‘Phonics’ – what is that?! If you have a child in primary school you will be familiar with the word. You may even know that phonics, as far as parents are concerned, basically means good old fashioned ‘sounding out’.

Phonics is all about decoding, or breaking words down into their smallest units of sound, then putting them back together again to read the whole word.

The trouble is, many of us don’t know what those smallest units of sound are.

There are about 44 phonemes – units of sound – which is a fair few more than the 26 letters of the alphabet. Unfortunately, most of us only know how to decode using the alphabet. That means we end up sounding words out as ‘suh-huh-o-puh’, which isn’t how you say ‘shop’. Or ‘cuh-a-ruh’, which isn’t how you say ‘car’ either.

To sound out words like ‘shop’ and ‘car’, we need to know that they should be sounded out as ‘sh-o-p’ and ‘c-ar’.

It’s also really common for us to say some sounds as, for example, ‘luh’, ‘a’, ‘nuh’, ‘duh’ for the word ‘land’. But ‘luh’, ‘nuh’ and ‘duh’ are not phonics sounds. The ‘l’ sound is more of an ‘ul’ than a ‘luh’ and ‘n’ is more ‘nnn’ than ‘nuh’.

To be honest, it’s really hard to explain phonics in writing. Much easier to let you hear the phonics sounds for yourself!

If you want to know more about phonics sign up to receive your free reading guide, which includes an introduction to learning to read using phonics.

Click on the phonemes below to hear the phonics sounds

s a t i
p n c/k/ck e
h r m d
g o u l
f b j y
ai w oa igh
ee or z ng
v short oo long oo ks (x)
ch sh th th
kw (q) ou oi ue
er ar air eer

I have recorded the sounds as they are included on Debbie Hepplewhite’s alphabetic code overview chart, which you can download here. Debbie Hepplewhite is the founder of Phonics International – just one of the systematic synthetic phonics teaching programmes. There are other programmes, but the sounds that make up the English language remain the same. There are lots of charts for different purposes on Debbie Hepplewhite’s website www.alphabeticcodecharts.com.