Tip for Tuesday: Phonics Terminology


In preparation for our new phonics course released in the next few weeks, we’ll be dedicating Tip for Tuesday to explaining and exploring the content. This week we’re looking at the specific terminology to be used during sessions to make sure Buddies are using the same language across sessions to help Breadies familiarise with the process!  


If you haven’t already done so, you can watch Trudie’s excellent phonics series on our Youtube channel where she covers how to teach phonics to young Breadies and the different phases and sets.


So, what is phonics?


First introduced in 1655 by French mathematician Blaise Pascal, phonics,  from the Greek for ‘sound’, is the idea that words can be broken down into different sound units and looked at rather like a code. From this, students learning to read can easily spot repeating patterns in English and learn the spelling and vocalisation of each letter or combination of letters.


For example, by understanding the sounds: ‘s’ ‘a’ and ‘t’ (s/a/t), learners can compile these three sounds together to produce the word ‘sat’.


The word ‘phonics’ itself can be split into 6 units ‘ph / o / n / i / c / s’.


Since Pascal’s time, phonics has come in and out of fashion but many today accept it to be the best method of learning to read, write and pronounce. This method is widely used in the UK and around the world in language lessons and in a report published by the Department for Education and Skills in the UK government, synthetic phonics was found to “offer the vast majority of young children the best and most direct route to becoming skilled readers and writers” (p4). In the context of ELT learning, phonics also greatly improves speaking and pronunciation.



So what do we need to know as Buddies before teaching phonics?


There is some terminology that Buddies need to familiarise themselves with before the phonics series is released. It is important to note that some of the terminology used is specifically for Buddies and some for Breadies.


Buddy Terminology



Phonemes: Phonemes are the smallest sounds units that language can be divided into. There are 44 altogether, compared to the 26 letters of the alphabet. This can be anything from ‘a’ to the ‘th’ sound in ‘thick’.


  • Grapheme: Graphemes are the spelling of each phoneme. These can be further broken down into:


  • Trigraph: A trigraph is a sound spelt using three letters. This includes ‘igh’ ‘nth’ and ‘tch’

  • Split Digraph: Split digraphs are where the two letters that make up a digraph are separated by another letter, like a door between two people. This is very common with words ending in ‘e’, with a simple example being ‘ate’ with ‘a’ and ‘e’ being the digraph.


A longer word could be ‘hare’ or ‘bite’ with ‘I’ and ‘e’ being the digraph.


(photo from Kingsley St Johns Primary School: Phonics )



Tricky Words: These are exception words which do not follow the phonetic rules. Breadies will learn during the course for example, that the ‘ch’ in ‘school’ sounds like ‘k’, going against what was originally learnt.



CVC words (known as speed words to Breadies): CVC words follow the pattern of ‘consonant, vowel, consonant’. The simplest examples of CVC words include ‘cat’ ‘pot’ ‘leg’ and so on.


Graphemes of any length can be applied to CVC words, not solely individual letters, so words such as ‘chat’ ‘path’ and ‘wreck’ are all also included in this category.


Bready terminology


As you can imagine, young Breadies starting their English language journey may be perplexed by terms such as split digraph and CVC words, so it’s best to introduce a few key terms gradually throughout the course.

In Unit 1, Breadies can be introduced to the term tricky words, or words which do not follow the phonetic rules


By Unit 3, Breadies can be introduced to the term grapheme.


During Unit 4, CVC words can be introduced by the name speed words.



Phonics is an important life tool for both native and second language speakers, particularly when applied to reading and writing. By studying our phonics course, our youngest Breadies will be able to ground themselves in the basics of reading English in preparation for Picaro courses. Starting from no understanding of English, Breadies will first engage with different phonemes and will begin to understand how to read simple words and put their own words together.


Keep an eye out on the blog and our social media pages for more information on the course, and if you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or email us at socialmedia@iqbar.co.uk!



2019-02-13 04:07


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