Understanding the terminology can be overwhelming if you are new to phonics.
Find out more about phonics on our Phonics Information page, or visit our Phonics store.
Here is an A-Z glossary of the main words you’ll encounter:
What are the main terms I need to understand in phonics?
- Blending – the skill of joining sounds together to form a word, e.g. b-u-s is bus.
- Common word – see Sight word.
- Consonant – a letter in the alphabet that is not a vowel, such as ‘b’, ‘d’, or ‘f’.
- Consonant cluster – a blended sound that is made from two consonants next to each other.
- Counting sounds – the skill of stretching a whole word into separate sounds and counting them, e.g. hat is h-a-t (3).
- CVC word – a three-sound word that is made from a consonant-vowel-consonant, e.g. pan and sit.
- CCVC word – a four-sound word that starts with a consonant cluster sound, e.g. flag and drop.
- CVCC word – a four-sound word that ends with a consonant cluster sound, e.g. jump and hand.
- Digraph – a single sound made from two letters next to each other, e.g. /ch/ in chick, or /sh/ in sheep.
- Diphthong vowel – this is a single sound made from two vowels next to each other, e.g. /air/ in chair, or /ow/ in mouse.
- Dolch list – a collection of sight words sorted by their frequency of usage in English.
- Ending sound – see Last sound.
- Fine motor skills – the complex coordination required to hold a pencil and color in neatly or write letters using guidelines.
- First sound – the sound at the start of the word, e.g. /k/ in king, or /th/ in thumb.
- Gliding vowel – see Diphthong vowel.
- Grapheme – the written symbol that represents a sound. It can be one letter, two, or even three, e.g. ‘z’ in zip, ‘ir’ in bird, ‘air’ in hair. The four-letter graphemes are featured in the Reading Program.
- Grouping – categorizing or sorting words or images based on similar sounds, e.g. rain and robot both start with /r/.
- IPA – an acronym for the International Phonetic Alphabet, a system of symbols representing phonemes created in the late 19th century.
- Initial sound – see First sound.
- Isolation – the skill of hearing a single sound within a word, for example, /n/ in lion.
- Last sound – the sound at the end of the word, e.g. /g/ in log, or /sh/ in wash.
- Long vowel sounds – the sounds of long a, e, i, o, u, oo represented as blue in this program.
- Minimal pair – two words with different meanings that share all of the same sounds except for one, e.g. hat/hot, map/man.
- Oral blending – when the learner sounds out the individual sounds in order to blend them into a single word.
- Phoneme – a single unit of sound that is represented by one, two, or even three letters, e.g. /h/, /oi/ or /igh/.
- Pure sound – the ability to pronounce the sounds clearly without adding ‘uh’ to the end, e.g. /t/ not ‘tuh’.
- Rhyming word – a word that has the same last sounds as another word, e.g. frog/log, bear/share.
- Schwa – the commonly used short /u/ sound in English that can sometimes distort a pure sound and make blending more difficult.
- Segmenting – see Stretching.
- Short vowel sounds – the sounds of short a, e, i, o, u, oo represented as red in this program.
- Sight word – a commonly-used word in English that should be memorized instead of blended, e.g. the and said.
- Silent letter – a letter that is written but not heard when pronouncing the word aloud. These are covered in the Reading Program.
- Sound – see Phoneme.
- Stretching – the skill of separating a whole word into separate sounds, e.g. sun is s-u-n, or box is b-o-x.
- Trigraph – a single sound made from three letters next to each other, e.g. /ore/ in snore, or /igh/ in night.
- Visual blending – when the learner sees the letters and blends the sounds to create a word.
- Vowels – the letters a, e, i, o, u.
We hope that you’ve found this post useful. If you have any questions about our Phonics Program, please get in touch.