1

“Civilizing the Barbarians” Course

Amazon’s A9.com has published a fascinating course on Western literature called, “Civilizing the Barbarians.” It’s available on YouTube as a series of 17 video lectures by Sr. Principal Engineer, Alexander Stepanov.

Stepanov says that you don’t have to read a lot of books to understand Western civilization. You just have a read a few, carefully. The guide to his course offers a short canon of literature for careful reading.

The course’s short canon includes:

Homer
  • The Iliad
  • The Odyssey
Plutarch
  •     Parallel Lives
Plato
  • Symposium: On love
  • Apology, Crito, Phaedo: Trial, imprisonment, and death of Socrates
  • Gorgias: On justice
  • Republic
Euclid
  • The Elements
Bible
  • Old Testament
    • Genesis
    • Exodus
    • Samuel 1 and 2
    • Kings 1 and 2
    • Jonah
  • New Testament
    • Luke
    • Acts
Shakespeare

Leave a comment if you’ve read most of these. This list is short enough to be very approachable.
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Nonfiction and reality-based fiction picture books we’ve been reading

In July, I started an Amazon wishlist of nonfiction and reality-based fiction picture books that I wanted to read to my 5-year-old daughter. When I started the list, I thought it would be hard to find great books in these categories for her age. Wow, was I wrong. The nonfiction and reality-based fiction picture books available today are plentiful and stunning. My wishlist now holds 989 titles, and it’s still growing.

Here’s what we’ve read so far:

  • I Want to Be an Astronaut by Byron Barton – The idea of anti-gravity caught my daughter’s attention. I hope to follow up on the spark with a related title.
  • Train by Elisha Cooper – I love the way the book transitions from talking about one type of train to the next. The illustrations are delightful!
  • Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell – This is a great story about the life cycle of a pumpkin. It inspired us to put a jack-o-lantern in our garden to observe. This is currently free on kindleunlimited.
  • The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow – We loved how the pages alternate between all text and gorgeous, 2-page illustrated spreads. This makes good practice for building up to chapter books, and can be used as a wordless picture book with younger audiences.
  • Armadillo Trail: The Northward Journey of the Armadillo by Stephen R. Swinburne – This takes a close look at the life of the armadillo. My daughter likes the part with the armadillo babies.
  • The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins – It’s pretty common to see deer where we live, so this book served as a reminder to make it special when we see these beautiful creatures.
  • Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey – There’s a lot to spark wonder for our natural world in this one.
  • No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart – This is good for reinforcing the lifecycle of a tree. It does have bookworms talking in the margins, which isn’t very “based in reality.” However, my daughter liked the bookworms and the rest of the book was excellent nonfiction.
  • People by Peter Spier – This book provides an endless source of conversation topics.
  • A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry and Marc Simont – This book helps inspire kids to plant a tree. It would make an especially good read for Arbor Day.
  • The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot July 25, 1909 by Alice and Martin Provensen – This is an inspiring story of trial and error.
  • A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road by Bonnie Christensen – This is a great story to help develop a child’s interest in history.
  • American Boy: The Adventures of Mark Twain – Our library has a bronze statue of Mark Twain out front. Now, every time they see the statue, they can remember some of the details of his life.
  • That’s Papa’s Way by Kate Banks – My daughter could relate to how the girl in the story is a big sister to a little brother.
  • Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! by Jonah Winter – This is not entirely based in reality. Young Pablo jumps out of a painting in the beginning. However, it is a fitting biography for someone who said, “Everything you can imagine is real.”
  • The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert – The beginning of the book warns, “Don’ t read this book unless you love books and art.” My daughter responded, “I just love art.” We read it anyway and both thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Wild Fibonacci by Joy N. Hulme – This book has something for the math lover and for the animal lover. Bonus if you love both those topics!
  • Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints by Millcent E. Selsam – This wonderful book encourages kids to be nature detectives and gives them some knowledge to do so.
  • Strange Creatures: The Story of Walter Rothschild and His Museum by Lita Judge – This one about one of the world’s richest kids commissioning animals to be brought to him from around the world was a little hard to relate to. I wanted to love it but didn’t.
  • On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne – This book is great at captivating even the youngest readers. My kids especially liked seeing Einstein as a baby.
  • Papa is a Poet by Natalie S. Bober – Lovely story. Kids with some prior exposure to poems by Robert Frost will get the most from this book.
  • The Wild Boy by Mordicai Gerstein – Maria Montessori wrote in one of her books that her children loved the story of the wild boy of Aveyron best of all. This may still hold true. It’s a very captivating story.
  • Up and Down on the Merry-Go-Round by Bill Martin, John Archambault, and Ted Rand – This is a lighthearted, fun read.
  • Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh- My daughter recognized the cover art as the same print that’s in the kitchen of her grandparent ‘s house. This connection made it a great read for her.
  • The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPre – My daughter leaned into this one and absorbed every single page.
  • Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Victoria Rodriguez and Julie Paschkis – This one needs to be supported by prior exposure to Gaudi’s architecture.
  • If You Spent a Day with Thoreau at Walden Pond by Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor – Lovely book.
  • As an Oak Tree Grows by G. Brian Karas – This is a wonderful way to illustrate the passage of time for young children.
  • Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint – This wonderful reality-based fiction picture book makes a nice break from lots of serious nonfiction reading.
  • Matisse the King of Color – This is an awe-inspiring book as it builds up to Matisse’s work on the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence.
  • Stella & Roy by Ashley Wolff – I get asked to read this one over and over again.
  • Stella & Roy Go Camping by Ashley Wolff – This fantastic follow-up to Stella & Roy teaches about using a field guide and identifying animal tracks.
  • As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps by Gail Hartman and Harvey Stevenson- This is a really original way to introduce kids to maps. It was a lot of fun to read.
  • What Happens on Wednesday by Emily Jenkins and Lauren Castillo – This would be a really great book for kids who like routines.
  • The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan and Hadley Hooper – This is very enjoyable. It works especially well as a companion to other books about Matisse.
  • In the Wild by David Elliott and Holly Meade – Quick, easy, enjoyable read.
  • Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo – This one was also quick, easy and enjoyable.
  • Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson – This is a fantastic book about Carl Sagan’s childhood with a few great big fold out pages.
  • Has Anyone Here Seen William? by Bob Graham – This is by one of my favorite children’s authors. This character carries through to other stories, so it’s a good first Bob Graham story to read.
  • The Silver Button by Bob Graham – This is a lovely book about things happening in the world as a boy takes his first step.
  • Vanilla Ice Cream by Bob Graham – This book is so original and compelling. To say anything else would spoil the fun.
  • Trudy by Henry Cole – This is a fun and cheerful title that you’ll speed right through.
  • On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole – This is another fun and cheerful one that my kids asked me to read again and again.
  • That Book Woman by Heather Henson and David Small – This is a touching book based on a true story. It brought a tear to my eye.
  • Ish by Peter H. Reynolds – This fantastic book has introduced the suffix “ish ” into our household vocabulary.
  • Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole – This picture book challenges adults to find the right words to talk about slavery with young children.
  • How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham – Concern and caring are the central emotions for readers as a young boy and his family nurse a pigeon to health.
  • Blackout by John Rocco – My kids are fascinated with flashlights. The idea of experiencing a blackout is pure joy for them. We loved this book.

So, we’ve read 48 books from the wishlist and have at least 941 to go before we finish the list. It looks like we won’t be running out of reading material anytime soon.

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Picture books, read alouds and adult reading for Columbus Day

With the Columbus Day holiday quickly approaching, I thought I’d share some good books related to Columbus to read to kids. I threw in a couple adult nonfiction titles as well.

For the 6-and-under crowd, try these:

For the 7-and-above crowd, try adding a few more titles:

For a longer read-aloud chapter book or two, try:

Finally, if any of these books piqued the interest of an adult, check out these:

Happy reading!

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Why Books Based in Reality are Best for Kids 0-6

In acquainting myself with the books authored by Maria Montessori, I took away that literature grounded in reality is best for kids 0-6. Recently, I went back to find some of the direct quotes that lead me to this conclusion.

Maria Montessori developed her insights into how children learn and grow through direct observation. She would introduce them to activities and observe their reactions. She did the same with books. She introduced them to many kinds of books. She wrote in “The Advanced Montessori Method” that “The readings we used were numerous and of great variety: fairy tales, short stories, anecdotes, novels, historical episodes. Specifically there were the tales of Andersen, some of the short stories of Capuana, the Cuore of De Amicis, episodes of the life of Jesus, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Betrothed, Fabiola, stories from the Italian wars for independence, Itard’s Education of the Young Savage of Aveyron.”

She tested a wide range of literature and found that children get the most out of literature grounded in reality. She wrote that “In general the child will listen to anything that is really interesting. But certainly some surprise will be occasioned by our discovery that the children liked above everything else the readings on Italian history and the Education of the Savage of Aveyron. The phenomenon is sufficiently curious to merit further consideration.”

Maria Montessori encouraged the teachers she trained to use the time when children were drawing to read great literature to them. She wrote, “The children work many, many hours on drawing. This is the time we seize for reading to them and almost all their history is learned during this quiet period of copy and simple decoration which is so conducive to concentration of thought.”

Maria Montessori concluded that reality is better than fantasy. Here are just a few of her quotes on this:

“The results here witnessed led us to many a reflection. We succeeded in teaching history and even pedagogy by means of ‘reading.’ And, in truth, does not reading embrace everything? Travel stories teach geography; insect stories lead the child into natural science; and so on. The teacher, in short, can use reading to introduce her pupils to the most varied subjects; and the moment they have been thus started, they can go on to any limit guided by the single passion for reading.”

“Children are much more sensible to the true and beautiful than we. They must be shown complete pictures of reality, which vividly suggest fact and situation.”

“The beautiful and the true have for them [children] an intense fascination, into which they plunge as into something actually necessary for their existence.”

“This creative imagination, which is ever returning to reality to gain inspiration and to acquire new energies, will not be a vain, exhaustible, and fickle thing, like the so-called imagination which our ordinary schools are trying to develop.”

“…and every child should be able to experiment at first hand, to observe, and to put himself in contact with reality. Thus the flights of the imagination will start from a higher plane…”

“…every lofty writer and every great orator perpetually links the fruits of the imagination with the observation of fact…”

“…it may be said that in order to develop the imagination it is necessary for everyone first of all to put himself in contact with reality.”

“…we should no more force it [imagination] with a fiction than we would put a false mustache on a child because otherwise he will not have one till he is twenty.”

What all of these quotes suggest is that perhaps non-fiction, historical fiction, and reality-based fiction genres are better than fantasy, myth, fables and fairy tales for kids 0-6. I hypothesize that young children would indeed get more out of the first set of genres than the latter. I’m testing my hypothesis on my children with a robust list of books based in reality. I could not find a sufficient list, so I prepared my own book list here.

My list of books based in reality already includes 468 titles in the non-fiction, historical fiction, and reality-based fiction genres. It includes many selections from the non-fiction Let’s Read and Find Out About Science series, some absolutely stunning biographies like “Henri’s Scissors” by Jeanette Winter, and charming reality-based fiction like “How to Heal a Broken Wing” by Bob Graham. The list is geared toward my 5-year-old, but my 2 1/2-year old is enjoying many of the selections, too.

I’ve found so many amazing books based in reality that I’ll be focusing on these until my 5-year-old turns 6 in May 2016.

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Making an Affordable Land and Water Forms Activity

I’ve had the Montessori land and water form trays on a wish list for a long time. The best deal I know of costs $40.23 plus $25.74 shipping for a grand total of $65.97 for these land and water trays from Mindset Learning. Since I’d be buying them for a home and not a school, it’s tough to put that much money toward building a better geography vocabulary for two kids and maybe their friends. So, I’ve found a better, less expensive way to introduce geography terms at home.

Now, the “official” Montessori land and water form trays are exciting to kids because they get to create lakes, straits and other water forms by pouring water.

However, I’ve found that it can be equally exciting for kids to build islands, isthmuses and other land forms by molding them out of salt dough onto paper plates. Then, they can use blue paint to create the water form. This has turned out to be a very affordable land and water forms activity for us. In fact, I made it entirely out of materials that were already on hand. Buying the supplies would be affordable, too. It would cost about $10-$12 with the most expensive thing being the tray.

Here’s a photograph that shows how I’ve set this activity up to be used at any time:

land and water forms (1)

The parts include:

  1. Land and water forms 3-part cards resting in 1/2 an egg carton box. (The cards pictured here are from Montessori Helper, however the Helpful Garden has a beautiful free set.)
  2. Salt dough (2 cups wheat flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water) in a plastic container
  3. Blue tempera paint in a tin
  4. Paintbrush
  5. Example landform project (the isthmus)
  6. Under the isthmus, there are paper plates to make more land and water forms
  7. Everything is organized on a KLACK tray from IKEA

The moment I set this down my daughter started using it. (That’s why the lids to the salt dough and paint containers aren’t shown.) She built an island and a bay for her first two land form projects. Here they are:

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 1.00.09 AM

These projects have definitely solidified what the terms bay and island mean for my daughter. This was evident when we read a picture book set on a bay.

The book was called “Who sank the boat?” by Pamela Allen. Here’s a photo from the inside of the book:

bay book

When my daughter saw the bay in the illustration she ran over to her bay land form project and brought it to the table by our reading chair. When we finished reading the book, my daughter collected little figures for each character in the book and used them with her bay project to reenact the story.

Here’s the end of her reenactment:

The big takeaway here is that for 1/6th the price of official land and water forms, you can teach the same thing and perhaps even have a little more fun.

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Turn a Read-a-Loud into a Sing-a-Loud

The other day, I was reading my daughter the book “I Went Walking” by Sue Williams. She wasn’t very interested. Instead of giving up on reading for the moment, I searched YouTube on my phone for the book and found a lovely video where a woman sings the book to the tune of Frere Jacques. My daughter and I watched the video together once, then switched back to the book and turned our read-a-loud into a sing-a-loud using the book for lyrics. It was a huge hit! It reminded me of how much my daughter likes books that can be accompanied by song.

Here’s a few examples:

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What I Did When My Toddler Started Learning Letter Sounds

letter-sounds-600

When my daughter wasn’t quite 2, she frequently used her iPad to watch an animated phonics video on YouTube. She had full control to choose any app she wanted, but again and again she’d watch the same phonics video. I liked the video for its entertainment value, but otherwise didn’t give it much thought. Until, one day my daughter and I were in the hallway leading to our apartment when she pointed at the “Stairwell B” sign and she said, “B says /b/.”

I knew at that moment that I wanted to teach her to read. The problem was, I didn’t know how.

First, I thought I could learn from experience. I volunteered to read to six and seven year-old children once a week. I thought that by reading to kids who were at the typical age for learning to read, I would be able to help them improve their reading skills from week to week. I thought I would teach the kids to read and then apply my experience at home to teach my daughter. However, after several months of volunteering, the kids weren’t making any noticeable gains in their reading. One day a kid in the program pointed to the word “circle” and asked me how to pronounce it. I said, “that says circle”. She asked how I knew. I said, “It just does.” Today, I know that I could have used that moment to teach the soft and hard sounds of c and the ir phonogram and the silent final e. But, at the time, the teachable moment was lost. I was part of the problem.

The volunteer experience sparked my curiosity about how to teach reading and deeply motivated me to learn how to teach it with confidence. I started doing a lot of research and found an article by Linda Schrock Taylor titled, “180 Tools for Reading and Spelling.” The article provided an outline for what kids need to know to be good readers and spellers in a simple, approachable and complete manner. With this, I learned that the phonics video my daughter loved so much was exposing her to incomplete phonics and may even make it hard for her to learn to read. In Taylor’s article, she recommended the book “The Writing Road to Reading” by Romalda Spalding. So, I bought Spalding’s book and learned to recognize what makes a phonics-based approach to teaching reading complete. However, the content was far too serious for my little toddler. In fact, the instructional approach recommended in the book was designed to start in kindergarten and that was at least 3 years away.

I started to think about ways to turn the complete approach to phonics from Spalding’s book into something accessible to my daughter. Teaching through song sounded extremely promising since I’d already seen that work from the phonics video on YouTube. So, I wrote a song for the two sounds of c:

c says two sounds /k/ and /s/

c says /k/ before a, o and u, like when c says /k/ in cat, cot and cut

c says /s/ before e, i and y, like when c says /s/ in cent, city and cycle

But, the song had some problems. It had no tune. It was too detailed for a toddler. It only covered one letter, leaving work to be done for 25 more letters and 46 more phonograms. I wanted to make it work. I thought, “Would it work to the tune of Farmer and the Dell? No. How about Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star? Maybe.” I almost gave up.

Then, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, someone else had the idea to teach the English code through song. To find out, I started with a very specific search on Google for “a makes three sounds” (and yes, the letter a does make three sounds: the long a, short a, and the often forgotten “broad a,” like in mama.) Sure enough, I found Wordy Worm Reading.

The Wordy Word program met every expectation I had for a complete phonics program and then some. You can start using it at birth and use it to take a kid all the way to reading fluency. It has songs for every one of the 72 phonograms. It organizes the phonograms together in groups so you can teach them in small bunches instead of all 72 at once. It even has songs to introduce each phonogram group. The program includes a sequence for teaching the phonograms in a groundbreaking way, whereby kids get early exposure to multi-letter phonograms (like the ee that always says e). It even covers six types of syllables and teaches syllable identification in a fun way. The whole program revolves around making it fun for kids. I’ve learned ideas from Wordy Worm that I never would have thought of on my own, like using props for each phonogram song and going on phonogram hunts using environmental print.

Today, my daughter is 3 ½. She’s knows all the single sound consonants and we’re working on some multi-letter phonograms. Even though we haven’t spent much time on the multiple sounds of c, g, s, x, a, e, i, o and u, my daughter has awareness of them, just not quite at the level where you could quiz her on it. From time to time she’ll say things like, “Mommy, the letter a says /ă/, /ā/, /ä/ right?”

She loves sitting down to read together. She asks for books by name and enjoys retelling the stories we read. She’s beginning to take an interest in sounding out words and has a very high interest in spelling and writing her name (sometimes typing it even). Here’s a picture of her handwriting:

st-handwriting

I expect 2014 will be a big year of building reading and writing skills at my house. I hope you’ll follow along on our journey.

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Videos of the Phonogram Sounds

I write about phonograms here a lot because they make it so much easier to teach reading and spelling. I’ve written in depth about them and all the sounds that they represent. However, it occurred to me today that it would be very difficult to learn phonograms simply by reading about them. You really need to hear the sounds as you see the letter or letters they represent. With that in mind, here’s a great video where you can see and hear the phonograms.

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Learning the Double E Phonogram Over a Snack

Today, I taught my daughter how the double e phonogram (ee) makes the second sound of e, its long sound, where e says its name.

I started things out by inviting her to have some ice cream and presenting her with this tray:

ee-phonogram-snack

She accepted my ice cream invitation. I made her a double scoop cone and we talked about how “double is twice the quantity” and that “a double scoop ice cream cone has twice the quantity of scoops than a single scoop cone.” I reinforced the concept with, “A single scoop is just one scoop. A double scoop is two scoops!” She was excited …

IMG_6003

… she took a bite and was done with the ice cream. So I ate it instead and gave her a double serving of pudding with a double spoon.

IMG_6007

While she happily ate pudding, I introduced the double e phonogram to her pointing out that it has two e’s in a row. She mentioned knowing that e makes two sounds, announcing their short and long sounds. I told her that the double e is special because it makes just one sound, the long e sound, e, where e says its name.

After the brief introduction to double e, I sung her the double e ditty from Wordy Worm Reading a couple times.

Then, she abandoned the pudding and asked for her Halloween candy. Conveniently for my double e lesson, she chose a bag of Halloween pretzels from her candy stash. So, I asked her to find the double e on the pretzel label. She was excited to find it and I sounded the whole word out for her.

IMG_6009

After snack, I invited her to color the double e on paper. She chose to paint freestyle instead. As she painted, I sounded out the word green for her and sang her the double e ditty a couple more times.

IMG_6014

In no time, I expect she’ll be pointing out the double e to me spontaneously. I expect this because not long after a lesson about the ay phonogram, we had a birthday balloon floating around the house. She pointed to the print on the balloon and yelled, “AY mommy, AY, AY, AY! Look! Look! AY!”

ay-on-birthday-balloon

I’m quite excited by this burgeoning print awareness skill.

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A Prepared Environment for Writing

There’s a great post on the Carrots Are Orange blog about all the ways to encourage writing in preschoolers. Here’s nine things I have out for my 3 1/2 year-old daughter to encourage writing.

1. The all-important sandpaper letters and numbers.

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2. A sound table where I encourage my daughter to say the sound (or sounds) a letter makes while tracing the letter. The mirror is there so she can see her mouth move as she says the sound. I also have a white board at the sound table if she wants to experiment with handwriting. (We had a salt tray at this station for a while but after the third spill, I replaced it with something that stays clean.)

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3. Metal insets for practice tracing straight and curved lines.

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4. Homemade cursive tactile phonogram cards using blank PVC plastic and glitter glue. (These are new to the environment. I’m thinking of making a second sound table with them and pairing it with a chalk board.)

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5. Number tracing with crayons. This is one of many wonderful presentations that I’ve learned from KHT Montessori training.

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6. Letter tracing with markers. This idea is also from KHT Montessori training, as are the print-outs.

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7. Lined paper and a number 2 pencil.

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8. A Boogie Board LCD writing tablet.

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9. A classic manual pencil sharpener (because the pencils around here get dull really quickly).

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There’s more we do in this area with art supplies, especially paint brushes and q-tips. I’ll save that for another post though!

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Word Building and Reading with the AI Phonogram

Yesterday, I started exploring the multi-letter phonogram ai with my daughter. Today, we continued our study with a trip to the mailbox with magnetic letters to spell ‘MAIL’.

We added a little physical science to the mix by exploring magnetic and non-magnetic items along the way. My daughter was very excited to learn that the mailbox was magnetic! Then I helped her build the word. She had fun teasing me by turning the M into a W and saying the /w/ sound over and over again.

mail
wail

At story time, we used a new tip from Judy at Wordy Worm Reading. Her tip was to create short felt lines and give my daughter the opportunity to underline the ai phonograms as they came up in our books. Our felt lines were a little long, but you can see the idea at work below in the Tails and The Real Mother Goose books.

tails-book
maids-mary-mary
tails-three-blind-mice

I also built the word ‘train’ on our Moveable Alphabet app on the iPad. Interestingly, my daughter sounded out the word ‘train’ with the short a and short i sounds separately. I put the felt line under the ai and reminded her that ai says a. She smiled and said, “Yeah, ai says a! That says train!”

train-moveable-alphabet

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Exploring the Reading Code: AI Makes an A

This week, I had the pleasure of catching up with my friend Judy at Wordy Worm Reading. I filled her in on how my daughter is starting to build words with the moveable alphabet (she’s 3 ½ and has built the words mom and pig in my presence, possibly others at school.)

pig

Judy suggested that now would be a good time to teach some of the multi-letter vowel phonograms such as ‘ai’ and ‘ee’, which are great for beginners because they make just one sound.

So, I started today with the ai phonogram, following tips from the Wordy Worm program. While Stella napped, I set up some “clues” for the ai phonogram on her desk. When she woke up, she joined me at her desk where we sang the Wordy Worm ditty for ai.

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Next, my daughter chose to decorate the origami sailboat (pattern via origami-make.com) on her tray with crayons and glue. I also drew out the ai phonogram on a piece of paper for her to color, but she was far more attracted to working with the sailboat. While she decorated the boat, I wrote down the ai words from the ditty on a dry erase board. She asked me to “add snail” to the list, so I did:

ai-word-list

Later for bath time, I filled the pail with the p-a-i and l souns letters and invited my daughter to wash them (as seen on the Souns Talk Weblog). She happily accepted and while she washed them, we sang the ditty for ai together a couple more times.

pail

We ended the night with story time. We read three books, including a perfect book for teaching the ai phonogram called Tails by Matthew Van Fleet.

tails-book

Do you know of any other good books with lots of occurrences of the ai phonogram? If so, share them in the comments.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue our study of the ai phonogram by checking the mail together.

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Origins of “Writing Before Reading”

It was in the San Lorenzo district of Rome in 1907 that Maria Montessori welcomed about 50 impoverished Italian children to her first “Casa dei Bambini” or “Children’s Home.” Here, she prepared an environment just for the children, learning through observation how to shape it to their needs.

Montessori details this experience in her book, “The Secret of Childhood.” In this book, I discovered the origins of Montessori’s belief that writing comes before reading. In her chapter on “Observations and Discoveries,” Montessori shared how one day at the Children’s House several mothers asked her to teach their children reading and writing. Her gut said that the undertaking was more than she had in mind. However, she went ahead and created and introduced sandpaper letters to the environment, and made chalk available for writing. To her delight, pretty soon, the kids began to write.

Montessori wrote, “This [children teaching themselves how to write] was the greatest event to take place in the first Children’s Home. The child who first made the discovery was so astonished that he shouted out loud: ‘I’ve written, I’ve written!’ The children excitedly ran up to look at the words which he had traced on the floor with a piece of chalk. “Me too, me too!” they shouted as they ran off in search of writing materials. Some crowded around the blackboard. Others stretched themselves out upon the floor. They all began to write.

Their boundless activity was like a torrent. They wrote everywhere, on doors, walls, and even on loaves of bread at home. The children were only about four years old, and their discovery of writing had been totally unforeseen. The teacher told me: ‘It was three o’clock yesterday when the little boy began to write.’

We were struck as if we had witnessed a miracle. We had earlier received some beautifully illustrated books, but when we now gave them to the children, they received them coolly. They contained beautiful pictures, it was true, but these only distracted them from the new and enthralling occupation that absorbed their energies. They wanted to write and not to look at pictures. The children had perhaps never before seen books, and for a long time we tried to arouse their interest in them, but it was even impossible to make them understand what we meant by reading. We therefore set the books aside, waiting for a more favorable time. The children were rarely interested in reading what another had written. It even seemed that they were unable to read the words. Many of the children would turn around and look at me in amazement when I read out loud the words they had written, as if to ask, ‘How do you know it?’

It was only after some six months that they began to understand what it is to read, and they did this only by associating reading with writing.”

4

Can Technology Teach Kids to Read?

Do you think technology can teach kids to read? Google CEO, Larry Page thinks that “technology’s just not there yet.”

In a speech at Zeitgeist Americas Page explains, “If you look at teaching kids reading, we know that an adult, or someone who knows how to read, can really teach kids a lot better, is what I think what the research shows, than any of the things we’ve come up with. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with something, or that I’m aware of, probably there is something I’m not aware of. We can probably come up with things that can really help kids learn to read, we’re just, our technology’s just, not there yet.”

Like Page, I’m also not aware of any technology that teaches reading from start to finish. Probably because it’s a long process for kids to go from their first introduction to the alphabetic principle all the way to reading fluency.

However, I am aware of technology that can supplement the process. Here’s my list of favorite apps for teaching reading:

iPad Apps

First Words Deluxe by Learning Touch (or Animals, Vehicles, Professional, At Home, Christmas, Valentines, Halloween, etc.) – This is a fun word building app where kids drag and drop letters into words. In the settings on this app, you can choose U.S. English – Phonics so that every time the user touches a letter, it says the letter’s first sound instead of its name. The limitation here is that only first sounds are covered and only single-letter phonograms are covered.

Build A Word – Easy Spelling with Phonics by @Reks – Another fun word building app. This app is similar to First Words Deluxe with a couple exceptions. For one, it doesn’t use pictures. Also, it includes some multi-letter phonograms like th, ch and ng and blends like sl, fl and cl.

WordGrab! Phonetics by Bellamon – This app covers mostly initial sounds in words and then uses the word in a sentence. From what I can tell, it does not cover any multi-letter phonograms.

abc Pocket Phonics by Apps in my Pocket Ltd – This app has kids trace letters and then build words with the letters they traced. The app focuses on letter sounds instead of letter names, which I love. It also covers both single-letter and multi-letter phonograms, including some phonograms that make more than one sound. For example, the app has one set of activities for voiced TH and another set for unvoiced TH.

Phonics with Phonograms by Logic of English – This app has the best coverage of single-letter and multi-letter phonograms and intelligently handles phonograms that make more than one sound.

Movable Alphabet – A Montessori Approach to Language by Rantek – This app is great for free-form word building. It also does a nice job of breaking sample words into their individual sounds with embedded audio clips.

Montessori Letter Sounds – Learn Phonics with Tam & Tao by Les Trois Elles Interactive – This app includes a nice approach to bringing the “I Spy” game that’s popular in Montessori classrooms to the iPad. For that alone, the app is worth using. It has many other games and features. It covers letter sounds and multi-letter phonograms, but only covers one sound for each grapheme.

Word Wizard – Talking Moveable Alphapet by L’Escapadou – This is another free-form word builder, with the added bonus that each time a letter is added to the screen, an artificial voice reads out the partial or full word that has been built.

OG Card Deck by Mayerson Academy – This is a good reference app for phonogram sounds.

Starfall ABCs and Starfall Learn to Read by Starfall Education – These are good starter apps for learning the first sounds of all the letters and starting to build words phonetically.

Online Apps

Reading Bear – A free program including 50 lessons to teach phonetic patterns and phonics principles.

Starfall.com – This is similar to the iPad app, only online.

Today, these apps are great supplements to the process of learning to read.

However, in most apps, there’s room for improvement. I’d like to see reading apps go further toward incorporating complete phonics, as outlined in my post here, into the app design. I see way too many apps that have an incomplete approach to phonics. Some apps only cover short vowel sounds, some avoid the multi-letter phonograms, still others avoid second, third and fourth sounds for the various phonograms. The majority of apps never teach any phonics rules.

Did I miss any great apps for teaching reading? If so, please post about it in the comments.

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A Complete Definition for Phonics

The majority of English speakers today think that phonics means that each consonant letter in the alphabet represents one sound, and that each vowel letter represents two sounds (the vowel’s long and short sounds). These misconceptions hobble the power of teaching with a phonics method. People undertaking the task of teaching others to read would benefit from a more complete definition of phonics, as follows:

Phonics is a method of teaching reading and spelling by explicitly teaching:

  • 46 phonemes to cover all the sounds of the English language
  • 89 phonograms to cover all the single-letter and multi-letter graphemes that can be used to represent the sounds of English in print
  • 30 rules to guide the encoding and decoding of English words (for a complete list of rules, refer to the book titled, “Uncovering the Logic of English”)

For best success, these 165 things should be taught through frequent and enjoyable instruction.

Educator Linda Schrock Taylor explains the impact of this short list in the article here where she writes, “When I first meet a remedial reading class, whether at the elementary, high school, or college level, I begin by offering them a choice. I explain that they can either learn to read using the ‘I Haven’t Had That Word Yet’ method, which means that they will have to be taught, and memorize, around 250,000 words to be an exceptional reader; or… they can learn: 26 ABC’s, 29 Rules, and 70 [Phonogram] Spellings for 44 Sounds. They always choose the second method, especially since they have a head start in that they usually know those ABC’s.”

(You may notice Taylor’s list of “26 ABC’s, 29 Rules, and 70 [Phonogram] Spellings for 44 Sounds” differs from mine. The differences are that my list places the ABC’s within the 89 phonograms, has 1 more rule and 2 more sounds. Variations in phoneme and phonogram counts are common among different reading programs and linguistic experts. However, for those who count phonemes, phonograms and rules to be the cornerstones of literacy, these variations are minimal and of little concern.)

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Stock Your Own Literacy Bookshelf

I admire the quote by the teacher and English curriculum developer Sharon Madsen who once said, “Literacy is the ability to demonstrate personal proficiency in speaking, spelling, writing, and reading English plus the ability to teach it to another.”

What if everyone already proficient in English could also teach it? Could we avoid reports like the following?

  • Nearly 80 percent of New York City high school graduates need to learn basic reading, writing and math skills before they can enter the City University’s community college system. (Source: CBS Local Media)
  • About 23 percent of high school graduates seeking a military job who take the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), which measures Math Knowledge, Arithmetic Reasoning, Word Knowledge, and Paragraph Comprehension, fail to achieve a qualifying score. (Source: Shut Out of the Military)
  • A 2003 assessment found that only 13% of Americans scored as proficient readers. (Source: 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy)
  • A 1992 assessment found that only 3% of Americans read at the highest literacy level, level 5, and only 16% read at the next highest literacy level, level 4. (Source: 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey)

For anyone who wants to prepare to teach reading, I recommend stocking your own literacy bookshelf with the following books:

For all of the above, you’ll spend about $55.00 on books, plus shipping. In return, you’ll have access for the rest of your life to some of the best information for establishing fluency in reading and writing.

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Teaching Letter Sounds the Montessori Way

In the following YouTube video, a teacher trained in Montessori methods gives an overview of how to teach the letter sounds to very young children. The most useful part of the video for me was at the 2:40 point in the video where the teacher shared a kinesthetic game centered around the letter sounds. Basically, to play the game, the teacher has the child trace a letter on a card and say the sound it makes out loud. Then, she sends the child off to place the card in another room where it can be retrieved later. She’ll repeat this for each of the letters in a short word. Then, one at a time, she asks the child to bring the cards back by asking for each card by the sound of the letter on it. When the child brings the correct cards back, she knows the letter sounds are starting to sink in.

I’ve been playing this with my 2-year-old using homemade felt phoneme cards. Our game works like the one in the video, but we go beyond the alphabet and do phoneme cards for SH, TH, NG, etc per the list of primary graphic symbols for each phoneme in my phoneme chart here. My daughter has a lot of fun with it!

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46 Phonemes in American English

Here’s a quick video of the phonemes that are present in American English. It moves faster than yesterday’s video and adds two phonemes that I had left out.

The first difference from yesterday’s video is the new video explicitly separates out the voiced TH and the unvoiced TH as separate phonemes. Second, the WH phoneme has been added. Some may argue that the /wh/ sound has disappeared in American English and been replaced with a /w/ or /h/ sound depending on the word (think who and where), but I can still hear the /wh/ sound in words like what.

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Use “The Key Sounds of English” Video to Build Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the basis for learning phonics. So, for parents and educators who teach reading and writing, it’s very important to become fluent in all the phonemes and pass this fluency on to learners. To brush up on your phonemic awareness, I invite you to watch and listen to my new video. It covers 44 American English phonemes and 4 blends. Enjoy!

Before researching phonemic awareness, I only consciously knew the phonemes for the single-letter consonants, short vowel sounds and long vowel sounds. I did not realize, for example, that consonant digraphs like /ng/, /sh/, /ch/ and /th/ were phonemes. I also did not realize that vowels paired with an R like /er/, /ar/, /or/, /ear/ and /air/ were phonemes.

Knowing the difference between phonemes and blends can really help in segmenting and blending exercises. For example, it would be easy to make segmenting harder by failing to recognize r-controlled phonemes. Those fluent with the 44 phonemes would model the segmenting of the word ‘bird’ as /b/ – /ir/ – /d/, which easily blends back together as bird. Those without fluency would model the segmenting as /b/ – /i/ – /r/ – /d/, which does not blend back together as ‘bird’ and can lead to a belief that phonics doesn’t work and only applies to the simplest of words, which truly is not the case. In fact, a complete approach to phonics can explain 98% of all English words.

My video includes 4 blended sounds in addition to the 44 phonemes for two reasons. First, since long U, QU and X are so core to the alphabet, it’s important to recognize that they are NOT phonemes. Instead, they are blends of two smaller units of sound. Specifically, long U (pronounced like you and yew) is a blend of consonant y and long double O. QU is a blend of /k/ and /w/. X can either be a blend of /k/ and /s/ or a blend of /g/ and /z/. Secondly, I included EUR for the /yr/ sound in order to complete the list of r-controlled sounds in English. The other r-controlled sounds in my video ARE phonemes, but EUR like the /yr/ in Europe is a blend because it begins with a distinct consonant /y/ sound.

3

The Key Sounds of English: 44 Phonemes and 4 Blends

Lately, I’ve been interested in how Montessori schools teach reading and writing. One promising approach is outlined in a NAMTA (North American Montessori Teachers’ Association) Journal article by Muriel I. Dwyer called “A Path for the Exploration of Any Language Leading to Writing and Reading”. The article can be purchased from NAMTA for $7.00 plus shipping here. Also, a good summary of this approach can be found for free at the Kingdom of the Pink Princesses blog here.

At the core of the Dwyer approach is phonemic awareness, which is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate the smallest units of sound. In her article, Dwyer provides 40 key sounds for English and suggests exposing children first to just one graphical representation for each sound. For example, her approach would start children off using the letter ‘a’ to represent the sound of short a and the letter team ‘ai’ to represent the sound of long a. This allows children to form any word, even before they can read. For example, a child could form the word ‘play’ with ‘plai’. They can also participate in word formation even without any knowledge of handwriting by using sandpaper letters or some other type of movable alphabet.

Thus, the approach does a lot to encourage the encoding of words, even among pre-readers. By focusing on phonemes first, it reduces the set of information to memorize to just the phonemes and a single graphical representation for each. At later stages of the Dwyer approach, children learn alternate graphic symbols for each sound and begin to receive spelling corrections for their written work.

Although Dwyer spoke of 40 phonemes in her article, the approach should also work with a slightly larger set of the key sounds of English. I propose working with 44 phonemes consisting of 18 consonant phonemes, 5 consonant digraph phonemes, 16 vowel phonemes and 5 r-controlled phonemes. Plus, 4 blends. In the charts below, I’ve listed out these phonemes and blends. To align with the Dwyer approach, the charts include a primary graphic symbol that could be used for each phoneme or blend. Plus, the charts include the alternate graphic symbol or symbols that would eventually need to be covered.

18 Consonant Phonemes:

Phoneme Primary Graphic Symbol Alternate Graphic Symbol(s)
B – /b/ b as in bat bu as in build
Hard C – /k/ c as in cat k as in kit, ch as in chorus, ck as in rock, cu as in biscuit, qu as in bouquet
D – /d/ d as in dim ed as in named
F – /f/ f as in fan ph as in phone
Hard G – /g/ g as in gum gh as in ghost, gue as in league
H – /h/ h as in hut j as in fajita, wh as in who
J – /j/ j as a jam dge as in edge, g as in gerbil, ge as in surgeon, gi as in religion
L – /l/ l as in lot  
M – /m/ m as in man mb as in limb, mn as in hymn
N – /n/ n as in nut gn as in gnome, kn as in knit, pn as in pneumonia
P – /p/ p as in pin  
R – /r/ r as in rat rh as in rhyme, wr as in write
Soft S – /s/ s as in sat c as in city, ps as in psalm
T – /t/ t as in tap ed as in sniffed, pt as in pterodactyl, bt as in doubt
V – /v/ v as in van  
W – /w/ w as in win wh as in whale
Consonant Y – /y/ y as in yet i as in onion
Z – /z/ z as in zip s as in is, x as in xylophone

5 Consonant Digraph Phonemes:

Phoneme Primary Graphic Symbol Alternate Graphic Symbol(s)
NG – /ng/ ng as in king n as in pink
ZH – /zh/ zh as in zhlub ge as in mirage, si as in division, z as in azure
CH – /ch/ ch as in much cc as in bocci, tch as in witch
SH – /sh/ sh as in push ce as in ocean, ch as in chef, ci as in social, si as in session, ti as in motion
TH unvoiced and voiced – /th/ th as in moth or the  

16 Vowel Phonemes:

Phoneme Primary Graphic Symbol Alternate Graphic Symbol(s)
Short A – /ă/ a as in am ai as in plaid, au as in aunt
Short E – /ĕ/ e as in egg ae as in aesthetic, ai as in said, ay as in says, ea as in deaf, ei as in heifer, ie as in friend
Short I – /ĭ/ i as in if ee as in been, ei as in foreit, ie as in kerchief, ui as in build, y as in gym
Short O – /ŏ/ o as in on eau as in bueaucracy, ough as in bought
Short U – /ŭ/ u as in up o as in son, oe as in does, oo as in blood, ou as in touch
Short OO – (/ŏŏ/) oo as in book ou as in could, u as in put
Long A – /ā/ ai as in aim a as in ape, aigh as in straight, au as in gauge, ay as in day, ea as in great, ei as in veil, eigh as in weigh, et as in ballet, ey as in they
Long E – /ē/ ee as in see ae as in algae, ay as in quay, ea as in sea, ei as in seize, ey as in turkey, i as in radio, ie as in movie, y as in puppy
Long I – /ī/ ie as in pie i as in ice, ai as in aisle, ay as in cayenne, ei as in feisty, eigh as in height, ey as in geyser, igh as in light, ui as in guide, uy as in buy, y as in cry
Long O – /ō/ oa as in oat o as in oval, au as in chauffeur, eau as in bureau, ew as in sew, oe as in toe, oo as in brooch, ou as in soul, ough as in dough, ot as in depot, ow as in snow
Long OO – (/ōō/) ew as in grew ue as in blue, eu as in neutral, o as in womb, oe as in canoe, oo as in boo, ou as in you, ough as in through, u as in brutal, ui as in fruit
OU – /ou/ ou as in out au as in sauerkraut, ough as in plow, ow as in how
OY – /oy/ oy as in toy oi as in boil
Broad A – /ä/ ah as in blah a as in father
AU – /au/ au as in auto augh as in caught, aw as in paw
Schwa – /ə/ ə a as in about, ai as in mountain, e as in oven, i as in pencil, o as in carrot, u as in supply, y as in vinyl

5 R-Controlled Phonemes:

Phoneme Primary Graphic Symbol Alternate Graphic Symbol(s)
ER er as in her ear as in heard, ir as in first, or as in color, wor as in work, our as in courage, ur as in blur, yr as in syrup
AR ar as in car er as in sergeant
OR or as in for aur as in aura, oar as in roar, oor as in door, our as in four
AIR air as in hair er as in concerto, ear as in bear, eir as in their
EAR ear as in hear eer as in cheer, eir as in weird, ir as in mirror, ier as in pier, yr as in lyric

4 Blends:

Blend Primary Graphic Symbol Alternate Graphic Symbol(s)
EUR – /yr/ eur as in euro  
QU – /kw/ qu as in queen  
Long U – /yōō/ yew as in yew u as in unicorn, eu as in feud, eau as in beauty, ew as in few, ut as in debut, iew as in view
X – /ks/ and /gz/ x as in box and exit  
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All the Phonogram Sounds

I’ve already shared separate lists for the letter sounds and the multi-letter phonogram sounds. Now, here are these lists together in alphabetical order.

This complete list accounts for the fact that vowel sounds are drastically affected by whether or not they are in the stressed syllable and whether or not they are followed by the letter R. So, within each vowel or vowel team, I’ve explicitly pointed out the related unstressed schwa sounds and r-controlled sounds.

Here’s the complete phonogram sounds list:

A makes three main sounds /ă/, /ā/ and /ä/. A also makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed. Plus, A can be r-controlled.

  • A says /ă/ like the /ă/ in apple.
  • A says /ā/ like the /ā/ in ape.
  • A says /ä/ like the /ä/ in aha.
  • A says /ə/ like the /ə/ in about.
  • A with R (AR) says three r-controlled sounds, /är/ like the /är/ in car, /air/ like the /air/ in charity and /ôr/ like the /ôr/ in war. When unstressed, AR says /ər/ like the /ər/ in vinegar.

AE makes two sounds, /ē/ and /ĕ/. Plus, can be r-controlled.

  • AE says /ē/ like the /ē/ in algae.
  • AE says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in aesthetic.
  • AE with R (AER) says an r-controlled sound /air/, like the /air/ in aero.

AH makes the broad a sound, /ä/.

  • AH says /ä/ like the /ä/ in blah.

AI usually makes the long A sound, /ā/. It can also make the sounds /ī/, /ă/ and /ĕ/. AI makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed. Plus, AI can be r-controlled.

  • AI usually says /ā/ like the /ā/ in mail.
  • AI says /ī/ like the /ī/ in aisle.
  • AI says /ă/ like the /ă/ in plaid.
  • AI says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in said, again, against and aforesaid.
  • AI says /ə/ when unstressed like the /ə/ in mountain.
  • AI with R (AIR) says an r-controlled sound /air/, like the /air/ in hair.

AIGH makes one sound, the long A sound /ā/.

  • AIGH says /ā/ like the /ā/ in straight.

AU usually makes the /äw/ sound. AU can also make the sounds /ă/, /ā/, /ō/ and /ow/. Plus, AU can be r-controlled.

  • AU usually says /äw/ like the /äw/ in sauce.
  • AU says /ă/ like the /ă/ in aunt.
  • AU says /ā/ like the /ā/ in gauge.
  • AU says /ō/ like the /ō/ in chauffeur.
  • AU says /ow/ like the /ow/ in sauerkraut.
  • AU with R (AUR) says an r-controlled sound /ôr/, like the /ôr/ in aura.

AUGH makes two sounds, /äw/ and /ăf/.

  • AUGH says /äw/ like the /äw/ in caught.
  • AUGH says /ăf/ like the /ăf/ in laugh.

AW makes one sound, /äw/.

  • AW says /äw/ like the /äw/ in paw.

AY usually makes the long A sound, /ā/. AY can also make the sounds /ī/, /ĕ/ and /ē/.

  • AY usually says /ā/ like the /ā/ in day.
  • AY says /ī/ like the /ī/ in cayenne.
  • AY says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in says.
  • AY says /ē/ like the /ē/ in quay.

B makes one sound /b/.

  • B says /b/ like the /b/ in ball.

BU can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the /b/ sound.

  • BU sometimes says /b/ like the /b/ in build.
  • BU is not a phonogram when the b and the u make separate sounds, like in bus or butane.

BT makes one sound /t/.

  • BT says /t/ like the /t/ in doubt.

C makes two sounds /k/ and /s/.

  • C says /k/ like the /k/ in cat.
  • C says /s/ like the /s/ in city.

CC can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the /ch/ sound.

  • CC sometimes says /ch/ like the /ch/ in bocci.
  • CC is not a phonogram when each C makes its own sound, like in access, where the first c says /k/ and the second c says /s/ or in hiccup, where both c’s say /k/ or in flaccid where both c’s say /s/.

CE can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the /sh/ sound.

  • CE says /sh/ like the /sh/ in ocean and licorice.
  • CE is not a phonogram in the majority of words, like lace and cell.

CEI makes one sound, /sē/, which is the soft /s/ sound followed by the long E sound.

  • CEI says /sē/ like the /sē/ in receive.

CH makes three sounds, /ch/, /k/ and /sh/.

  • CH says /ch/ like the /ch/ in church.
  • CH says /k/ like the /k/ in chorus.
  • CH says /sh/ like the /sh/ in chef.

CI before a vowel makes one sound, /sh/.

  • CI says /sh/ like the /sh/ in social.

CK makes one sound, /k/.

  • CK says /k/ like the /k/ in rock.

CU can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the /k/ or /kw/ sound.

  • CU says /k/ like the /k/ in biscuit.
  • CU says /kw/ like the /kw/ in cuisine.
  • CU is not a phonogram in the majority of words, like cubic and cut.

D makes one sound /d/.

  • D says /d/ like the /d/ in dog.

DJE makes one sound, /j/.

  • DJE says /j/ like the /j/ in edge.

E makes two sounds /ĕ/ and /ē/. E also makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed. Plus, E can be r-controlled.

  • E says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in egg.
  • E says /ē/ like the /ē/ in eve.
  • E says /ə/ like the /ə/ in oven.
  • E with R (ER) usually makes the r-controlled sound /er/ like the /er/ in her. ER can also make two more r-controlled sounds /är/ like the /är/ in sergeant and /air/  like the /air/ in concerto.

EA makes three sounds, /ē/, /ĕ/ and /ā/. Plus, EA can be r-controlled.

  • EA says /ē/ like the /ē/ in sea.
  • EA says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in deaf.
  • EA says /ā/ like the /ā/ in great.
  • EA with R (EAR) says three r-controlled sounds, /er/ like the /er/ in heard, /ear/ like the /ear/ in hear and /air/ like the /air/ in bear.

EAU makes three sounds, /ū/, /ō/ and /ŏ/.

  • EAU says /ū/ like the /ū/ in beauty.
  • EAU says /ō/ like the /ō/ in bureau.
  • EAU says /ŏ/ like the /ŏ/ in bureaucracy.

ED makes three sounds, /ed/, /d/ and /t/.

  • ED says /ed/ like the /ed/ in landed.
  • ED says /d/ like the /d/ in named.
  • ED says /t/ like the /t/ in sniffed.

EE usually makes the long e sound, /ē/. EE can also make the short i sound, /ĭ/. Plus, EE can be r-controlled.

  • EE says /ē/ like the /ē/ in green.
  • EE says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in been.
  • EE with R (EER) says an r-controlled sound /ear/, like the /ear/ in cheer.

EI makes five sounds. EI usually makes a long vowel sound, /ē/, /ā/ or /ī/. Less frequently, EI makes a short vowel sound, /ĭ/ or /ĕ/. Plus, EI can be r-controlled.

  • EI says /ē/ like the /ē/ in seize.
  • EI says /ā/ like the /ā/ in veil.
  • EI says /ī/ like the /ī/ in fiesty.
  • EI says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in forfeit
  • EI says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in heifer.
  • EI with R (EIR) says two r-controlled sounds, /air/ and /ear/. It says /air/ like the /air/ in their and /ear/ like the /ear/ in weird.

EIGH makes two sounds. EIGH usually makes the long A sound, /ā/. Less frequently, it makes the long I sound, /ī/.

  • EIGH says /ā/ like the /ā/ in eight.
  • EIGH says /ī/ like the /ī/ in height.

ET can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the long a sound, /ā/.

  • ET says /ā/ like the /ā/ in ballet.
  • ET is not a phonogram in the majority of words, like bet and wallet.

EU makes two sounds, /ū/ and /ōō/. Plus, EU can be r-controlled.

  • EU says /ū/ like the /ū/ in feud.
  • EU says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in neutral.
  • EU with R (EUR) says two r-controlled sounds, /yr/ like the /yr/ in euro and /er/ like the /er/ in chauffeur.

EW makes three sounds, /ū/, /ōō/ and /ō/.

  • EW says /ū/ like the /ū/ in few.
  • EW says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in grew.
  • EW says /ō/ like the /ō/ in sew.

EY makes three sounds, /ā/, /ē/ and /ī/.

  • EY says /ā/ like the /ā/ in they.
  • EY says /ē/ like the /ē/ in turkey.
  • EY says /ī/ like the /ī/ in geyser.

F makes one sound /f/.

  • F says /f/ like the /f/ in fish.

G makes two sounds /g/ and /j/.

  • G says /g/ like the /g/ in gorilla.
  • G says /j/ like the /j/ in gerbil.

GE can sometimes be a phonogram that makes two sounds, /j/ and /zh/.

  • GE says /j/ like the /j/ in surgeon.
  • GE says /zh/ like the /zh/ in mirage.
  • GE is not a phonogram in words like get.

GH makes one sound, /g/.

  • GH says /g/ like the /g/ in ghost.

GI can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the sound, /j/.

  • GI says /j/ like the /j/ in religion.
  • GI is not a phonogram in words like gin.

GN makes one sound, /n/.

  • GN says /n/ like the /n/ in gnome.

GU can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the sound, /gw/.

  • GU says /gw/ like the /gw/ in penguin.
  • GU is not a phonogram in words like gut.

H makes one sound /h/.

  • H says /h/ like the /h/ in hello.

I makes four sounds /ĭ/, /ī/, /ē/ and /y/. I also makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed. Plus, I can be r-controlled.

  • I says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in igloo.
  • I says /ī/ like the /ī/ in ice
  • I says /ē/ like the /ē/ in radio.
  • I says /y/ like the /y/ in onion.
  • I says /ə/ like the /ə/ in pencil.
  • I  with R (IR) says two r-controlled sounds, /er/ like the /er/ in first and /ear/ like the /ear/ in mirror.

IE usually makes the long E sound, /ē/. IE can also make the sounds /ī/, /ĭ/ and /ĕ/. Plus, IE can be r-controlled.

  • IE says /ē/ like the /ē/ in movie and grief.
  • IE says /ī/ like the /ī/ in pie, die, lie, tie and vie.
  • IE says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in kerchief, mischief and mischievous.
  • IE says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in friend.
  • IE with R (IER) may say an r-controlled sound /ear/, like the /ear/ in pier. IER is not a phonogram when the I and the E are in different syllables, as in happier.

IGH makes the long I sound, /ī/.

  • IGH says /ī/ like the /ī/ in high.

J usually makes one sound /j/. In American Spanish words, J says /h/.

  • J usually says /j/ like the /j/ in jam.
  • J says /h/ in American Spanish words, like the /h/ in fajita.

K makes one sound /k/.

  • K says /k/ like the /k/ in kite.

KN makes one sound, /n/.

  • KN says /n/ like the /n/ in knot.

L makes one sound /l/.

  • L says /l/ like the /l/ in lamb.

M makes one sound /m/.

  • M says /m/ like the /m/ in mommy.

MB makes one sound /m/.

  • MB says /m/ like the /m/ in dumb.

MN makes one sound /m/.

  • MN says /m/ like the /m/ in hymn.

N makes one sound /n/.

  • N says /n/ like the /n/ in nest.

NG makes one sound, /ng/.

  • NG says /ng/ like the /ng/ in king.

O makes four sounds /ŏ/, /ō/, /ōō/ and /ŭ/. O also makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed. Plus, O can be r-controlled.

  • O says /ŏ/ like the /ŏ/ in ox.
  • O says /ō/ like the /ō/ in oval.
  • O says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in womb.
  • O says /ŭ/ like the /ŭ/ in son.
  • O says /ə/ like the /ə/ in carrot.
  • O with R (OR) usually says the r-controlled sound /ôr/ like the /ôr/ in orange. OR also says the schwa sound /ər/ like the /ər/ in color when unstressed.
  • O with R, preceded by a W, (WOR) says /wer/.

OA usually makes one sound, /ō/. OA can also make the sound /wä/. Plus, OA can be r-controlled.

  • OA says /ō/ like the /ō/ in boat.
  • OA says /wä/ like the /wä/ in quinoa.
  • OA with R (OAR) says an r-controlled sound /ôr/, like the /ôr/ in roar.

OE usually makes one sound, /ō/. OE can also make the sounds /ŭ/ and /ōō/.

  • OE says /ō/ like the /ō/ in toe.
  • OE says /ŭ/ like the /ŭ/ in does.
  • OE says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in canoe.

OI makes one sound, /oy/. Plus, OI can be r-controlled.

  • OI says /oy/ like the /oy/ in boil.
  • OI with R (OIR) says two r-controlled sounds, /wär/ and /wīr/. OIR says /wär/ like the /wär/ in memoir and /wīr/ like the /wīr/ in choir.

OO makes four sounds. Plus, OO can be r-controlled.

  • OO says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in boo.
  • OO says /ŏŏ/ like the /ŏŏ/ in foot.
  • OO says /ō/ like the /ō/ in brooch.
  • OO says /ŭ/ like the /ŭ/ in blood.
  • OO with R (OOR) says an r-controlled sound /ôr/, like the /ôr/ in door.

OU makes five sounds. Plus, OU can be r-controlled.

  • OU says /ow/ like the /ow/ in mouse.
  • OU says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in you.
  • OU says /ŏŏ/ like the /ŏŏ/ in could, should and would.
  • OU says /ŭ/ like the /ŭ/ in touch.
  • OU says /ō/ like the /ō/ in soul.
  • OU with R (OUR) says three r-controlled sounds, /ower/, /ôr/ and /er/. OUR says /ower/ like the /ower/ in sour, /ôr/ like the /ôr/ in four and /er/ like the /er/ in courage.

OUGH makes six sounds.

  • OUGH says /ŏ/ like the /ŏ/ in bought.
  • OUGH says /ō/ like the /ō/ in dough.
  • OUGH says /ŭf/ like the /ŭf/ in rough.
  • OUGH says /ow/ like the /ow/ in plough.
  • OUGH says /ŏf/ like the /ŏf/ in cough.
  • OUGH says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in through.

OT can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the sound, /ō/.

  • OT says /ō/ like the /ō/ in depot.
  • OT is not a phonogram in the majority of words, like lot and vote.

OW makes two sounds, /ow/ and /ō/.

  • OW says /ow/ like the /ow/ in how.
  • OW says /ō/ like the /ō/ in snow.

OY makes one sound, /oy/.

  • OY says /oy/ like the /oy/ in joy.

P makes one sound /p/.

  • P says /p/ like the /p/ in pig.

P is silent before N, S and T.

  • PN says /n/ like the /n/ in pneumonia.
  • PS says /s/ like the /s/ in psalm.
  • PT says /t/ like the /t/ in pterodactyl.

PH makes one sound, /f/.

  • PH says /f/ like the /f/ in phone.

Qu usually makes the sound /kw/. It also can make the sound /k/.

  • Qu says /kw/ like the /kw/ in quilt.
  • Qu says /k/ like the /k/ in bouquet.

R makes one sound /r/.

  • R says /r/ like the /r/ in rabbit.

RH makes one sound, /r/.

  • RH says /r/ like the /r/ in rhyme.

S makes two sounds /s/ and /z/.

  • S says /s/ like the /s/ in sun.
  • S says /z/ like the /z/ in is.

SH makes one sound, /sh/.

  • SH says /sh/ like the /sh/ in ship.

SI can sometimes be a phonogram that makes two sounds, /sh/ and /zh/.

  • SI says /sh/ like the /sh/ in session.
  • SI says /zh/ like the /zh/ in division.
  • SI is not a phonogram in words like sit and site.

T makes one sound /t/.

  • T says /t/ like the /t/ in tiger.

TCH makes one sound, /ch/.

  • TCH says /ch/ like the /ch/ in witch.

TH makes two sounds, an unvoiced /th/ and a voiced /th/.

  • TH says an unvoiced /th/ like the /th/ in think.
  • TH says a voiced /th/ like the /th/ in the.

TI makes one sound, /sh/.

  • TI says /sh/ like the /sh/ in motion.

U makes four sounds /ŭ/, /ū/, /ōō/ and /ŏŏ/. U also makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed. Plus, U can be r-controlled.

  • U says /ŭ/ like the /ŭ/ in up.
  • U says /ū/ like the /ū/ in uniform.
  • U says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in brutal.
  • U says /ŏŏ/ like the /ŏŏ/ in put.
  • U says /ə/ like the /ə/ in supply.
  • U with R (UR) says one r-controlled sound, /er/ like the /er/ blur.

UE makes one sound, /ōō/. UE can also be a silent final E vowel team.

  • UE says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in blue.
  • UE can be a silent final E vowel team, like in vogue (/vōg/).

UI usually makes one sound /ōō/. UI can also make the sounds /ī/ and /ĭ/.

  • UI says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in fruit.
  • UI says /ī/ like the /ī/ in guide.
  • UI says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in build.

UT can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the sound, /ū/.

  • UT says /ū/ like the /ū/ in debut.
  • UT is not a phonogram in the majority of words, like nut and flute.

UY makes one sound, /ī/.

  • UY says /ī/ like the /ī/ in buy.

V makes one sound /v/.

  • V says /v/ like the /v/ in van.

W makes one sound /w/.

  • W says /w/ like the /w/ in worm.

WH makes two sounds, /wh/ and /h/.

  • WH says /wh/ like the /wh/ in whale.
  • WH says /h/ like the /h/ in who.

WR makes one sound, /r/.

  • WR says /r/ like the /r/ in write.

X usually makes the sound /ks/. It can also make the sounds /gz/ and /z/.

  • X says /ks/ like the /ks/ in box.
  • X says /gz/ like the /gz/ in example.
  • X says /z/ like the /z/ in xylophone.

Y makes four sounds /y/, /ĭ/, /ī/ and /ē/. Plus, makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed.

  • Y says /y/ like the /y/ in yak.
  • Y says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in gym.
  • Y says /ī/ like the /ī/ in cry.
  • Y says /ē/ like the /ē/ in puppy.
  • Y says /ə/ like the /ə/ in vinyl.

YR makes two r-controlled sounds, /ear/ and /er/.

  • YR says /ear/ like the /ear/ in lyric.
  • YR says /er/ like the /er/ in syrup.

Z usually makes the sound /z/. It also can make the sound /zh/.

  • Z says /z/ like the /z/ in zebra.
  • Z says /zh/ like the /zh/ in azure.

1

Multi-Letter Phonogram Sounds

In an earlier blog post, I documented all the letter sounds of the English alphabet. Teaching all these letter sounds, as opposed to teaching just one sound for each letter as this mainstream phonics video does, improves reading fluency. But, parents should not stop at the complete letter sounds either. The other missing piece from mainstream phonics is the multi-letter phonogram sounds. Parents should also teach their kids multi-letter phonograms.

Here’s my current understanding of the multi-letter phonograms and the sounds that they represent:

AE makes two sounds, /ē/ and /ĕ/. Plus, can be r-controlled.

  • AE says /ē/ like the /ē/ in algae.
  • AE says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in aesthetic. 
  • AE with R (AER) says an r-controlled sound /air/, like the /air/ in aero.

AH makes the broad a sound, /ä/.

  • AH says /ä/ like the /ä/ in blah.

AI usually makes the long A sound, /ā/. It can also make the sounds /ī/, /ă/ and /ĕ/. AI makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed. Plus, AI can be r-controlled.

  • AI usually says /ā/ like the /ā/ in mail.
  • AI says /ī/ like the /ī/ in aisle.
  • AI says /ă/ like the /ă/ in plaid.
  • AI says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in said, again, against and aforesaid.
  • AI says /ə/ when unstressed like the /ə/ in mountain.
  • AI with R (AIR) says an r-controlled sound /air/, like the /air/ in hair.

AIGH makes one sound, the long A sound /ā/.

  • AIGH says /ā/ like the /ā/ in straight.

AR makes three r-controlled sounds, /är/, /air/ and /ôr/. Plus, AR makes the schwa sound /ər/ when unstressed.

  • AR says /är/ like the /är/ in car.
  • AR says /air/ like the /air/ in charity.
  • AR says /ôr/ like the /ôr/ in war.
  • AR says /ər/ like the /ər/ in vinegar.

AU usually makes the /äw/ sound. AU can also make the sounds /ă/, /ā/, /ō/ and /ow/. Plus, AU can be r-controlled.

  • AU usually says /äw/ like the /äw/ in sauce.
  • AU says /ă/ like the /ă/ in aunt.
  • AU says /ā/ like the /ā/ in gauge.
  • AU says /ō/ like the /ō/ in chauffeur.
  • AU says /ow/ like the /ow/ in sauerkraut.
  • AU with R (AUR) says an r-controlled sound /ôr/, like the /ôr/ in aura.

AUGH makes two sounds, /äw/ and /ăf/.

  • AUGH says /äw/ like the /äw/ in caught.
  • AUGH says /ăf/ like the /ăf/ in laugh.

BU can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the /b/ sound.

  • BU sometimes says /b/ like the /b/ in build.
  • BU is not a phonogram when the b and the u make separate sounds, like in bus or butane.

AW makes one sound, /äw/.

  • AW says /äw/ like the /äw/ in paw.

AY usually makes the long A sound, /ā/. AY can also make the sounds /ī/, /ĕ/ and /ē/.

  • AY usually says /ā/ like the /ā/ in day.
  • AY says /ī/ like the /ī/ in cayenne.
  • AY says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in says.
  • AY says /ē/ like the /ē/ in quay.

CC can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the /ch/ sound.

  • CC sometimes says /ch/ like the /ch/ in bocci.
  • CC is not a phonogram when each C makes its own sound, like in access, where the first c says /k/ and the second c says /s/ or in hiccup, where both c’s say /k/ or in flaccid where both c’s say /s/.

CE can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the /sh/ sound.

  • CE says /sh/ like the /sh/ in ocean and licorice.
  • CE is not a phonogram in the majority of words, like lace and cell.

CEI makes one sound, /sē/, which is the soft /s/ sound followed by the long E sound.

  • CEI says /sē/ like the /sē/ in receive.

CH makes three sounds, /ch/, /k/ and /sh/.

  • CH says /ch/ like the /ch/ in church.
  • CH says /k/ like the /k/ in chorus.
  • CH says /sh/ like the /sh/ in chef.

CI before a vowel makes one sound, /sh/.

  • CI says /sh/ like the /sh/ in social.

CK makes one sound, /k/.

  • CK says /k/ like the /k/ in rock.

CU can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the /k/ or /kw/ sound.

  • CU says /k/ like the /k/ in biscuit.
  • CU says /kw/ like the /kw/ in cuisine.
  • CU is not a phonogram in the majority of words, like cubic and cut.

DJE makes one sound, /j/.

  • DJE says /j/ like the /j/ in edge.

EA makes three sounds, /ē/, /ĕ/ and /ā/. Plus, EA can be r-controlled.

  • EA says /ē/ like the /ē/ in sea.
  • EA says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in deaf.
  • EA says /ā/ like the /ā/ in great.
  • EA with R (EAR) says three r-controlled sounds, /er/ like the /er/ in heard, /ear/ like the /ear/ in hear and /air/ like the /air/ in bear.

EAU makes three sounds, /ū/, /ō/ and /ŏ/.

  • EAU says /ū/ like the /ū/ in beauty.
  • EAU says /ō/ like the /ō/ in bureau.
  • EAU says /ŏ/ like the /ŏ/ in bureaucracy.

ED makes three sounds, /ed/, /d/ and /t/.

  • ED says /ed/ like the /ed/ in landed.
  • ED says /d/ like the /d/ in named.
  • ED says /t/ like the /t/ in sniffed.

EE usually makes the long e sound, /ē/. EE can also make the short i sound, /ĭ/. Plus, EE can be r-controlled.

  • EE says /ē/ like the /ē/ in green.
  • EE says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in been.
  • EE with R (EER) says an r-controlled sound /ear/, like the /ear/ in cheer.

EI makes five sounds. EI usually makes a long vowel sound, /ē/, /ā/ or /ī/. Less frequently, EI makes a short vowel sound, /ĭ/ or /ĕ/. Plus, EI can be r-controlled.

  • EI says /ē/ like the /ē/ in seize.
  • EI says /ā/ like the /ā/ in veil.
  • EI says /ī/ like the /ī/ in fiesty.
  • EI says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in forfeit
  • EI says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in heifer.
  • EI with R (EIR) says two r-controlled sounds, /air/ and /ear/. It says /air/ like the /air/ in their and /ear/ like the /ear/ in weird.

EIGH makes two sounds. EIGH usually makes the long A sound, /ā/. Less frequently, it makes the long I sound, /ī/.

  • EIGH says /ā/ like the /ā/ in eight.
  • EIGH says /ī/ like the /ī/ in height.

ER usually makes the r-controlled sound /er/. ER can also make the r-controlled sounds /är/ and /air/.

  • ER says /er/ like the /er/ in her.
  • ER says /är/ like the /är/ in sergeant.
  • ER says /air/ like the /air/ in concerto.

ET can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the long a sound, /ā/.

  • ET says /ā/ like the /ā/ in ballet.
  • ET is not a phonogram in the majority of words, like bet and wallet.

EU makes two sounds, /ū/ and /ōō/. Plus, EU can be r-controlled.

  • EU says /ū/ like the /ū/ in feud.
  • EU says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in neutral.
  • EU with R (EUR) says an r-controlled sound /yr/, like the /yr/ in euro.

EW makes three sounds, /ū/, /ōō/ and /ō/.

  • EW says /ū/ like the /ū/ in few.
  • EW says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in grew.
  • EW says /ō/ like the /ō/ in sew.

EY makes three sounds, /ā/, /ē/ and /ī/.

  • EY says /ā/ like the /ā/ in they.
  • EY says /ē/ like the /ē/ in turkey.
  • EY says /ī/ like the /ī/ in geyser.

GE can sometimes be a phonogram that makes two sounds, /j/ and /zh/.

  • GE says /j/ like the /j/ in surgeon.
  • GE says /zh/ like the /zh/ in mirage.
  • GE is not a phonogram in words like get.

GH makes one sound, /g/.

  • GH says /g/ like the /g/ in ghost.

GI can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the sound, /j/.

  • GI says /j/ like the /j/ in religion.
  • GI is not a phonogram in words like gin.

GN makes one sound, /n/.

  • GN says /n/ like the /n/ in gnome.

GU can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the sound, /gw/.

  • GU says /gw/ like the /gw/ in penguin.
  • GU is not a phonogram in words like gut.

IE usually makes the long E sound, /ē/. IE can also make the sounds /ī/, /ĭ/ and /ĕ/. Plus, IE can be r-controlled.

  • IE says /ē/ like the /ē/ in movie and grief.
  • IE says /ī/ like the /ī/ in pie, die, lie, tie and vie.
  • IE says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in kerchief, mischief and mischievous.
  • IE says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in friend.
  • IE with R (IER) may say an r-controlled sound /ear/, like the /ear/ in pier. IER is not a phonogram when the I and the E are in different syllables, as in happier.

IGH makes the long I sound, /ī/.

  • IGH says /ī/ like the /ī/ in high.

IR makes two r-controlled sounds, /er/ and /ear/.

  • IR says /er/ like the /er/ in first.
  • IR says /ear/ like the /ear/ in mirror.

KN makes one sound, /n/.

  • KN says /n/ like the /n/ in knot.

NG makes one sound, /ng/.

  • NG says /ng/ like the /ng/ in king.

OA usually makes one sound, /ō/. OA can also make the sound /wä/. Plus, OA can be r-controlled.

  • OA says /ō/ like the /ō/ in boat.
  • OA says /wä/ like the /wä/ in quinoa.
  • OA with R (OAR) says an r-controlled sound /ôr/, like the /ôr/ in roar.

OE usually makes one sound, /ō/. OE can also make the sounds /ŭ/ and /ōō/.

  • OE says /ō/ like the /ō/ in toe.
  • OE says /ŭ/ like the /ŭ/ in does.
  • OE says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in canoe.

OI makes one sound, /oy/. Plus, OI can be r-controlled.

  • OI says /oy/ like the /oy/ in boil.
  • OI with R (OIR) says two r-controlled sounds, /wär/ and /wīr/. OIR says /wär/ like the /wär/ in memoir and /wīr/ like the /wīr/ in choir.

OO makes four sounds. Plus, OO can be r-controlled.

  • OO says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in boo.
  • OO says /ŏŏ/ like the /ŏŏ/ in foot.
  • OO says /ō/ like the /ō/ in brooch.
  • OO says /ŭ/ like the /ŭ/ in blood.
  • OO with R (OOR) says an r-controlled sound /ôr/, like the /ôr/ in door.

OR usually makes the r-controlled sound, /ôr/. When preceded by a W, OR says /er/. Plus, OR makes the schwa sound /ər/ when unstressed.

  • OR says /ôr/ like the /ôr/ in orange.
  • WOR says /wer/ like the /wer/ in work.
  • OR says /ər/ like the /ər/ in color.

OU makes five sounds. Plus, OU can be r-controlled.

  • OU says /ow/ like the /ow/ in mouse.
  • OU says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in you.
  • OU says /ŏŏ/ like the /ŏŏ/ in could, should and would.
  • OU says /ŭ/ like the /ŭ/ in touch.
  • OU says /ō/ like the /ō/ in soul.
  • OU with R (OUR) says three r-controlled sounds, /ower/, /ôr/ and /ûr/. OUR says /ower/ like the /ower/ in sour, /ôr/ like the /ôr/ in four and /ûr/ like the /ûr/ in courage.

OUGH makes six sounds.

  • OUGH says /ŏ/ like the /ŏ/ in bought.
  • OUGH says /ō/ like the /ō/ in dough.
  • OUGH says /ŭf/ like the /ŭf/ in rough.
  • OUGH says /ow/ like the /ow/ in plough.
  • OUGH says /ŏf/ like the /ŏf/ in cough.
  • OUGH says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in through.

OT can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the sound, /ō/.

  • OT says /ō/ like the /ō/ in depot.
  • OT is not a phonogram in the majority of words, like lot and vote.

OW makes two sounds, /ow/ and /ō/.

  • OW says /ow/ like the /ow/ in how.
  • OW says /ō/ like the /ō/ in snow.

OY makes one sound, /oy/.

  • OY says /oy/ like the /oy/ in joy.

PH makes one sound, /f/.

  • PH says /f/ like the /f/ in phone.

P is silent before N, S and T.

  • PN says /n/ like the /n/ in pneumonia.
  • PS says /s/ like the /s/ in psalm.
  • PT says /t/ like the /t/ in pterodactyl.

RH makes one sound, /r/.

  • RH says /r/ like the /r/ in rhyme.

SH makes one sound, /sh/.

  • SH says /sh/ like the /sh/ in ship.

SI can sometimes be a phonogram that makes two sounds, /sh/ and /zh/.

  • SI says /sh/ like the /sh/ in session.
  • SI says /zh/ like the /zh/ in division.
  • SI is not a phonogram in words like sit and site.

TCH makes one sound, /ch/.

  • TCH says /ch/ like the /ch/ in witch.

TH makes two sounds, an unvoiced /th/ and a voiced /th/.

  • TH says an unvoiced /th/ like the /th/ in think.
  • TH says a voiced /th/ like the /th/ in the.

TI makes one sound, /sh/.

  • TI says /sh/ like the /sh/ in motion.

UE makes one sound, /ōō/. UE can also be a silent final E vowel team.

  • UE says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in blue.
  • UE can be a silent final E vowel team, like in vogue (/vōg/).

UI usually makes one sound /ōō/. UI can also make the sounds /ī/ and /ĭ/.

  • UI says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in fruit.
  • UI says /ī/ like the /ī/ in guide.
  • UI says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in build.

UR makes the r-controlled sound, /er/.

  • UR says /er/ like the /er/ blur.

UT can sometimes be a phonogram that makes the sound, /ū/.

  • UT says /ū/ like the /ū/ in debut.
  • UT is not a phonogram in the majority of words, like nut and flute.

UY makes one sound, /ī/.

  • UY says /ī/ like the /ī/ in buy.

WH makes one sound, /wh/.

  • WH says /wh/ like the /wh/ in whale.

WR makes one sound, /r/.

  • WR says /r/ like the /r/ in write.

YR makes two r-controlled sounds, /ear/ and /er/.

  • YR says /ear/ like the /ear/ in lyric.
  • YR says /er/ like the /er/ in syrup.

Please note that among the reading programs that teach phonograms, each may present a simplified version of this multi-letter phonogram sounds list. Any program that covers 40 or more multi-letter phonograms is going to be a better path to reading fluency than mainstream phonics. So, don’t let small differences between one phonogram list or another deter you from presenting phonograms to your children.

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Quizzing the Single-Sound Consonants

With the Wordy Worm Reading program, I’ve started my 2-year-old daughter off by learning the single-sound consonants. One challenge that the program helped me work through is how my daughter gives nonsense answers when I try to quiz her to see what she really knows and what she still needs to work on. To help me, the great folks at Wordy Worm gave me printable files for all the phonogram groups (which I used a sheet from today), plus printable files to make stickers and buttons as rewards (which I plan to use, too).

Tonight after dinner, I took the print out for the single-sound consonants and told my daughter that we were going to “play a game.” I made sure not to use the words “quiz” or “test” to make sure it sounded like a fun activity to her. Then I told her that for each letter sound she got right, she would get a do-a-dot stamp on the print out and a sticker for her sticker book. She LOVED this activity. She seriously answered me every time I asked her what sound a letter makes. She gave correct answers for all the single-sound consonants except the sounds for V and Z. So, we’ll be focusing on the Wordy Worm ditties and activities for those letter sounds next.

I liked that the timing of this “quiz” came at a point when my daughter already knows a lot of the answers. She was glowing with pride with all the correct answers she was able to provide. It was a big confidence booster for her and also very rewarding for me to see that the letter sounds we’ve been working on have really sunk in all the way.

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Modified ABC Song with the Letter Sounds

Tonight at bedtime, my 31-month-old daughter asked me to sing her the “ABCDEFG song.” I wanted to take the chance to reinforce some of the letter sounds she’s been learning, so I added them into the traditional ABC song. Here’s the lyrics:

A says /ă/, /ā/, /ä/. B say /b/.

C says /k/ and /s/. D says /d/.

E says /ĕ/ and /ē/. F says /f/.

G says /g/ and /j/. H says /h/.

I says /ĭ/, /ī/, /ē/, /y/. J says /j/.

K says /k/. L says /l/.

M says /m/. N says /n/.

O says /ŏ/, /ō/, /ōō/, /ŭ/. P says /p/.

Qu says /kw/. R says /r/.

S says /s/ and /z/. T says /t/.

U says /ŭ/, /ū/, /ōō/, /ŏŏ/. V says /v/.

W says /w/. X says /ks/.

Y says /y/, /ĭ/, /ī/, /ē/. Z says /z/.

That’s the letter sounds from /ă/ to /z/.

My daughter was very happy to have me sing this to her twice in a row. Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep. It was such a sweet, easy and educational bedtime.

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Mooseltoe Activity: Make a Paper Moose

Today, for an activity to accompany the Mooseltoe book from our Christmas book advent, I made a pattern for a Mooseltoe-inspired paper moose. The pattern can be downloaded free here.

If you make this with pre-reading kids, you can sing the following phonics ditty while working together:

“The name of the letter is M. The sound of the letter is /m/. Make a moose, M says /m/.”

Once the moose is done, you can change the ditty to “I made a moose, M says /m/.”

Then name the moose with a name that begins with the letter M and change the ditty again to insert the moose’s new name into it. For example, “Meet Mortimer the moose, M says /m/.”

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2-Year-Old Toddler Learning the Letter Sounds

As I mentioned in my post about the phonogram clue box, I’ve been using the Wordy Worm Reading program to teach my daughter phonics. I purchased the program’s kit in June 2012, when my daughter was 25 months old. In the short 5 months since then, I’ve been lucky enough to capture a few of our Wordy Worm moments on video.

The program includes short songs for each phonogram. I started by teaching my daughter the program’s songs for the single-sound alphabet.

In this first video, you can see that I did all the singing while my daughter played with the clue box item under my modeling and encouragement. This video was taken when my daughter was 25 months old:

In this second video, just 2 months later at 27 months old, my daughter would chime in with a letter sound here and there when encouraged:

In this third video, just 2 months after that, at 29 months old, my daughter started singing some of the ditties I’d been singing to her on her own, unprompted. Right now, she’ll only sing them unprompted. If I ask her to sing them, she’ll ignore the request. So, the clue box items are really working here because they spark her to sing the songs on her own. This independent activity lets me know that she’s really learning.

Over this same period of time, my daughter’s language skills have rapidly progressed. It’s been wonderful to have her phonics skills progress right alongside the language advancements.