How can phonics sounds
help me fill in the bright green blank ? ? ? ? ?

"OK kids, remember your phonics sounds. o will sound like u when:
____?????? __."

Now , you can all read son, won and other. Great!

Having an answer that fills in the green blank makes phonics a reliable system. If there is no answer, then phonics is just a really good start to reading.

Let me back up. Here are some basics behind my question about o sounds.

  • Phonics is the system that matches letters to sounds. With it we can all go from spoken to written words and back again. We usually call this reading and spelling.
  • Phonics sounds are the sounds that make up a language. English has 46 sounds .
    Phonics Sounds Chart FREE Download PDF
  • A new reader learns to say one of the 46 sounds when they see a letter in a word. They have learned a Letter Sound.

With standard phonics some letter sounds don’t work. For instance, most people learn that o makes the sound in the middle of mop and u makes the first sound in umbrella. Now son, won and other make no sense at all. About 25% or more of English words have similar inconsistencies.

Some readers don’t notice. Some don’t care. Some are stuck only temporarily. Some conclude that reading is just guessing and not worth learning at all.

That’s a problem. How do we solve it?

It turns out that way back in the late 1960’s researchers found a way to answer “When will o make the u sound?” and other seeming inconsistencies in letter and phonics sounds. No one built these findings into reading instruction. Until now : )

The Hannah study (from 1966) said that you can predict what sound a letter will say in a word many times more often if you notice letter and the letter position rather than letter alone. We found that nearby letters and size of the word make good clues too.

Looking at nearby letters to determine a letter sound brings us back to our bright green blank:

o will make the u sound when it is followed by n, th (as in “the”) l, m,ve or final me.

Now words like son, mother, come, honey, oven, love and others are easy to read.

How consistent is phonics that uses details like letter position and word length?
In 2000 the Abbot study confirmed the Hannah discovery. Its claim: phonics is 2-3 times more accurate in predicting the actual letter sounds used to pronounce words when letter position and other details are used.

We developed what we believe is the first English phonics reading system to use these more accurate letters sounds.

Of course we had to test it and see for ourselves : )

In the first five chapters of Proverbs (written on a 11th grade reading level in the New American Standard Translation of the Bible) our phonics, English Decoder, worked for 95 out of 100 words. Normally 50-75 out of 100 would sound out with phonics alone.

So, Hannah and Abbot were right!

English Decoder Worksheets have lots more detailed letter sounds like the ones explained here.

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