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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