Phonics Terms

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Phonics terms and definitions

Affix

a meaningful combination of letters that can be added to a base word in order to alter the meaning or grammatical function. Prefixes and suffixes are types of affixes.

Prefix

An affix that is added in front of a base word to change the meaning (ex. predetermine)

Suffix

An affix that is added to the end of a base word to change the meaning or grammatical category of a word (ex. reading)

Alphabetic principle

The notion that in certain languages, such as English, each speech sound or phoneme can be represented by a written symbol or set of symbols.

Balanced literary instruction

Literacy instruction that is marked by an equal emphaiss on the nurturing of reading through authentic reading experiences with authentic reading materials and more direct instruction in strategies and skills needed for successful reading. It is a "decision-making approach through which the teacher makes thoughtful choices each day about the best way to help each child become a better reader and writer. A balanced approach is not constrained by or reactive to a particular philosophy. It is responsive to new issues while maintaining what reasearch and practice has already shown to be effective."

consonants

Refers to both letters and sounds. Consonant sounds represent all the letters of the alphabet except vowels, a,e,i,o,u, and sometimes y and w. The letters and letter combinations (blends and digraphs) that represent consonants do so with fairly good correspondence, especially at the beginning of words and syllables.

Consonant blends

Two or more consonants grouped together in which the sound of each of the consonants is retained (ex. bl, cl, pr, tr, etc.)

Consonant digraphs

Two or more consonants grouped together that produce one sound. That sound can be a new sounds not represented by any other letter or letter combination (that), a sound represented by one of the grouped letters (gnome), or a sound represented by a letter not present in the group (phone).

Context

The linguistic environment. The words or phrases adjacent to a written word. For word recognition, context refers to the meaning that precedes and follows words that are analyzed. Readers can use the context or meaning of a passage to help decode unknown words.

Decode

To analyze graphic symbols (letters in the form of written words and sentences) into their oral represnetation and meaing. Synonymous with word identification and word recognition.

Fluency

To read expressively, meaningfully, in appropriate syntactic units (phrases, clauses), at appropriate rates, and without word recognition difficulty.

Grapheme

A letter or combination of letters that represent a phoneme.

Morpheme

The smallest unit of meaning in oral and written language (e.g., the word cars contains two morphemes - car, an automobile, and s, meaning more than one.

Orthography

Symbols or letters in a writing system. Spelling is part of orthography.

Phoneme

The smallest unit of speech that affects meaning of words (e.g., b in book vs. k in cook)

Phonics

A method of teaching word recognition or decoding that emphasizes the sound-symbol (letter) relationships that exist in a language. Phonics is usually employed in the beginning stages of reading instruction.

Analogic Phonics

An approach to phonics in which children are taught letter patterns found in words they recognize and apply the knowledge of those patterns to new, unknown words. For example, if children know that at in bat has a particular sound, that knowledge can be applied to decode new words such as sat, cat, rattle, and Patrick. Word families or rimes and affixes are the most common letter patterns used in analogical phonics instruction.

Analytic Phonics

A whole-part approach to phonics instruction. Students are intially taught a set of sight words. Then, from these sight words, phonics generalizations are abstracted or identified and then applied to other words.

Synthetic Phonics

A part-to-whole approach to phonics instruction in which students are directly taught sounds that are represented by letters and letter combinations. Students are then instructed in synthesizing or putting together multiple letters and sounds to identify or sound out at word.

Phonogram

Also known as a rime or word family. See syllable rime.

Schwa

The sound "uh" made by the unaccented syllables in a multisyllabic word (e.g., the vowel sound in the second syllable of secret, the vowel sound in the first syllable of about). As with many technical elements of language and reading, knowledge of the schwa is not essential to reading success.

Semantics

The study of meaning in language. Semantic knowledge can aid readers in decoding unknown words in context.

Sight Word

A word that is recognized immediately as a whole with minimal effort, and without detailed analysis. Sight words are recognized at sight or automatically.

Syllable

A group of letters that are produced as a unit and contain one vowel sound (except in words containing vowel diphthongs).

Onset

The part of a syllable that contains any consonants that precede the vowel (e.g., b in bat, sl in slack, t and p in temper, c and t in carton). The sound-symbol relationship between letters and sounds is quite reliable.

Rime

Also known as a phonogram or word family. The part of a syllable that contains the vowel and any consonants that follow the vowel. Letter rimes are easily recognized and are consistent in the sound or sound combination they present.

Syntax

The pattern of word order in sentences, clauses, and phrases and its effect on meaning. Syntactic knowledge can aid readers in decoding unknown words in contexts.

Vowels

Refers to sounds and letters. The sounds represented by the letters a, e, i ,o ,u. The letter y can serve as vowel when it is not in the initial position of a word (e.g., why). The w can function as a vowel when it follows a vowel (e.g. cow). Vowels are the most prominent sound in and defining feature of a syllable. There is not a strong one-to-one correspondence between vowel sounds and letters. Vowel sounds can be represented in a variety of ways with the vowel letters.

L Controlled Vowels

Occur when the letter a is followed by an l producing a particular sound as in shallow and tall.

R Controlled Vowels

Occur when a vowel is followed by the letter r which alters the sound of the vowel (e.g., star, her, sir, for, burr).

Vowel Digraphs

Two vowels grouped together in which one sound, usually the long sound of one of the vowel letters is heard (e.g., bead, boat, beet, bay, sew, die).

Vowel Diphthongs

Also known as vowel blends. Diphthongs are sounds made up of the blending of two vowel sounds (e.g., oi as in boil, oy as in boy, ou as in ouch, ow as in how, and aw as in flaw).

Word Family

Also known as phonogram or rime. See rime.

Word Recognition

The process of determining the pronunciation and meaning of words in print. Same as decoding and word identification.

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