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Phonemes and Graphemes

Has your child come home from school speaking a different language yet? Phonemes, graphemes, CVC words... Schools teach children to use the technical vocabulary for phonics terms. Here is a quick guide to explain phonemes and graphemes and how to remember which one is which!

Phoneme - the smallest unit of sound within a word.
Grapheme - a letter or group of letters that represent a phoneme.


There are 44 phonemes (sounds) in the English language and 26 letters (a-z) which can be used to represent them. When letters are used to represent sounds they are called grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPC).

The phonemes (sounds) can be represented by individual letters or groups of letters (graphemes). The phonics flashcards use dots to show where 1 letter is representing a sound and a line to show where 2/3 letters are working together to make 1 sound.

The word sip can be broken up into 3 phonemes (sounds) e.g. s-i-p. Each sound is represented by 1 letter.

The word ship can also be broken up into 3 phonemes (sounds) e.g. sh-i-p. This is because the first sound is represented by 2 letters (digraph).

The same phoneme (sound) can be represented by different graphemes (letters) e.g. c, k and ck all represent the same sound. They can sound the same but look different!

Different phonemes (sounds) can be represented by the same grapheme (letters) e.g. snow and cow both contain ow but it makes a different sound in each word. They can look the same but sound different!

Children learn to recognise and recall the GPCs to help with reading and writing. GPCs are first introduced during Phase 2 which is taught in Reception. During Phase 1 children focus on sounds rather than letters.

Head to the Pre-Readers Club for Phase 1 activities and the Phonics Club for games to help your child with phonics, reading and spelling.


Reception sound cards:

Year 1 sound cards:


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