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.
A phonogram is a letter or combination of letters that represent a sound. For example:
The word phonogram comes from Greek and is literally translated as the “written symbol for a sound.”
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.
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.)
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 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:
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.
The front of the card shows the phonogram. This is the side you show your student.
The back of the card has information for you, the teacher. It shows the sound of the phonogram, along with a key word.
If you are using All About Reading or All About Spelling, these steps are included right in the lesson plans.
The goal is to flip through the flashcards and have your student say the phonograms without pausing to think.
To stay organized, sort the Phonogram Cards behind three dividers:
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
With phonograms, reading and spelling are much easier! Here are a few things to keep in mind:
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!
1. Hanna, P.R., Hanna, J.S., Hodges, R.E., & Rudorf, H. (1966). Phoneme-grapheme correspondences as cues to spelling improvement. Washington, DC: United States Office of Education Cooperative Research.