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Phonics: What in the world are phonemes?

Updated: Feb 21

Are you new to teaching? Not got a clue about phonics? Overwhelmed by too much information? Here are 10 easy tips to help you to instantly start teaching phonics!

Where Do I Start?

In schools, the 42 main sounds are taught during phonics lessons - not just the 26 letters of the alphabet! Not sure where to start? It's a good idea to listen to the correct pronunciation of each sound, as this will ultimately help your child to learn to read and spell!

A Phonics Guide to Learning Letters and Sounds

  1. Initially, it's best to introduce the letter sounds rather than placing too much focus on their names. This makes blending to read simple 2 or 3 letter words far easier. As children progress with their phonics, they'll start to learn that some sounds can contain 2 or more letters, for example, ‘ch’ or ‘ai’. They will then need to learn the letter names.

  2. Make sure that the sounds (phonemes) are pronounced correctly by children and adults! Sometimes people add /uh/ on the end of a sound (for example, /m/ becomes muh). If you're a parent or guardian, check with your child’s teacher if you're unsure how to pronounce the letter sounds. There are also phonics clips online demonstrating the correct pronunciation.

  3. Introduce new sounds alongside objects and pictures which begin with that sound. Also, encourage children to listen out for the sound in the middle or at the end of words during phonics sessions.

  4. Ask children to look in a mirror whilst saying the sounds, so that they can focus on the shape that their mouth should be making.

  5. It is more important to learn lowercase letters first rather than capitals. This is because most early books consist mainly of lowercase letters! You can introduce the capital letters at the same time but focus more on the lowercase letter.

  6. When you do start to teach capitals, ensure that children realise that capital letters make the same sounds as their lowercase version! It's a common misconception that the capital letter is the ‘name’ and the lowercase letter is the ‘sound’!

  7. Letter names can be taught during phonics sessions using the alphabet song. Point to an alphabet display as you sing.

  8. Always demonstrate how to correctly form each letter. If you're a parent/guardian, ask your child’s school to give you a sheet showing how they teach children to form each letter. Different schools use different approaches to teach handwriting. Bad habits are very difficult to break!

  9. Teach phonics daily; little and often is key. Vary the activities and keep them fun!

  10. Make phonics learning hands-on and engaging! There are tons of awesome phonics activities here.

Letter and Sound Recognition Activities

Football Flick

finger football phonics activity

You Will Need

Polystyrene balls


Mini goal, e.g. from 'Finger Football', or a tub/small box


•Write a sound on each of the balls.

•Line the balls up ready for penalties!

•Flick the ball into the net, saying the sound.

Hole Punch

hole punch letters and sounds activity

You Will Need

Strips of paper/card


Mini hole punchers


•Write letters on the strips of paper.

•Call out a letter (or children can pick one from a bag).

•Children punch holes underneath that letter on their strips of paper.

Trucks and Rocks

trucks and rocks letters and sounds activity

You Will Need

Toy trucks




•Write your focus sounds on rocks.

•Children dig or scoop up the rocks and put them into their trucks.

•Can they tell you the letter sounds?

Dig for Letters

digging in sand for letters

You Will Need


Magnetic letters

Spades, trowels, etc.


•Bury magnetic letters in the sand.

•Children hunt for the letters and say the sounds as they collect them.

•They can also make the imprint of letters in damp sand.


Check out my phonics guide for more amazing activities for teaching letter recognition and formation.


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