What is phonics?

Teaching English reading using phonics involves relating certain rules about

English pronunciation:

Basic rules

    * Each letter is like an animal, which has a name and the sound(s) that it makes. e.g. 

A cat says "meow".

    * Each vowel has two sounds: one long and one short. 

The long sound is the same as its name.

The long sounds are in Ape, Eat, Eye, Oh, and You.

Their short equivalents are A (a as in at), E (e as in elm), I (i as in it),

O (o as in hop), and U (u as in up).

Every vowel has a third sound -- the schwa -- in an unstressed syllable.

The schwa is the most frequent vowel sound in English.

The 'a' in 'father' is different from the 'a' in 'cat'.

    * Each syllable is made by blending the sounds of each component. 

e.g. reading the word by adding one sound at a time, as in -e, -ed, bed.

    * When a single vowel letter is in the middle of a word (or syllable), 

it usually says its short sound. e.g. "Got", "Bed".

    * When a single vowel letter is in the end of a word (or syllable), 

it usually says its long sound (or its name.) e.g. "Go", "Be".

    * When two vowels go hand in hand in the same word (or syllable), the 

first vowel usually says its own name

(long sound) and the second vowel stays silent.

e.g. "Bake" (Ay sound + silent E), "Goal" (Oh sound + silent A), etc.

But there are many exceptions to these rules. See irregular vowels below.

Irregular vowels

    * Irregular vowels: Many combinations of letters do not follow the single 

or two vowel rules mentioned above.

These special combinations and sounds must be memorized.

          o IGH as in "High" and "Sight"
          o -NG as in "Sing", "Song", "Sung".
          o OST as in "Most" (but not "Lost" or "Cost"!) uses the long sound 

instead of the usual short sound.

          o OW has two different sounds as in "Low" and "Cow"
          o ED has three different sounds as in "Lifted", "Walked", "Played".
          o OI does not follow the two vowels rule, e.g. "Moist", "Boil".
          o Double O has two different sounds as in "Book" and "Loose".
          o OUS as in "Nervous".
          o AU as in "Fault", "Haul", etc.
          o -SION and -TION and -CIAN are pronounced as "shun".
          o OUGH has at least seven different sounds, e.g. in "bough", "cough", 

"hough", "tough", "thorough", "thought", and "through"

Sight words

    * Many words do not follow these rules; they are called "sight words". 

Sight words must be memorized since

the regular rules do not apply. e.g., "The", "Are", "You".

Phonics movies:


1. Did you study phonics in junior high school?

2. Do you think it would be better to teach phonics in junior high school? Why or why not?

3. Do you ever read "take" as "ta-ke" (or other words like this)?

It actually has been tried....SOUND-SPELLING HARMONY

WHY is English spelling so weird anyway?

One reason is the great vowel shift:

Great Vowel Shift

While we're at it let's learn Grimms Law too:

Grimms Law

	Phase	Change	Germanic examples	Non-Germanic examples

1. Proto-Indo-European voiceless stops change into Germanic voiceless fricatives.

        *p→f	English: foot 	        Latin: pēs, 

	*t→�	English: third  	Latin: tertius

	*k→h	English: hound  	Latin: canis, 

	*kʷ→hw	English: what, 	        Latin: quod

2. Proto-Indo-European voiced stops become voiceless.*

        *b→p	German: Pegel	        Latin: baculum

	*d→t	English: ten 	        Latin: decem

	*g→k	English: cold 	        Latin: gelū

	*gʷ→kw	English: quick 	Latin: vivus 'alive', 

3. Proto-Indo-European voiced aspirated stops lose their aspiration and change into plain voiced stops.

  • bʰ→b English: brother, Ancient Greek: φρατηρ

(phrātēr),Sanskrit: (bhrātā)

	*dʰ→d	English: door  	        Ancient Greek: θύρα (th�ra)

	*gʰ→g	English: goose   	Ancient Greek: χήν (khēn)