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Understanding phonograms helps readers and writers decode words and spell words correctly.

In this lesson, we will learn how phonograms are combined to create words.

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Reading Processes

When you are reading, writing, or spelling, there are several processes that take place at once. You put together letter sounds to create words while using what you already know about the way sentences are put together and the meaning of words to make sense out of the words you decode. Each word you decipher is made up of phonograms. Let’s learn more about phonograms.

Definition of Phonogram

What are phonograms? Phonograms are the letter symbols that comprise a sound. Phonograms may be made up of one letter or letter teams.

For example, the /b/ in the word ‘boy’ is made up of a single letter ‘b.’ However, the /ch/ in the word ‘chip’ is comprised of a letter team ‘ch’ that come together to make a single sound.Letter teams may be consonant teams, such as /ck/ in ‘duck’, or they may be vowel teams, such as the ‘ai’ in ‘pail.’ Letter teams also represent the ‘r-controlled vowels,’ such as /er/ in ‘bird.

‘ Letter teams may represent irregular sounds as well, such as ‘ci’ that contains the /sh/ in ‘mortician.’Every sound within a word has a phonogram to represent it. For example, in the word ‘rip,’ you hear three individual sounds (/r/-/i/-/p/), which are represented by three phonograms (r-i-p). However, in the word ‘right,’ you also hear three individual sounds (/r/-/i/-/t/) that are represented by the phonograms (r-igh-t). The number of phonograms matches the number of sounds, but does not necessarily match the number of letters that are used to create that sound.

Understanding phonograms makes decoding and spelling words much easier. Let’s review some phonograms you should learn.

Examples of Phonograms

We will start with letter phonograms. Each of the letters of the alphabet represents at least one phonogram; however, some letters represent more than one phonogram.

Here are a few irregularities:

  • Each vowel has both a long and a short form.
  • The letter ‘c’ can be used to represent the /k/ or the /s/.
  • The letter ‘g’ can be used to represent the /g/ or the /j/.
  • The letter ‘s’ can be used to represent the /s/ or the /z/.
  • The letter ‘q’ can be used to represent the /k/ or the /kw/. When it represents the /kw/, it is spelled ‘qu.

  • The letter ‘y’ can be used to represent a consonant or a vowel.

Now we will look at the consonant teams. The following letter teams are phonograms that create a unique sound:

ch chair
ck check
dge bridge
gn reign
nk bank
ph phone
sh ship
tch catch
th the
wh white
wr write
ch ck dge gn kn ng nk ph sh tch th wh wr

Let’s look at the vowel teams. The following may be paired to create vowel sounds:

ai air
au aught
ay way
ea eat
ee peep
ei rein
oa boat
oe toe
oi boil
oo book
oy boy
ui juice
ai au ay ea ee ei oa oe oi oo oy ui

Lastly, let’s look at the combination of consonants and vowels that make irregular sounds:

aw away
eigh eight
ew dew
igh bright
ough thought
ow cow
aw eigh ew igh ough ow

Lesson Summary

Phonograms are the letter or letters that form the individual sounds that are heard in words. Some phonograms are represented by a single letter, while others are represented by letter teams.

Letter teams may be consonant teams, vowel teams, or a combination of consonants and vowels that make irregular sounds.

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