Phonics is a recognized method for teaching learners to read by learning the individual sounds (phonemes) and the letters that represent them (a grapheme).
International Phonics Alphabet (IPA)
What is the IPA? Well, it’s a system of symbols for showing how words are pronounced. Every dictionary has them! Yet most don’t know how they are used.
Here’s an example of the word “dictionary” in a dictionary!
Next to it are these funny symbols
These symbols are the IPA! Each represents a “phoneme” which is a unit of sound that has meaning.
There are 44 phonemes in English each representing a different sound. These sounds can be divided into 3 main categories vowels, consonants and diphthongs.
The vowels group consists of 12 phonemes these are split into 5 long and seven short sounds. The consonant group includes 24 different phonemes and includes 15 voiced phonemes and 9 unvoiced. The third group of diphthongs includes 8 phonemes.
Below we can see all 44 sounds represented in the IPA Phonemic Chart
* Sounds can vary with different regional accents
IPA Phonemic Chart
And there’s more as sometimes letter combinations need to be used to make a phoneme and a letter can also represent different phonemes!
Does it kind of seem a little confusing? Don’t worry!
Let’s look at the “phonemes” sounds and their “grapheme’s” (the written letters from the alphabet that represent them)
The 12 vowels shown with all the different grapheme representations
The 24 consonants shown with all the different grapheme representations
The 12 diphthongs shown with all the different grapheme representations
Blends are made when two or three letters combine to create a consonant sound.
Blending – This involves looking at a written word, looking at each grapheme and using knowledge of GPCs to work out which phoneme each grapheme represents and then merging these phonemes together to make a word. This is the basis of reading.
Digraph – A grapheme containing two letters that makes just one sound (phoneme).
Grapheme – A way of writing down a phoneme. Graphemes can be made up from 1 letter e.g. p, 2 letters e.g. sh, 3 letters e.g. tch or 4 letters e.g eigh.
GPC – This is short for Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence. Knowing a GPC means being able to match a phoneme to a grapheme and vice versa.
IPA – The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system to provide a unique symbol for each distinctive sound in a language – that is, every sound, or phoneme, that serves to distinguish one word from another.
Phoneme – The smallest unit of sound. There are approximately 44 phonemes in English (it depends on different accents). Phonemes can be put together to make words.
Trigraph – A grapheme containing three letters that makes just one sound (phoneme).
Segmenting – This involves looking at a written word, looking at each grapheme and using knowledge of GPCs to work out which phoneme each grapheme represents and then merging these phonemes together to make a word. This is the basis of reading.