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Sequence of Phonics Instruction – Part IV

Sequence of Phonics Instruction – Part IV

Phonics relies on letter-sound relationships to teach children to identify words. When teaching phonics begin with the easy relationships and then move along to the more complex letter-sound relationships.

For more information about phonics, please visit our series of phonics posts noted below:

Posts
Concepts
Part I
Consonants, short vowels and word families,
e.g. VC and CVC
Part II
Digraphs, blends and more word families,
e.g., CVCC, CCVC and CCVCC
Part III
Vowel relationships, specifically magic E,
vowel teams and their exceptions

This post will focus on the remaining relationships that exist among vowels. Our language uses six letters (a, e, i, o, u, & y) to create over fifteen vowel sounds.

  1. R – Control

    We like to refer to this letter-sound relationship as the Bossy R. When a vowel precedes the letter “r”, it sounds different. The following are great examples:

    Bossy R
    Short Vowel Sounds
    car
    cat
    her
    hen
    sir
    sit
    for
    fog
    fur
    fun

    The following table provides additional examples of R-control or bossy R words.

    Letters
    Examples
    ar
    card, part, dark, shark, jar, far, arm, farm, star, hard, yard, barn, harp, bark, start, yarn, cart, sharp & smart
    er
    herd, fern, stern, sister, winter, upper, better, hammer, dinner, summer & bitter
    ir
    fir, first, birch, girl, bird, dirt, twirl, birth & shirt
    or
    born, corn, horn, pork, fork, sort, sport, short, form, north & storm
    ur
    burn, churn, turn, surf, turf & church

    In addition, the combination of the letters “air” and “are” often make the /er/ sound, e.g. fair, bare.

  2. Using the words above, compare and contrast each word to demonstrate both the open and closed syllable rule. If needed, prior to beginning this exercise review both the long and short vowel sounds. Say and show the word, bet. Then remove the letter “t” and say the new word, be.

  3. Y Rules

  4. When the letter “y” is found at the end of a one syllable word, it makes a long /i/ sound, e.g., by, my, cry, fly, sky, try & why.

    When the letter “y” is found at the end of a two syllable word, it makes the long /e/ sound, e.g., baby, lady, candy, daddy, funny, puppy, penny & safety.

    It is more common to find the letter “y” being used as a vowel. Typically, when the letter “y” is at the beginning of a word it is a consonant. However, if the letter “y” is located in the medial or end of a word it is often treated as a vowel. Interestingly, when a vowel precedes the letter “y”, it often makes the “y” silent, e.g. day & key.

    Letter
    Sound
    Examples
    y
    Long i
    my, cycle
    y
    Long e
    shady, bunny
    y
    /y/
    yes, yarn
  5. Vowel Diphthongs

    A vowel diphthong makes one sound but uses two letters, it moves from one sound to the next, e.g. the “oy” sound in toy.

    Letters
    Sounds
    Examples
    Letters
    Sounds
    Examples
    oi
    /oi/
    boil, coin
    oy
    /oi/
    boy, toy
    ou
    /ou/
    cloud, pound
    ow
    /ou/
    how, crown
    au
    /aw/
    launch, haunt
    aw
    /aw/
    saw, draw

    The letter combinations, “al”, “augh” and “ough” and the letter “o” can also make the /aw/ sound, e.g. also, caught, bought and off. It is no wonder that the English language is one of the hardest to read.

  6. Long and Short Double O Vowel Sounds

    Introduce the following sound / letter relationships.

    Letter/s
    Sound
    Examples
    oo
    Long Double O
    too, zoo, food, spoon, roof, moon
    u
    Long Double O

    June, truth, crude, tune, flute, tube
    oo
    Short Double O

    book, foot, good, look, took, wood
    u
    Short Double O

    full, pull, put, push, bush, bully
  7. Schwa

    According to the dictionary, schwa is the sound of an unaccented vowel. Say what? Clearly an example is needed to convey this meaning. The word, America, contains the schwa sounds (short u) in both the first and last vowels.

    Letters
    Examples
    a
    about, above, ago, alone, away, another, again
    e
    effect, item, diet, even, label, often
    o
    other, second, money, mother, nation, onion

    The letters “i” and “u” can also produce the schwa sounds, e.g. pencil, holiday and circus.

  8. Other Vowel Spelling

    Introduce the following sound / letter relationships.

    Letter
    Sound
    Examples
    igh
    Long i
    high, thigh, fight, knight, bright
  9. The English language uses six letters to make over fifteen sounds. Due to the many complexities of phonics instruction, it generally takes a child a few years to obtain a solid foundation of letter-sound relationships when learning to read.

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