English phonics rules your child should know

Are you a parent or homeschooler trying to navigate the ins and outs of phonics rules? If so, you’ve come to the right place! Helping your child learn how to correctly pronounce words doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Whether it’s identifying short vowels or mastering the silent e rule, understanding English phonics rules can help elevate your reading and writing skills with ease. Think of this article as a mini-guide for anyone looking for essential tips on deciphering common English phonics rules. With a little practice, we are confident that soon enough you will become competant at recognizing these rules in no time!

Understand the Vowel Rules – Learn the basic rules for sounding out vowels such as long and short vowel sounds, diphthongs, prefixes, and suffixes

Mastering the art of reading and pronunciation can be a tricky task, but understanding the vowel rules can be a game-changer. Vowels are the backbone of any language and being able to recognize long or short vowel sounds, diphthongs, prefixes, and suffixes can help your child sound out words with ease. Knowing the correct sounds of vowels is crucial to effective communication, and it takes time and dedication to master this skill. However, the reward is invaluable as your child will be able to effortlessly read and comprehend texts, present confidently, and accurately pronounce words.

Familiarize yourself with Consonant Clusters – Learn how to blend consonant clusters together to make new sounds such as “bl,” “spl,” and “gl”

As a language learner, it’s essential your child becomes familiar with consonant clusters and their sounds. Consonant clusters occur when two or more consonant sounds appear together in a word. Some examples of consonant clusters include “bl” in “blue,” “spl” in “splash,” and “gl” in “glow.” Learning how to blend these sounds together is crucial in improving your pronunciation and fluency. With practice, your child can confidently pronounce and recognize different consonant clusters in words, making your communication more effective and clear. So, take the time to familiarize yourself with these sounds to start blending those consonant clusters.

Practice Syllable Division – Divide words into syllables by identifying patterns of vowels and consonants in a word

Understanding syllable division is essential in improving both reading and writing skills. By correctly identifying patterns of vowels and consonants in a word, we can break it down into manageable chunks that are easier to sound out and spell. This not only helps with pronunciation, but also enhances comprehension since identifying syllables helps us recognize underlying meaning in words. Syllable division can also help us identify the correct stress and intonation patterns when speaking, making our speech sound more natural and fluent. Practice is key when it comes to mastering syllable division.

Master Silent Letters – Familiarize yourself with silent letters so you can accurately read and pronounce words like “doubt” or “would”

Have your children ever stumbled over a word like “knight” or “gnat” while reading? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many words in the English language have silent letters, which can make them tricky to read and pronounce correctly. But fear not, mastering silent letters is easier than you might think. By familiarizing your child with common silent letter combinations, such as “kn” or “wr,” they’ll be able to confidently tackle any word in their path. Say goodbye to mispronunciations and hello to a newfound confidence in your reading and speaking abilities.

Know the Common Exceptions to Phonics Rules – Become familiar with some common exceptions to phonics rules such as when the letter “c” makes an /s/ sound instead of a /k/ sound

Learning phonics is essential for any beginner reader, but it’s equally important to know that there are common exceptions to the rules. For example, the letter “c” doesn’t always make a hard /k/ sound. In certain instances, “c” makes an unexpected /s/ sound. Knowing these exceptions can make a remarkable difference in improving your reading accuracy and fluency. By understanding the complexities of the English language, your children are on their way to expanding your vocabulary and becoming a confident reader.

Utilize Mnemonic Devices – Use inventive ways to remember phonics rules, such as creating stories or rhymes that explain them in an easy-to-remember way

Learning phonics rules can sometimes be a challenge, but with the help of mnemonic devices, it can become a fun and creative experience. Mnemonic devices are a proven way of improving memory and enhancing the learning process by associating information with familiar and relatable objects, stories, or rhymes. For example, to remember the vowel sounds in the English language, you can use a mnemonic device such as “AEIOU and sometimes Y.” This clever rhyme helps learners recall the different vowel sounds easily. Through inventive ways of using mnemonic devices, learning phonics becomes an enjoyable and effective way of improving literacy skills.

In conclusion, English phonics rules are essential to understanding the basics of reading and pronouncing words correctly. Mastering the rules for vowel sounds, consonant clusters, syllable division, silent letters, and common exceptions will be a major part of their journey as English learners. However, with patience and practice, they’ll be able to develop meaningful connections between letters and their corresponding sounds. Utilizing mnemonic devices such as stories or rhymes can also facilitate the learning process so you can remember all these new rules. With this knowledge, your child will soon be well on her way to becoming a confident reader in no time at all!


Aren’t All Phonics Rules The Same?

If you are a phonics fan you already know: reading rules are both revolutionary and flawed.

Q: The shortcoming in a word?

A: Accuracy. 

You may not know this: a huge study found a solution to this a year before I was born! That would be (ahem :~ about 1966)

Hanah and Hanah et al found that adding letter position to phonics rules improved accuracy by 75%

We took this study to heart. (You can read why I had to, further down the page: ) The Result is improved rules called English Decoder:

Standard rules have

  letter(s) + sounds

English Decoder has

   letter(s) + 1 sound + word or letter position

Look How This Changes Reading

using standard rule:

  y = first sound in yellow; I, E or A (capitals sound like their letter names)

How do you know which sound to use for these simple words?

by   baby     say  yes

cry  shady    pay  you

using English Decoder rules:

  y= I (sounds like the letter name) at the end of a 2 or 3 letter word

 my, by, try, cry, fly . . . are easy

  y  = first sound in yellow  when it is the first letter in a word

yes, you, yell, year . . . are read just as smoothly.

  y= E  at the end of a word with 5 or more letters

baby, shady, funny make sense too. It gets better!  Harder words work.

  y= I   in the ending “ply”

reply, comply . . . don’t have to be confusion and tears just waiting to happen.

You get the idea.  The other “y” rules explain the rest of the words just as clearly. And they work 95% of the time.  Some words like “key” are exceptions. 

Important!  All together, you need fewer English Decoder rules than standard ones.  That is because improved rules cover what sounds letters do say rather than endlessly repeating sounds letters could say.

Improved Phonics Rules Change 3 Big Reading Realities

1. Study Findings Are Now Applied 

You already know that Hanah and Hanah et al found that adding  letter position  increased phonics predictability by 75% way back in the late 1960’s.

It happened again. Just about the year 2000 Abbot looked at rules for spelling and listed letter position and companion letters (also called word position) as cues to improve accuracy.  No one built these wonderfully powerful facts into reading programs.

I did not know of these studies when along came our son who could not make heads or tales of inaccurate rules. I had been building my own phonics program for our family for years. We had great results. Now I had to do something big.

We noticed all kinds of patterns that could fix our son’s problem and printed them up. Only then did I find all the studies that made the discovery years before. This confirmation gave me so much confidence : )

2. Ease of learning.  What could be easier than rules that connect 1 letter pattern to 1 sound?  This is what we want phonics to do in the first place. 

The idea of phonics is to learn a few dozen rules instead of tens of thousands of individual words.  When rules don’t fit, words must be memorized.  Hundreds of words must be memorized with standard rules.  Only about a dozen need to be remembered for English Decoder.

When rules are inaccurate all kinds of clues that seem wildly out of place in a preschool book show up. Things like:

  • syllabication,
  • suffix and prefix and
  • etymology

are taught with standard phonics-based reading.  English Decoder simply does not need anything more complex than the number of letters in a word and what letters are nearby. 

3. Students can read anything.  Your child does not need to restrict themselves to words someone else has taught them if they have better rules to use.  They can learn new words! This is ground breaking.

I don’t want to overstate this.  You still need a verbal vocabulary to recognize words. But you don’t need someone to point to a word and say it before grasping it on your own.

So are all phonics rules the same?  They were. Not anymore : )

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