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Phonics Terminology

Phonics Terminology

There are lots of different phonics terminology which can be overwhelming. At White Court we use this terminology with the children, they become experts in this and love learning big words!


We have put together a code breaker to help you understand the meaning of each to support your child with this at home.

However, to start to understand phonics terminology it is important to understand the difference between sounds that are said and sounds that are written. A sound that is written is called a grapheme and a sound that is said is called a phoneme. Phoneme and grapheme recognition come hand in hand as your child starts to learn phonics they will make an association between the two. For example when you write the letter ‘a’ this is a grapheme, it makes the short ‘a’ sound (like in ‘ant’), but when the short ‘a’ is said this is the phoneme. 


There are  44 sounds of the English language are not just made by up by single letters sounds, two letters can work together, sometimes three! These are know as: digraphs, trigraphs and split digraphs. A digraph is made up of two letters working together to make the same sound, for example ‘oa’ like in ‘boat’. Trigraphs are three letters working together to make the same sound, for example ‘air’ in ‘hair’. A split digraph is two letters that work together to make the same sound but are separated by another letter for example ‘i_e’ in ‘bike’.


There are some combinations of letters that sound the same but are spelt differently for example, ‘oa’ in boat an the ‘o_e’ in ‘bone’, both words have the ‘o’ sound but different combinations of letters are used. We call this alternative spelling combinations. We call these sound families.

At White court we teach sound families with stories. See below for the different stories we teach which relate to words within that family. It is a great way to remember them!

The sound that most children struggle to spot the most when breaking down words into its individual sounds is the 'split digraph'. Like a normal digraph, this is when two letters work together to make one sound, however with a split digraph, they are separated and have a letter in the middle.



Below is a little phonics code breaker to help you remember the terminology

Phoneme - a sound as it is said

Grapheme - a sound that is written

Digraph- two letters that work together to make the same sound

Trigraph - Three letters that work together to make the same sound

Split digraph - Two letters that work together to make the same sound, separated by another letter. This video is fantastic at explaining what a split digraph is!


Split Digraph Words | Magic e | Phonics Phase 5 | Segmenting & Blending

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