All You Need to Know About Phonics and Phonemics in English - Orchids
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All You Need to Know About Phonemes and Phonics in English

All You Need to Know About Phonemes and Phonics in English

What is a Phoneme?

A phoneme is the smallest unit of speech that can differentiate one word from another in a particular language. When kids learn to read, they are also taught about pronunciation, which is defined by the concept of phonemes. Along with that, it guides which letter represents what sound. For example, “shop” contains three phonemes: sh-o-p.

Examples of Phonemes

Phoneme (Speech Sound)Examples
/b/big, rubber
/d/dog, add, filled
/f/fish, phone
/g/go, egg
/j/jet, cage, barge, judge
/k/cat, kitten, duck, school, occur, antique, cheque
/l/leg, bell
/m/mad, hammer, lamb
/n/no, dinner, knee, gnome
/p/pie, apple
/r/run, marry, write
/s/sun, mouse, dress, city, ice, science
/t/top, letter, stopped
/v/vet, give
/w/wet, win, swim
/y/yes, onion
/z/zip, fizz, sneeze, laser, is, was, please, Xerox, xylophone 
Phonemes Chart

What is Phonics?

Phonics is the method of reading and writing the sounds of individual letters first to combine the sounds of letters in simple words. This method illustrates the relationship between phonemes (the sounds of the spoken language) and graphemes (letter or groups of letters).

Examples of Phonics

Phonics implicates matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound of the letter k can be spelt as c, k, ck or ch.

Types of Phonics

There are four types of phonics:

Analogy Phonics

Analogy phonics is an approach to phonics that relies on using groups of similar (analogous) words to build a child’s reading vocabulary. For example, if a child knows the word “hat”, you can teach them the word “bat”.

Analytical Phonics

Analytic phonics refers to a general approach to teaching about reading at the word level, not at the sound (phoneme) level. Examples of Analytic Phonic Words:

Bet, Let, Met

Rat, Hat, Mat

Make, Take, Lake

Embedded Phonics

In embedded phonics, phonemes and graphemes are taught when they appear in teachable junctures in books. It emphasizes the importance of continuous word exposure and contextual learning. Instead of using planned teaching, it emphasizes learning to decode language while performing reading assignments.

Synthetic Phonic

Synthetic phonics is the most direct and structured method of phonics. It focuses on precise instruction of phonemes and combining them to construct words. Synthetic phonics instruction focuses on teaching each letter sound and lets students pronounce each letter or group of letters (like th and sh) one at a time before they try to put them back together into words. 

Difference Between Phonics and Phonemes in English

The fundamental concept of phonics involves the relationship between written letters, words, and their associated sounds. Phonics helps students to decode words by “sounding them out” based on the most familiar sound-spelling connections. The ability to interpret unfamiliar words is vital for learning to read.

A phoneme is similar but not the same. Phonics focuses on how sounds look in writing, while phoneme means understanding that each word comprises a series of sounds. Consequently, most phonics instruction is written, and most phoneme lessons are oral.

ABC Phonics for kids


Consonants Chart


Vowels Chart

Consonant Digraphs

Consonant Digraph Chart

Phonics Sentences for Kindergarten

There are many ways to practice reading sentence activities in kindergarten. Let’s start with some simple sentences.

  • Sight word fluency sentences

Some simple sentences often arrange the sight words in a predictable pattern, such as “I see a cat.” and “I see a pig”. Kids can practice decoding words within sentences while building their sight word fluency. 

  • Sentence scramble activities

As kids start feeling more comfortable with reading sentences, they start getting a feel for the natural rhythm of language and word order. It helps in improving reading fluency.

  • Reading practice for kindergarten

When kids begin to feel at ease with reading, they look for different and easy challenges at the start. As kids are always so excited to show off their reading skills, parents can use this to teach them more vocabulary.

Phonemic transcription examples

In phonemic transcription, each example gives two different sounds written with the same symbol. Eventually, the two sounds are the same phoneme.

  • The “p” sound in pin and spin, the word ‘spin’, is accompanied by more breathing.
  • The “w” sound in wine and twine, here the word ‘wine’ is voiced, and the word ‘twine’ is not.

How Many Phonemes are there in English?

There are 44 phonemes (word sounds) in English that make up the language. They’re divided into consonants, digraphs, “r-controlled” sounds, long vowels, short vowels, “oo” sounds, and diphthongs.

Phoneme Chart

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Graphemes?

A grapheme is a written symbol that denotes a sound (phoneme). It can be a single letter or a sequence of letters, such as ai, sh, igh, tch etc.

What is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to differentiate and change the speech (phonemes) that forms spoken words. For example, hearing /c/ and /a/ and /t/ in the word ‘cat’ requires phonemic awareness.

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