The Essence of Phonics
by Dr. Patrick Groff
NRRF Board Member & Senior Advisor
Dr. Patrick Groff, Professor of Education Emeritus San Diego State University, has published over
325 books, monographs, and journal articles and is a nationally known expert in the field of
reading instruction.
For parents who may not understand what phonics information is, this may give them confidence
they can teach it. The essence of what you need to know to teach phonics information can be
expressed "on the back of an envelope":
1. Letters of the alphabet represent the sounds of speech.
2. The "short" vowel sounds are:
/ / as in at; / / in elf; / / in it; / / in odd; / / in up
3. Attaching short vowels to consonant sounds makes
/ab-eb-ib-ob-ub/, or /ba-be-bi-bo-bu/, or
/bat-bet-bit-bot-but/, or /brag-bled-drip-stop-drum/, or
/fast-rest-fist-cost-must, or /grand-blend-brisk-frost-crust/
4. The "long" vowel sounds are:
as in game; in Pete; in pine; in home; in cute
The long vowels also are spelled with two joined letters:
fail, play; seen, leaf; die; boat
5. The diphthongs are /oi/ as in oil or boy , and /ou/ as in howl or out.
6. Two other important vowels sounds are /oo/ in foot, and in boot.
7. Long vowels, diphthongs, and /oo/ and / / attached to consonant sounds make up many words
(the same way short vowels do).
8. Some consonant sounds are spelled with joined letters:
/ch/ as in chant; /kw/ in quack; /sh/ in shop; /th/ in this
9. Some speech sounds in words are not spelled according to the above phonics rules:
angel; vary, care, hair; be; myth, prince, fence; find, night, by; arm, salt, cough; union; both, know;
truth, who, rude, new; put.
Some words have "silent" letters:
comb, write, bubble, middle, cuff, full, common, connect, poppy, tarry, miss, butter, buzz .
10. All words are sounded-out left-to-right when phonics information is applied to them.