Glasgow Dyslexia Support Service
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3. Phonemes

Phonemes (commonly referred to as ‘sounds’) are the smallest units of sound within a word.  The word ‘phoneme’ is frequently used in this section rather than the word ‘sounds’.  They mean exactly the same thing….  the noises we make when we ‘sound out’ a word.  For example, we can split the word ‘sand’ into 4 phonemes /s/, /a/, /n/ and /d/.   Sometimes a phoneme is represented by more than one letter, for example /sh/.  

Phonological awareness at phoneme level (also called phonemic awareness) involves several different skills.  These include the ability to hear the phonemes within words, to blend phonemes together to say a word and to break a word into individual phonemes. These are considered essential pre-literacy skills. 

Pronunciation 

When working with phonemes it’s important that they’re pronounced correctly.  Usually, the pronunciation of vowel phonemes is straightforward. The video below gives some guidance on how to correctly pronounce consonant phonemes. 

Sounds and names 

Sometimes learners can be confused about what is a letter name and what is a sound/phoneme.  It’s important to find out exactly where the confusions lie for an individual learner and to focus on clearing these up.  The following video shows some activities that could help.