Thursday, June 25, 2015

General Phonics Rules by Literacy Tutor


I was a literacy tutor for adults for twelve plus years and I'll be sharing some tips for both literacy tutors and for literacy students. May you find something helpful and useful here.

Literacy and phonics go together. Although many words cannot be decoded using phonics alone, most words can.

Knowing common rules for letter sounds and common letter patterns is a good basis for sounding out new words.

Most letters only represent one sound. Some letters represent two or more sounds. For example, the letter X represents four sounds. Sometimes a letter is actually silent, or changes the sound it represents when it's combined with different letters.

A special note for students. You are a learner.

You have already learned many things up to this point in time. So what I want to remind you is that you can learn, you do learn, you are a learner already.

And if you can apply that knowledge to the idea that you're just learning something new, that will be a big help.


It's okay to start with little words.

Small words, such as cat, may be considered baby words by some people. However, by understanding that the letters CA in cat represent the same sound that starts the word Cathy can be a big help in sounding out the word Cathy.

Also knowing that the letter C, when immediately followed by the letter A in the same syllable, will represent the same sound that the letter K represents, is an extra plus.

Whereas the letter C immediately followed by the letter I in the same syllable, as in city, represents the same sound as the letter S does in the word silly.

Any size word is made up of common letter combinations. Multiple letter groups added together make bigger words, called multi-syllable words.

So understanding and recognizing smaller letter patterns can be helpful in decoding and sounding out larger multi-syllable words.

Some basics on vowels and syllables and when W and Y act like vowels:

There are five letters in the English language that are always vowels: A, E, I, O, and U. Vowels can be long, which means that they say their name; be short and represent a more breathy sound; or they can be paired with other vowels to represent a new sound.

The letters W and Y can also act like vowels depending on the word that they are in, and their location in the word. Y acts like a silent E in the word play; like a long E, as in the word silly; and as a long I, as in the word byte. W acts like a silent E, as in the word grow.

In the English language, the majority of syllables, at least 99.9% of them, have a vowel in them. One exception that I know of is the word rhythm, in which there are two syllables and only one vowel.

Other than the word rhythm, there will normally be at least one vowel in each syllable and up to three. Your jaw will drop with the voicing of each new syllable. (Place your hand under your chin and say a word. How many times did your jaw lower? That will tell you how many syllables are in that word.)

Some Basics on Consonants:

There are 19 letters that are always consonants, B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, and Z. There are 21 when counting the letters W and Y, which sometimes act like consonants and sometimes act like vowels.

Most consonants are usually known for a specific sound: B, D, F, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, T, V, and Z, with only a few exceptions.

Three consonants can also represent a hard or soft sound; they are C, G, and S. The C can be hard as in the word cat or soft as in the word city. The G can represent its hard sound as in the word go, or its' soft sound as in the word gel. The S can represent its hard sound as in the word seal, or its soft sound as in the word rise, in which the S sounds like the Z sound. See more below under General Spelling/Phonics Rules.

The X represents four sounds. X sometimes represents the Z sound as in xylophone, says its name as in x-ray, sounds like the K sound as in tuxedo, or the CKS sound as in fox.

B, K, and W are also sometimes silent is in the words climb, knew, and wrap.

Alphabet Sounds:

Here are the basic consonant and short vowel sounds. Please note that some of the consonant sounds here include a short vowel sound after the consonant sound. As best you can, leave the vowel sound off when making the consonant sound by itself. The vowel sound will change depending on the actual vowel that follows the consonant in a word. For example, the vowel sound in the word word cup sounds different than the one in cap. But they both start with the sound of /k/.



If you're interested in a phonics DVD that isn't as kid like, then you might like this DVD that features some Sesame Street characters as well as some celebrities.



I haven't watched this one myself, but it has gotten pretty good reviews and received 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.

I do think that it is easier to learn phonics when you have something or someone to listen to as the various sounds are given.

If you are a tutor, or a literacy student who already knows quite a bit of the basics, then I recommend The Phonics Guide: A Guide to Reading and Spelling Patterns, to use as a refer to book. Any letter and or pattern can be looked up alphabetically, and examples and rules are given for each one.



Read more letter specific Phonics Rules here.

Cheryl Paton