Spelling Rules & 44 Phonemes



Click on the following link for the 44 Phonemes (or Sounds) with the possible corresponding Graphemes (or Letters) or use my Phoneme chart below! 


IDEA:  Put each example on blank index cards and drill.  Choose using words from the above phoneme chart or use my phoneme chart below!  Put what is in red in red on the index cards, so your child will have a sample word for each phoneme/grapheme.






bat, rubber

b, bb


cat, duck, kite, chord, question, acclaim, folk, bouquet

c, ck, k, ch, q, cc, lk, que


dog, middle, filled

d, dd, ed


fat, waffle, cough, phone, calf, often

f, ff, gh, ph, lf, ft


get, giggle, ghost, guest

g, gg, gh, gu


hot, who

h, wh


jug, edge, cage, gem, giraffe, gym, soldier, exaggerate

j, -dge, -ge, g (next to e, i, y), di, gg


let, hill

l, ll


mat, mommy, thumb, autumn, palm

m, mm, mb, mn, lm


not, bunny, know, gnaw, pneumonia

n, nn, kn, gn, pn


pot, happy

p, pp


rat, hurry, write, rhyme

r, rr, wr, rh


set, mess, horsecent, city, cymbal, scene, psychology, listen

s, ss, se, c (next to e, i, y), sc, ps, st


tan, rattle, Thomas, jumped

t, tt, th, ed


van, have, of, Stephan

v, ve, f, ph


walk, whale, question, choir

w, wh, u, o





yellow, opinion, hallelujah

y, i, j


zebra, buzz, amaze, rose, bends, scissors, xylophone, division

z, zz, ze, se, s, ss, x, si


apple, plaid, laugh

a, ai, au


elephant, bread, bury, friend, said, many, leopard, aesthetic, heifer

e, ea, u, ie, ai, a, eo, ae, ei


igloo, gym, England, women, busy, build, sieve

i, y, e, o, u, ui, ie


octopus, wash, all, honest, bought, draw, haul

o, wa, a, ho, ough, aw, au


umbrella, won, enough, monkey, flood, could,  Alaska/extra

u, “wo” can have a ‘wu” sound, ou, o, oo, oul, /a/ syllable

Long a

rain, tray, eight, vein, bake, they, steak, apron, straight, gauge, croquet, where, their

ai, ay, eigh, ei, a-e, ey, ea, a, aigh, au, et, ere, eir

Long e

tree, meat, chief, be, happy, monkey, Pete, phoenix, people

ee, ea, ie, e, y, ey,  e-e, oe, eo

Long i

bike, night, my, hi, tie, type, find, wild, buy, rye, aisle, island, height

i-e, igh, y, i, ie, y-e, ind , ild, uy, ye, ai, is, eigh

Long o

boat, bow, go, robe, gold, ghost, bolt, sew, though, chateau, brooch

oa, ow, o, o-e, old, ost, olt, ew, ough, eau, oo

Long u

tube, grew, glue, boot, emu, soup, through, who, shoe, view, beauty, feud, manoeuvre, queue

u-e, ew, ue, oo, u, ou, ough, o, oe, iew, eau, eu, oeu, eue


house, cow, bough

ou, ow, ough


boy, oil, buoy

oy, oi, uo


star, heart, square, sergeant

ar, ear, are, er


corn, snore, board, poor, pour

or, ore, oar, oor, our


her, turn, first, mirror, heard, word, journey, dollar

er,ur, ir, irr, ear, or, our, ar


haul, taught, raw, cough, thought, ball

au, augh, aw, ou, ough, a


shoe, chef, television, addition, ocean, sure, special, conscience

sh, ch, si, ti, ce, su, ci, sci


chair, match, future, question, righteous

ch, -tch, tu, ti, te








sank, sink, honk, hunk

glued sounds



sang, sing, song, sung,

glued sounds


ng, ngue

CHART CREATED BY:  Araujo, Judith E., M. Ed., CAGS. “Spelling Rules and 44 Phonemes.” Mrs. Judy Araujo, Reading Specialist. N.p., 4 May 2012. Web. <http://www.mrsjudyaraujo.com/spelling-rules-and-44-phonemes/>.

Here are some phrases/words to bring to your child’s attention.  Please go over a section each evening.  These lists could go on and on, and there’s always exception to rules. . . .

Silent e makes the vowel say its name, not its sound:

cake                 Pete                  hide                  lone                  tube

Facts About Silent E 

  • Silent e usually makes the vowel says its name, not its sound, as in rake, Pete, bike, rode, tube.
  • Silent e helps to keep some words from looking like plurals, as in please ~ not pleas, and house ~ not hous.
  • The letter v does not appear at the end of words, so the silent e gives these words orthographic regularity as in dove, love, shove, have.
  • The silent e indicates when the letter g or c stands for its soft sound, as in cage or race.

In addition to silent e, many vowel spellings are formed by vowel digraphs, also known as vowel pairs or teams.  This chart shows the predictability of various vowel digraphs. 

ai 74% as in pain, air 15% as in chair
ay 96% as in say
ea 51% as in seat, 26% short sound as in head
ee 86% as in feet, eer 12% as in in steer
ey 58% as in key, 20% long a sound as in they, 12% long i sound as in geyser
oa 94% as in boat
ow 50% as in snow, 48% as in how
oi 98% as in soil
oy 98% as in boy
ou 41% as in trouble, 35% as in house
au 94% as in haul
aw 100% as in hawk
oo 59% as in food, 36% as in foot
ei 40% long a as in eight, 26% long e as in deceit, 13% short i as in foreign, 11% long i as in seismic
ie 51% long e as in chief, 17% long i as in lie, 15% as in patient
ew 95% as in few
ui 53% as in fruit, 47% short I as in build

The above information came from my Orton-Gillingham course work.

Drop the silent e when adding a suffix that begins with a vowel, as in ed or ing, but NOT if the suffix begins with a consonant:  hope, hoped, hoping, hopeful

Vowel Team Generalizations:  

  • ai is usually followed by an n or l:   sail, main  
  • oa is almost always used in 1 syllable words ONLY:  boat, roast
  • ie is reversed after c:  receive.  Remember:  i before e, except after c, or when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh.  chief, ceiling  
  • eigh is very rare.  This mnemonic includes the most common eigh words:  Eight neighbors weigh as much as a freight of sleighs.
  • oe is rare for the long oo sound.  The most common words are shoe and canoe. Remember this mnemonic:  Joe hit his foe with the toe of his shoe while in a canoe.

On wh words, the h is silent     whale, wheel, whip

Tricky Question Words:             who, what, where, when, why, how, could, should, would (spell by “o u lucky dog” which is “ould”), do, does, did

ck or k:  ck is used at the end of 1 syllable words after 1 short vowel:  back, deck, clock; c is used for the final /k/ sound when the word has 2 or more syllables:  music, traffic, Atlantic, historic

On tch words the t is silent:      catch, hitch, stretch

The “t” is there to touch the short vowel, otherwise we don’t need it:

march               brunch              inch                  crunch

On dge words, the d is silent    judge, edge bridge  You don’t hear the d, but it’s there to touch the single short vowel.  If it’s a long vowel word we don’t need the d:  stage, huge.  If there’s a consonant touching the vowel we don’t need the d:  lunge, hinge;  “j” is NEVER used at the end of a word

Digraphs are 2 letters that make 1 sound:          th, ch, sh, wh, ai, oa, oi, oy, ck, ee, ea, oo. . . 

Short oo (as in cook) and Long oo (as in boot) Books  ~ Did you know that the long sound of oo as in “boot” occurs more frequently than the short sound?  When a child is stuck on an oo word, have him/her try the long sound first!

Diphthongs make 2 vowel sounds in 1 syllable:  oi/oy, au/aw, ew/oo. . . .

Generalizations Pertaining to Diphthongs:

  • oi is used in the middle of words:  soil
  • oy is used at the end of a syllable:  oyster, boy
  • au is used in the middle of words:  cause
  • augh is very rare for au.  The following mnemonic includes the most common augh words: The haughty naughty daughter caught the cat and taught him how to slaughter.
  • aw is used at the end of a word or in the middle if the word ends in a single n or l:  lawn, crawl
  • ou is used in the middle of words:  house
  • ow is used at the end of words or in the middle if the word ends in a single n, l, er: down, growl, shower
  • ew comes at the end of a syllable:  chew
  • ue comes at the end of a syllable;  ue is a rare spelling for the long oo sound.  Here is a mnemonic with the most common words:  Sue got glue on her blue dress.
  • ui is a rare spelling for the long oo sound.  Here is a mnemonic with the most common words:  A waiter on a cruise spilled fruit juice on a man’s suit and got bruised in the eye.

2 sounds of oo:   school, moose, book, cook

2 sounds of ow:  snow, plow

Blends make 2-3 sounds:            br, cl, spl, sp, thr, squ, gl, pl. . . .

Bossy r ~ r next to a vowel controls the vowel:    car                   corn

ir, ur, er makes the exact same sound!   Her turn first!

ank   –    ink   –   onk   –   unk:     tank         think         honk         trunk  (glued sounds)

ang   –    ing   –   ong   –   ung:     sang          sing          song          sung  (glued sounds)

al sounds like “ol”    ball, fall, hall, tall, call, walk, talk, salt

wa:  water, watch, want, wash, warm ~ sounds like wo

atypical long vowels:          old (cold, gold)   ind (find, blind)   ild (wild, child)  ost (ghost, most)    olt (bolt, colt)

c usually sounds like s next to e, i, and y:  cent, city, cymbals

g usually sounds like j next to e, i, and y:  gem, giraffe, gym

In the middle of words, the /j/ sound is usually represented by ge, gi, gy:  (margin) with the exception of the word:  pajamas.

gu is hard  guest, guitar, guide  Otherwise, ge and gi sound like /j/; the u keeps the g hard.

Words never end with v alone:   have, brave, believe

Words never end with j alone:  age, gouge

Past tense ed has 3 sounds:    after t or d it makes the ed sound and makes the ed syllable:  painted, wanted, crowded, sounded

When the verb ends in a voiced sound other than /d/, the ending is pronounced as /d/ as in called, screamed, yelled, listened

When the verb ends in a voiceless consonant other than /t/, the ending is pronounced as /t/ as in  asked, laughed, fixed, bumped



gh at end of words/ph both have /f/ sound  cough, telephone

ch can make 3 sounds:  chase, Christmas, chef

silent letters:      write, thumb, knife, gnaw.  See my Fun With Silent Letters page!

3 sounds of y yellow, sky, baby  (y at beginning of words, long i at end of 1 syllable words, long e at the end of 2 syllable words)

Double f, l, s:    if the word has 1 syllable ~ fluff, hill, mess    (There are some exceptions, like bus, or when s sounds like z as in was, or f sounds like v as in of.)   An e is added in the following words freeze, sneeze, house, rose because of the long vowel sounds, or have a diphthong (ou in house).

Does it Double?  Double the final consonant if:

  • the word has one syllable
  • the word ends in one consonant
  • there is only 1 vowel before the consonant
  • 1 vowel begins the suffix, for example:  ing, ed

big, bigger, bigness    fret, fretting, fretful

If the noun ends in s, ss, x, z, ch, sh, and there’s more than 1:  add es

buses, benches, foxes, bushes, buzzes

If the noun/verb ends in y:  change the y to i and add es or ed IF there is a consonant before the y

pennies, babies, carried, hurried, not when there is just a vowel touching the y:  boys, plays

Final y after a vowel remains unchanged when adding any suffix:  payed, payment, payable BUT if there’s a consonant before the y change the y to i:  pitiful, copied

If the noun ends in f:   Change the f to v and add es

leaves, knives, but other times you don’t:  fifes, roofs

Some Plurals are Irregular: 


Possessives:  When the noun is singular use ‘s ~ child’s ball, Meg’s dress                                                                                                                                            If the noun is plural, use s’ as in boys’ room  BUT if the plural form does NOT end in an s, use ‘s as in men’s room                                                                                                                                                         On personal pronouns you do not use an apostrophe as in his, her, their, but if the pronoun is an indefinite possessive pronoun use ‘s:  one’s, everybody’s, anyone’s

Plural for Letters and Figures:  Use ‘s ~ 8’s, t’s, dot all of your i’s  

Plural for Nouns Ending in o:  Nouns ending in o after a vowel from the plural by adding s: studios

Suffix ful:  ful has one l ~ joyful

Suffix ly: the base word spelling doesn’t change when ly is added  ~ hopefully, safely, softly                                                                                                                                                                               

LETTER FORMATION IS IMPORTANT!  Students who form letters correctly and who have a firm grasp on spelling will have an easier time writing.  Poor handwriting, in combination with poor spelling, can contribute to disability in written expression (Graham, Harris, & Fink 2000, Graham, MacArthur, Fitzgerald, p. 276).  Failure to develop automatic and legible letter and word formation may interfere with content in writing (Jones & Christiansen, 1999, Graham, MacArthur, Fitzgerald, p. 276).  Students devoting too much time to letter formation or letter retrieval have less time for spelling, planning, and expressing themselves.



Araujo, Judith E., M. Ed., CAGS. “Spelling Rules and 44 Phonemes.” Mrs. Judy Araujo, Reading Specialist. N.p., 4 May 2012. Web. <http://www.mrsjudyaraujo.com/spelling-rules-and-44-phonemes/>.

Mnemonic sentences came from Project Read.

Graphics are from Google Images.  Right click on them.



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