Let’s talk about the Difference between Phonemes and Graphemes.
In this video series, I hope to clarify some terms we use in the field of reading. My goal is to show you how they are the same or different and why knowing their definitions even matters as you teach your learners. First up, phonemes and graphemes.
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The following text in this blog post is part of what you’ll find in my video.
Watch the full video on my YouTube channel.
What’s the Difference between Phonemes and Graphemes?
Phonemes: Let’s tackle the word phoneme first. The root of phoneme is phon or phone.
And if you’re familiar with this root based on other words you may know like telephone or symphony, you may remember that phone means SOUND. In other words, phonemes are the INDIVIDUAL SOUNDS we hear in a word. Phonemes are the basis for phonemic awareness.
For example, cat has three phonemes: /k/ – /a/ – /t/. Sheep also has three phonemes: /sh/ – /ee/ – /p/.
Can you tell how many phonemes are in frog? If you guessed four, you’re right! /f/ – /r/ – /o/ – /g/.
Graphemes: Now that we know that phonemes are the SOUNDS we hear in words, let’s move on to the word grapheme. The root of grapheme is graph.
And if you’re familiar with this root based on other words like photograph or paragraph, you would know that graph means to write or to draw. So, graphemes are VISUAL. In other words, graphemes are the actual letters themselves because letters are the visual or written representations of the sounds in words.
A grapheme can be a single letter like a, b, c, or d, or a grapheme can be chunks of letters. The key is that the chunks of letters still represent only ONE SOUND. For example, sh represents /sh/, the ce represents /s/ at the end of a word like face, and so on.
For example, dog has three graphemes: d, o, and g.
Whereas float has four graphemes: f, l, oa, and t. In the word float, the oa makes one sound, so it’s considered one grapheme.
Can you tell how many graphemes are in beach? If you guessed three, you’re right! b, ea, ch.
Bridging Between Phonemes and Graphemes
Now, that we know that the phonemes are the sounds and the graphemes are the letters, let’s talk about how to help our learners build a bridge between these two to become better readers (and by the way, better spellers as well).
One activity is called phoneme-grapheme mapping. Kathryn Grace wrote a book called Phonics and Spelling Through Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping.
And in her book, she explains how this hands-on activity can strengthen the connection between the sounds learners know (phonemes) and the graphemes that represent those sounds.
Personally, I love how this activity helps to reinforce the alphabetic principle, which is when our learners begin to understand how to apply their phoneme and grapheme knowledge to read and spell words.
I’d encourage you to watch my full YouTube video as I show how to use my Seasonal Mapping Mats to help your kiddos with phoneme-grapheme mapping.
Find the Seasonal Mapping Mats in my shop.
This process reinforces orthographic mapping, which we’ll talk more about later in this series…
More Posts in the Series…
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