Vowel digraphs are those spelling patterns wherein two letters are used to represent a vowel sound. The ai in sail is a vowel digraph. Because the first letter in a vowel digraph sometimes says its long vowel sound, as in sail, some phonics programmes once taught that "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." This convention has been almost universally discarded, owing to the many non-examples. The au spelling of the /ɔː/ sound and the oo spelling of the /uː/ and /ʊ/ sounds do not follow this pattern.
Dig right into phonics books to give him a head start in reading comprehension. Many phonics programs include books that are written specifically for beginning readers. Sit down for some one-on-one time to tackle letter sounds and sight words. You can make reading fun for him, which will make him look forward to sitting down with a good book in the future.

The primary vowels are like this as well. We would have been much better off if they were named by their short sounds (/a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, and /u/, as in pat, pet, pit, pot, and putt), because those are more common in the words read by beginning readers than their long vowel sounds (the letters’ names)—but no such luck. Letter names are also challenging for young readers because they aren’t consistent in whether the commonly associated sound is at the beginning or end of the name. For example, in Mm/“em,” the letter’s target sound is at the end of the letter name, but in Jj/“jay,” the target sound is at the beginning. That means for letter names to help children, they must memorize whether the target sound is at the beginning or end of the name.


Our field has long had a problem with teachers devoting an inadequate amount of time to phonics instruction. Although some children will pick up word reading with little instructional effort, many require considerable instruction to master the complex task of looking at a series of lines and curves to ascertain the spoken word they represent. In languages in which there is a relatively simple relationship between letters and sounds, such as Finnish and Spanish, by the middle of first grade, children are able to read real words and pseudo-words in the language accurately almost 100 percent of the time.* In languages in which the relationships are somewhat more complex, such as Danish and French, children are about 70 percent accurate by that time point. In English, in which the relationship between letters and sounds is extremely complex, children are about 40 percent accurate at that point.2 Put another way, English word reading requires a lot more effort to teach and learn than many other languages.
Schwa is the third sound that most of the single vowel spellings can represent. It is the indistinct sound of many a vowel in an unstressed syllable, and is represented by the linguistic symbol /ə/; it is the sound of the o in lesson, of the a in sofa. Although it is the most common vowel sound in spoken English, schwa is not always taught to elementary school students because some find it difficult to understand. However, some educators make the argument that schwa should be included in primary reading programmes because of its vital importance in the correct pronunciation of English words.
Phonics instruction should be explicit rather than implicit. Implicit instruction relies on readers "discovering" clues about sound-spelling relationships; good readers can do this, but poor readers are not likely to do so. Explicit instruction is the most effective type of phonics instruction, especially for children at risk for reading difficulties.
is a free tutorial that uses cartoons and sounds with audio narration and clickable words to teach phonics. This method teaches just basic phonics concepts without struggle or frustration and includes rules for vowels, consonants, and blends along with practice pages. These pages were created to make it easy and fun for new readers -- children or adults -- to navigate through the lessons. So we invite students, along with parents and school teachers, to click and hear words while enjoying the pictures.
During the late 1990s the whole language approach gained popularity in Portugal, but in a non-explicit form. Emphasis was placed on meaning, reading for pleasure, and developing a critical approach to the texts. Explicit phonemic awareness and explicit training for reading fluency were considered outdated by some teachers' organizations[62]. Poor results in international comparisons led parents and schools to react to this approach and to insist on direct instruction methods. Later, during minister Nuno Crato’s tenure (2011-2015), who is known to be a vocal critic of constructivist approaches and a supporter of cognitive psychology findings, new standards ("metas") were put in place[63]. The ministry convened a team led by a well-known specialist in reading, José Morais[64]. This team introduced an explicit phonics teaching approach, put emphasis on decoding and reading fluency.
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