Skip to content ↓


Pooh said to Piglet: “Its all right Piglet. Spelling is easy once you get started.”

Piglet nodded, “Getting started is the worst bit.”

From The House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne

We only have 26 letters in our alphabet .

How are we going to spell 40+ phonemes with only 26 letters? This, in a nutshell, is the problem of English spelling


Phoneme ----- The smallest unit of sound in a word

Grapheme ---- A letter or sequence of letters that  

                         represents a phoneme.

So, in the word string there are a total of 5 phonemes

                      s t r i ng 

In order to spell, children need to be able to segment a word into its component phonemes and choose a grapheme to represent each phoneme!

More Terminology

Digraph ----- Two letters that make up one phoneme

A consonant digraph contains two consonants.

                      sh    ck    th   ll

A vowel digraph contains at least one vowel

                     ai    ee    ar    oy

Trigraph ----- Three letters that make up one phoneme

                     igh   dge

Split digraph ----- A digraph in which the letters are not adjacent  (no longer called "magic e")


The table below shows the complex code which children have to learn in order to read and spell.

Phoneme Grapheme Word examples
            ai   ai, ay, a-e, eigh, ey, ei  rain, day, gate, eight, they, weight
           ar  ar, a  farm, father
           igh   igh,  ie,  y,  I-e,  I  night, tie, my, like, find
           ee  ee, ea, y, ie, ey  seed, sea, funny, chief, key
           oa  oa, ow, oe, o-e  boat, low, toe, bone
           or  al, our, augh, aw  talk, four, caught, law
           oo   oo, ue, u-e, ew  boot, blue, rule, blew
          (y)oo  ue, u-e, ew  statue, cube, few
           oo   oul, u  could, push
           ur  ear, or, ir, er  learn, work, firm, term
          ear  ear, ere, eer  hear, here, beer
           air air, ere, ear, are   pair, there, pear, bare
           oi  oi, oy  coin, boy
          zh  s  treasure, vision, usual

The Key Sounds of English - 44 Phonemes and 4 Blends

When helping your child to sound out phonemes it is vital that you do not "over pronounce" each sound. The letter t for example should be sounded out as a short "t" sound and not an extended "ta" or "ter". This video clip gives clear guidance on this and is a good starting point for anyone helping a child to spell or read.

Phonic Screening Check and Non Words

An explanation of the Phonics Screening Test which is taken by children towards the end of Year 1.

Phonics Phase 5

Examples of phonemes and graphemes from Phase 5 which is first taught in Year R and then revisited in Year 1 and Year 2 if necessary.

Fun ways to help your child to learn their weekly spelling lists

(or any other words they are finding tricky)

A PDF of these  ideas can be downloaded at the bottom of this section.