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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.

List of the Phonograms

Here are the basic phonograms. Click on a letter tile to hear the sound.



How Phonograms Work

In spelling, each sound in a word is represented by a phonogram. Let's take 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 write down a phonogram: p a s t. That was an easy example. Here are some more examples:

  • The word big has three sounds (/b//ĭ//g/) and three phonograms (b, i, g).
  • The word bridge has four sounds (/b//r//ĭ//j/) and, therefore, four phonograms (b, r, i, dge).
  • The word high has two sounds (/h//ī/) and, therefore, two phonograms (h, igh).

So you can see that the number of letters in a word doesn’t necessarily correspond to the number of phonograms. Why? Because of the multi-letter phonograms. One sound is represented by one phonogram, but that phonogram may have two or more letters. 

Why Teach the Phonograms?

If a student knows the phonograms and which sounds they represent, reading and spelling are much easier. If he knows that the sound /j/ is spelled with dge after a short vowel, spelling the word bridge becomes simple. He does not need to remember b-r-i-d-g-e as a string of letters. Instead, each sound is simply represented by a phonogram.

How Do I Teach the Phonograms?

Phonogram cards are a great help in teaching reading and spelling. These flashcards are the most efficient way to teach your students the basic phonograms. The front of the card has the phonogram. This is the side you show your student.

dge-card-front-361x235.png The back of the card has information for you, the teacher. It shows the sound of the phonogram, along with a key word.

dge-card-back-361x235.png Following are the steps for teaching the phonograms. If you are using All About Reading or All About Spelling, these steps are included right in the lesson plans:

1. Determine which phonograms your student knows and which ones he needs to practice.

Here is a sample dialogue: "I want to see which of these cards you know, and which of them we should work on. We are going to sort them into two piles." Hold up Card 1. "Can you tell me what sound this letter makes?" If the student doesn't know, it may be that he doesn't understand what you are asking for, so tell him the answer for the first several cards. Go through the Phonogram Cards to see which ones you need to teach.

2. Teach three or four cards at a time with the following procedure:

  • Show the Phonogram Card.
  • Say the sound.
  • Have your student repeat the sound.

After several repetitions, see if the student can say the sound without your prompting. The goal is that you will flip through the flashcards and your student will be able to say the phonograms without pausing to think.

3. Review frequently.

After your student knows the phonograms, don't let him forget them! Quickly flip through the cards with him at the beginning of every lesson. For review purposes, sort the Phonogram Cards behind three dividers, as follows:

  • Phonogram Cards: Review
  • Phonogram Cards: Mastered
  • Phonogram Cards: Future Lessons

Cards that you are currently working with go behind the Review divider. Cards that the student knows "inside and out" go behind the Mastered divider. Occasionally go through the Mastered cards to make sure that they stay fresh in your student's mind. If your student hesitates on a Mastered card, pull that card out and add it to the Review deck for more practice. Cards that haven't been presented yet go behind the Future Lessons divider.

With these phonograms and some basic rules, reading and spelling are much easier!