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Updated: Jan 24, 2023

The words we say are made up of individual speech sounds. These sounds are represented by letters and combinations of letters that create our words. In the beginning, children read and spell many CVC words like cat, dog, mum, and dad. All these words have one letter corresponding to one sound — this is the easy bit. As children progress through their first year of school, they will learn that more than one letter can also represent one sound. This is when confusion can set in if your school doesn't have a systematic scope and sequence.

A way to explain graphemes to children is to say that the letters and letter strings we write are a way of seeing our speech sounds on paper. They are what phonemes look like.

When we say cat, we hear three sounds. When we write cat, we see three letters.

3 sounds (phonemes) /c/ /a/ /t/

3 graphemes c-a-t

3 letters c a t

Lots of words don’t work like cat. The English language is complex, and graphemes can be 1-4 letters long.

There is overlap, and some graphemes can represent more than one sound.

Sounds can be represented in multiple ways too.


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