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How to Teach Phonograms: Part 1

How to Teach Phonograms Part I.

In Yes Phonics (YP) and all other superior Orton-Spalding (OS) methods of teaching to read, the phonograms are the firm foundation from which to build an excellent reading program. The phonogram flashcards provided by Yes How to teach phonograms: Part 1 Phonics include pictures, help for the teacher, and key word captions. The keyword captions are an element that makes YP standout from the other OS programs. They give students a reference point in the learning process.

Simply print them, cut them out, and use them as prescribed or to your heart’s content. We want you and your students to have every advantage possible as you give them the precious gift of learning to read.

Phonograms are single letters and combinations of letters that make sounds. Words are simply just phonograms that we put together in a certain order. When a student catches on to this idea, the world of words and reading begins to open and expand quickly.

Click here to download the phonograms. Teach them to your students.  They will be ahead of the reading game in any educational setting with this knowledge.

In practice this is all much easier than it seems when explained piece by piece.  Trust me; you will not be disappointed.

[quote]Teach them [phonograms] to your students. They will be ahead of the reading game in any educational setting with this knowledge. Click to Tweet[/quote]

A word might have five letters in it, but only two sounds.

How to teach phonograms
How to teach phonograms: Part 1 For instance, the word “cough”:  There are 5 letters, but we teach that the /c/ is making the first of its two possible sounds.  Then we teach that the /ough/ is making the 4th of its six possible sounds.  We distinguish the multi-letter phonogram by underlining it when we write it.  The phonogram is underlined so that a student learns to see it as one sound.

Because the /ough/ has six possible sounds of which the students learn together, we put a tiny number above the phonogram.  In the case of cough and the /ough/,   we put a tiny 4 above it.

YP provides a DVD of the actual sounds and their “keyword captions” so that you know how to say them. The keyword captions are words that students say right after they say the sound or sounds of the phonogram on the card.  You can also teach the phonograms without the DVD.

Teaching with the phonogram flashcards uses all of the senses: the mouth for speaking, the ears for hearing, the eyes for seeing, and the hands for writing. Use all of these senses as much as possible when using the phonogram flashcards.

Step 1.

The following shapes are used in manuscript/printed writing.  Teach them to your student. Any letter made with a circle begins at the 1 and goes to the 2 and each relevant point. The points on the circle are used as references in the formation of letters and in preventing and correcting reversals.

how to teach phonograms






Step 2.

Teach the phonograms and their keyword captions.  What the student doesn’t and shouldn’t understand yet, will be very helpful to you, the teacher. The key word captions give you tools to know how to say the individual sounds of the phonogram at hand. “ /ă/ā/ah/ have a ball”, tells you how to say the first sound of the /a/, like in “have”, the second sound in /a/, like in “a”, and the third sound in /a/, like in “ball”.

The phonogram sounds are made short, staccato. Spoken any longer and a vowel sound accidentally gets added. Write each phonogram 5 times or as many times as needed to learn them. Review previously learned phonogramsHow to teach phonograms: Part 1 every day.

You are teaching how to say the phonogram and keyword caption after you teach how to write it but at the same time. In other words: in the same session. Say the sound or sounds. Write the sounds (phonograms) then say the phonograms and keyword caption. Say. Write. Say again, and then say the keyword caption.

Teach the phonograms in the order presented here rather than in the order that they are as they come packaged. The “circle letters” are taught first, and the /b/ and /d/ are taught apart from each other. The /b/ is NOT a circle letter.

You can use dotted lined paper, or teach an imaginary dotted line with any lined paper. You will get the same results with either type. You can use marker boards or write in the air for practice before putting down on paper.

Draw a circle on a marker board or paper, and number it as seen here, so a student can always have the reference handy.

how to teach phonograms


How to teach phonograms chart


Begin teaching the circle letters; download 3/8 inch writing paper here:


a: Say: /ă/-/ā/-/ah/  (Now write it.)  Begin at 1, circle back around to 1, go down to baseline.     

a  Now say:  /ă/-/ā/-/ah/, have a ball


c: Say:  /k/-/s/  (Now write it.) Begin at 1, circle around to 4 and stop.

c  Now say:  /k/-/s/ cat in the city


d: Say: /d/ (Now write it.)  Begin at 1, circle around to 1, go up almost to the top line, retrace to the baseline.How to teach phonograms: Part 1

d Now say: /d/ daddy’s dragon


f: Say: /f(Now write it.)  Begin on the upper circle 1, circle to 2, go down to the baseline, lift the pencil, cross. *        f Now say: /f/ funny face

*We make the cross by drawing the line from left to right to promote the direction in which we read and write. We write the f beginning at the 1 as a circle letter even though it’s “in the air” rather than below the midline.


g: Say: /g/-/j/ (Now write it.)  Begin at 1, circle around to 1, go below the baseline, circle around to  3.

g Now say:  /g/-/j/  goat and giraffe


o: Say: /ah/-/ō/-/ŭ/-/oō/ (Now write it.) Begin at 1, circle around to 1.

o Say: /ah/-/ō/-/ŭ/-/oō/  Ox over? Love to! (The keyword captions aren’t meant to make sense as sentences, although some of them do, but there is a fun way to explain this one to students.  “…Want to come over for dinner?  I’d love to!  Ox over?  Love to! )


s: Say: /s/-/z/ (Now write it.) Begin at 1, circle to 2, slide over to 4, circle to 3.

s  Now say: /s/-/z/  Susie

The last circle letter we make is qu. The q is never written without the u, so they go together. Notice the space before and after the qu on the line of alphabet phonograms. When we write phonograms in a straight line for practice, we skip a space only big enough to fit an /o/ before and after multi-letter phonograms so that we see them clearly. During the dictation of words we underline all multi-letter phonograms so that students see them as one sound.

qu: Say /kw/ Always write q with u.  (Now write it.) Begin at 1, circle to 1, go straight below baseline, add a tiny flag.

qu Now say: /kw/ Always write q with u. Queen.

As you review after you teach a few phonograms, if a child can write the phonogram when you call it out (say it), they know it well enough to continue. This does not mean that they will know it every time they need to in the How to teach phonograms: Part 1 future.

Practice and review is essential, but perfect memorization is not necessary. The phonograms will be used in words over and over again. The words get dictated one sound and one syllable at a time. Students use their knowledge of the phonograms as they begin to sound out, spell, and then read words.

Play With the Phonograms

Place several on a chair, table, or bench.  Have a marker board or piece of paper nearby.  Ask a child to hop, skip, jump, or run to the bench, choose a particular phonogram that you tell them. Pick it up, say it, write it on the board or paper, then hop, skip, or jump back to the starting point.

Play Phonogram Bingo, called “Phingo” by Yes Phonics. Make many copies of or laminate the  “Phingo” cards. Call out some phonograms. Watch your students write them anywhere they want. Watch for mistakes. When the card is filled, call out the same phonograms and have students mark them with an X or circle them. Have a small prize for the winner or praise the student for doing a good job. Practice the missed phonograms. Use the Phingo Cards in a numerous ways.

Phonogram bean bag toss: Place several phonogram cards on the floor. Allow student to toss the bean bag on any phonogram. Have student say the sound and write it on a nearby board or paper.

With only a teaching of the phonograms, older students who struggle, but do know how to read at some level, will start to see the value of the phonograms and will begin using them even before the rest of the program is implemented. This has been true of every student in my twenty-five years of teaching and tutoring.

Part 2 will include how to make/teach the rest of the phonograms and some of the prescribed sequence of YesPhonics.

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About Cheyenne Adamson

"All the world’s a stage,” and Cheyenne is a player behind many curtains. As the the President of YesPhonics™ - and its first official student - Cheyenne is guiding his company to its next evolution as an enlightened force in the field of education. As an actor and film maker, Cheyenne has produced three short films under his production company, Grubstake Films. He has acted in numerous productions on stage and in film. Cheyenne plays chess, basketball, skis and takes any chance he can get to hike in the woods. He writes about phonics, politics, health and education and spends his free time reading, making movies, and pursuing inner peace. You can see the latest movie he's in at: