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Spelling and reading obviously go hand in hand. Initially children will learn the basic letter sounds but as there are over 40 sounds in English to be made from letters and combinations of letters it can be difficult to know where to start. In school sounds are generally taught in groups of letters but before I list the groups with examples I think it is best to go through some of the terminology you may have heard your children use. These words seem very adult for 5-7 year olds to learn but as usual most children take them on board and don't bat an eyelid!

  • Phoneme - a single sound made by a letter or combination of letters.
  • Graph - a single sound made by 1 letter.
  • Digraph - a single sound made by 2 letters e.g. sh.
  • Trigraph - a single sound made by 3 letters e.g. igh as in night.
  • Quadgraph - a single sound made by 4 letters e.g. ough as in bought.

All sounds a bit technical doesn't it but don't dwell too much on the technicalities, the important thing is that children learn to use their phonic knowledge to help them spell words and read.

Listed below are the 7 sound groups together with word examples and it is recommended that they are taught in this order. 

Yellow = beginnings, green = middle blue = endings

1. s, a, t, p, i, n  - s as in sat, a as in at, t as in tap, p as in pan, i as in it, n as in  nap.

2. c, k, ck, e, h, r, m, d  - c as in cat, k as in kit, ck as in back, e as in end, h as in hat, r as in rat, m as in man, d as in dog.

3. g, o, u, l, f, b  - g as in got, o as in orange, u as in up, l as in lid, f as in fan b as in bat.

4. ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or  - ai as in rain, j as in jet, oa as in boat, ie as in pie, ee as in seed, or as in fork.

5. z, w, ng, v, short oo, long oo  - z as in zap, w as in wig, ng as in sing, short oo as in book, long oo as in moon.

6. y, x, ch, sh, voiced th, unvoiced th  - y as in yellow, x as in box, ch as in chop, sh as in shop, voiced th as in them, unvoiced th as in bath.

7. qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar  - qu as in queen, ou as in cloud, oi as in oil, ue as in clue, er as in mother, ar as in car.

Those are the 40+ phonemes in the English language.

The vowel phonemes have alternative spellings and children need to be able to differentiate between them. Regional and International dialects can make a difference to the sound of a word and how children will hear the phonemes when it is spoken. For example path can be pronounced with the 'a' as in cat or as an 'ar' as in car. This has to be taken into consideration.

Same sound different spelling

er er mother, father, slipper
ir skirt, shirt, bird
ur churn, turn, burn


oi oi soil, foil, oil
oy boy, toy, joy
or or for, torn, worn
al walk, talk, cork
au August, caught, taught
aw saw, law, paw
ou ou house, loud, proud
ow town, cow, now
Long a ai main, brain, rain
a-e date, late, drape
ay say, play, clay


Long e ee week, weed, need
ea dream, read, beat


Long i ie pie, die, tie
i-e bite, lime, side
igh sigh, high, night
y try, cry, sly


Long o oa coat, boat, toad
o-e cone, bone, home
ow glow, follow, snow


Short oo oo took, look, book
u pull, put, 


Long oo oo boot, pool, tooth
ue clue, blue, 
u-e rule, June, pure
ew new, flew, crew
Long u ue cue, clue, glue
u-e cute, flute, tune
ew blew, few, stew


Well that's the basics there are of course always exceptions to the rules but these have to be accepted as such and just learnt.



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