same order helps with memory, and also lets him know which sound to try first, then second, and so on when he is unsure which sound a letter may use in a word.

Do all of this and more for days on end, until he can write the letter easily when you say the sound and can say the sounds easily when you show the letter.

Only then start learning a second letter. BUT review the previous letter daily. Have him form the new letter while saying the sounds in dough or write it on the window or whatever multiple times a day, but also have him write the previous letter and say its sounds a couple of times each day. Again, keep working on the new letter until he can write it easily when you say the sounds and can say the sounds easily when you show the letter.

Do this for each new letter, taking as much time as needed to master each letter, and reviewing all the previous letters daily. In time, some of the previous letters will get really easy. As you near the end of the alphabet, you can try not reviewing every letter every day. But be sure to review every letter at least a couple times a week. At any time, if he has difficulty with a letter, it should go back into daily review for at least a week, preferably two.

This incremental, mastery-based, ongoing review approach will help any student master letter and phonogram sounds. The key is one-at-a-time and then review, review, review.

I’d love to hear how it goes. Just know that your son isn’t unique in this struggle.

Johnnas Sabarei

says:

Thank you, the hints will surely be helpful. May I ask if a sample lesson plan on phonograms can be shared.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Johnnas,
We have samples of multiple lessons from every level All About Reading and All About Spelling. You can see them here.

Both programs introduce new phonograms slowly, so you won’t find a sample lesson of a lot introduced all at once, however. Still, they will give you a great overview on how to teach a new phonogram to a student.

Elizabeth

says:

I am a middle school reading teacher and I think these tips will be very helpful.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad these will be helpful for you, Elizabeth! Thank you.

Melissa

says:

Is there somewhere that I can purchase the phonogram review cards ?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
Yes! We have a complete set of Phonogram Cards available for purchase. The contains all the phonograms on the app, plus rh, mb, gu, gh, and augh.

Note, each level of All About Reading or All About Spelling includes Phonogram Cards for the phonograms taught in that level. If you are using or plan to use either program, you will not need to purchase a set of Phonogram Cards separately.

Melisaa

says:

Thank you ! Where exactly do I find the link to purchase the phonogram cards ? I’m having a hard time finding them. I’m planning on purchasing one of the spelling kits but I didn’t see where to purchase the cards. Thanks again !

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry I wasn’t clear, Melissa. I provided the link in my previous reply. Here it is more clear, https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/phonogram-cards/

However, since you plan on using All About Spelling, I do not recommend purchasing the Phonogram Cards. The cards you need will be included in the All About Spelling package.

Ntheno

says:

Morning
I am loving what I see I know is going to be helpful to my son.Please keep sharing your free printable materials.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Ntheno! We will keep sharing great content including free printables. You may wish to sign up for our free weekly email newsletter to be sure to not miss out on new materials.

Salome

says:

Love the ideas already. I’m going to try it with my six year old and my 4th grade learners

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad these ideas will be helpful!

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.