Ai, ay, what did you say? How to pronounce the phonemes (sounds).

Updated: May 5, 2020

I can still remember my first ever phonics course from over 10 years go. They wrote sets of letters on the board and asked us if we knew what sounds they made.

I remember thinking pleeease don't ask me! I had grown up on Letterland and all I knew was "ah, buh, cuh". I had no idea what sounds letters made when they were put together! How was I ever going to teach Phonics to children?!

That moment is one of the main reasons I run Mini Writers Club. Every year, I have a new set of children and parents sat in front of me, who are possibly feeling that same feeling. Phonics is a code. Once we learn what the symbols mean we can crack reading and writing.

If you were also part of the Letterland generation, forget everything you were taught! The sounds should be pure, which means we need to say them without adding the 'uh' sound at the end. This will make it easier for your child to blend the sounds together to make a word. If you find it tricky, try whispering the sound because it makes it harder to add the 'uh'. The video below models how to pronounce pure sounds.

Children will begin to learn digraphs (two letters) and trigraphs (three letters) where the letters now work together to make a new sound. The Teach your Monster to Read website have a fantastic set of digital flashcards that contain all of the Phase 2, 3, 4 and 5 sounds. You can click on any of the graphemes (written letters which represent a sound) and hear the phoneme (sound made by one or more letters).

Many schools use Phonics schemes such as Read, Write, Inc or Jolly Phonics which have rhymes, pictures and actions to help children to remember the sounds. It is worth asking your child's school which scheme they use and having a copy of the rhymes at home. I haven't added any rhymes or pictures to the flashcards in the Phonics Box so that they can be used to support whichever scheme your child's school uses. Some schemes teach the sounds in a different order. The sounds in the links in the blog post and in the Phonics Box follow the Government's Letters and Sounds phonics guidance.

Do you pronounce any of the sounds differently where you live? The video and links are based on standard English pronunciation, so some of them may be pronounced slightly differently in regional accents. Let me know in the comments.


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