Learning the Alphabetic Principle
By D. Timberlake
Our English Language
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The English language is like a pot of soup
because it is made of many different
languages.
Each language has a different set of rules for
how we read words.
However, about 80% of the words we use
every day in reading and writing are
decodable if you know the rules.
How we learn to read:
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About 4 out of every 5 people learn to read
easily with ordinary instruction and practice.
That means that about 1 of every 5 people
learns to read in a different way. Sometimes,
this makes them feel they are not as smart
as the others who learned more quickly.
But, almost all people can learn to read if
they are taught in the way their brains learn
language.
Different doesn’t have to be bad.
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What do these people have in common?
George Washington, Thomas Edison, Tom Cruise,
Thomas Jefferson, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Pablo
Picasso, Leonardo daVinci, Steve Jobs, Cher
http://www.dyslexia-test.com/famous.html
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They all had difficulty learning to read by the usual
methods, but they are all brilliant in some part of
their lives. Some would even say they have a kind of
genius.
Multi-sensory Learning
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People who have difficulty learning to read
need a different type of instruction.
They need a structured, sequential program
where they learn specific ways to deal with
letters in words.
They need instruction to be provided in a
multi-sensory way: using all the senses to
learn and make reading automatic.
Multi-sensory reading instruction is
visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
V
A
K
The Alphabetic Principle
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Words are made of letters, and letters are
used to represent sounds.
There are 26 letters in the alphabet, but there
are 44 sounds in the English language.
So, you can see that some of the letters must
make more than one sound.
Sometimes, a group of letters work together
to make a sound.
Let’s name the letters of the alphabet.
AB C DE F GHI
J K L MN O P Q R
S T U V WX Y Z
Things to know about the alphabet:
 There
are 26 letters in the
alphabet.
 A is the initial letter of the
alphabet.
 Z is the final letter of the
alphabet.
 Letters in between are called
medial letters.
I, M, F Cheer:
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Initial means first.
Final means last.
Medial means anything between first and
last.
Medial
Initial
Final
What are your initials?
 Catherine
Anne Town
C.A.T.
 Daniel Owen Gifford
D.O.G.
________ _________ ________
Let’s learn more about the alphabet.
 There
are 2 kinds of letters
in the alphabet:
Vowels
Consonants
What are syllables?
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A syllable is a word or a part of a word made
by one opening of the mouth and one beat of
the voice.
Words can be made of one or more
syllables.
When a word has more than one syllable, the
first syllable is usually accented.
What is an accented syllable?
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When you accent a syllable, you open your
mouth wider and your voice is higher and
louder.
Most English-based words are accented on
the first syllable.
Say your name and your friend’s name and
see if you can tell which syllable is accented.
Practice counting syllables and
hearing accents!
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Tom` my
Bob`
Mol` ly
(2 syllables)
(1 syllable)
(2 syllables)
Tab` i tha
Lin` da
ho tel`
???
(3 syllables)
(2 syllables)
(2 syllables)
???
What are vowels?
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Vowel sounds open your mouth and turn on
your voice box.
The five vowels are A, E, I, O, and U.
Every syllable has at least one vowel sound.
Vowels can have more than one sound. Most
vowels are usually either short or long. Some
vowels have even more sounds.
What are consonants?
Consonants are sounds that close your
mouth. Consonant sounds are blocked by
your teeth, your tongue, or your lips.
Some consonants also turn on your voice box. See if you
can discover which ones will do that.
B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y, Z
Consonant sounds:
(Use picture cards if available.)
b - balloon (b)
c - cat (c)
or
(when followed by a, o, u,
or any consonant)
c – circle (s)
(when followed by e, i, or y)
More about Consonants:
d – dog (d)
f – fish (f)
g – goat (g)
or
(when followed by a, o, u,
or any consonant)
h – hat (h)
g – giraffe (j)
(when followed by e, i, or y)
More about Consonants:
j – jet (j)
k – kite (k)
l – lion (l)
m – monkey (m)
n – nut (n)
p – pig (p)
r – rabbit (r)
s – sun (s)
or
(in initial position or after
an unvoiced sound)
s – rose (z)
(after a voiced sound)
More about Consonants:
t – turtle (t)
v – vest (v)
w – wagon (w)
x – fox (ks)
y – yoyo (y)
(Remember that y in final position makes vowel sounds!)
z – zebra (z)
Consonant Clusters:
Some consonants work together to make a new
sound. Practice these with the cards, too.
qu
wh
th
th
More Consonant Clusters:
sh
--------------------------------------------------------------ch
ch
(sh)
ch
(k)
More Consonant Clusters:
Initial position
Final position
after a long vowel,
Final position
after a short vowel
2 vowels, or a consonant
ge
gentle
ch
chair
ge
cage, stooge, range
ch
beach, church
dge
badge
tch
catch
More Consonant Clusters:
Ghost letter digraphs
wr
gn
(wreath)
(gnaw)
kn
(knife)
Syllable type #1: Open syllables
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Vowels love to run out the door and say their
names. If the door is open, that is what they
do.
a
e
i
o
u
More about open syllables:
Open syllables end with a vowel. They make a
long vowel sound. When a vowel makes a
long sound, it just says its name. We code
this kind of vowel with a mark called a
macron.
a,
I,
we,
so,
mu / sic,
ho / tel
Nonsense words:
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Sometimes, we practice reading new
words that aren’t really words at all.
We call these kinds of words nonsense
words.
Some people even call them Ootian
words. What if we lived on a planet called
Oo? We’d probably speak Ootian.
Practice with open (long) syllables:
Practice reading these words. Some are real
words and some are nonsense words.
a
fa
ta
ja
me
be
we
de
I
hi
fi
zi
go
fo
no
ko
fu
mu
cu
lu
Syllable type #2: Closed syllables
Vowels love to run out open doors, but
consonants close doors. What happens
when the door is closed?
???
Closed syllables:
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When a vowel is followed by a consonant, it
makes a short vowel sound. You must learn
the sounds that short vowels make.
The best way to learn these short sounds is
to tie a picture of a word containing that
sound with the sound itself.
That gives you a multi-sensory way to
remember. Your teacher will show you some
cards with short vowel sounds. Practice
saying these aloud.
Short vowel sounds:
Short vowel sounds are coded with a
breve
.
a
Letter name
apple
(a)
picture
sound
More short vowel sounds:
e
elephant
(e)
More short vowel sounds:
i
igloo
(i)
More short vowel sounds:
o
octopus
(o)
More short vowel sounds:
u
umbrella
(u)
Practice reading short syllables:
am
act
ag
at
af
Al
add
an
az
ab
ap
ask
Syllable Type # 3: VCe Syllables
a.k.a. Sneaky e’s
When a vowel is followed by a consonant, the
sound is usually short. But, when the vowel
is followed by a consonant and an “e”, the
vowel usually makes a long sound. The “e”
is silent – it doesn’t make any sound.
cap
cape
So sneaky!!!!
e
C V
Remember: Vowels love to run out the
door and say their names – long sounds.
But, consonants close doors and cause
vowels to say short sounds. Sneaky e
does not make a sound. He sneaks over
and quietly opens the door, then the
vowel runs out the door, making a long
sound.
Sneaky “e” practice words:
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mat
cub
rid
rob
pet
rip
strip
mate
cube
ride
robe
Pete
ripe
stripe
tap
man
bit
cut
cop
can
fin
tape
mane
bite
cute
cope
cane
fine
Syllable Type # 4: Vowel + r
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Some people call this type of
syllable the
bossy “r” syllable.
Vr
This type of syllable looks like a closed
syllable, but the “r” controls the vowel’s
sound.
Practice with bossy “r”:
You have to learn the sounds for each
vowel when followed by a bossy r. In
accented syllables, these vowels have
typical sounds when followed by “r.”
Look at the pictures on the next pages
to learn these new sounds.
Typical Bossy “r” sounds:
ar
ir
er
or
ur
More Bossy “r” information:
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In unaccented syllables, all vowel r syllables make
the (er) sound you hear in “butter – (er)”.
Listen to the (er) sound in each of these words
containing an unaccented ar or or:
dollar collar
doctor tractor
Practice reading with Bossy “r”
in accented syllables:
farms
herded
shirt
born
turtle
cars
fern
birth
cord
hurting
art
letter
girls
fort
fur
Practice reading with Bossy “r”
in unaccented syllables:
tar’ tar
mo’ lar
dol’ lar
fa’ vor
doc’ tor
tu’ tor
Syllable Type # 5: Vowel Pairs
Back in the day, many of us were taught:
“When 2 vowels go walking, the first one
does the talking.”
The problem with this rule is that it only works
about half the time. Learning the different
sounds vowel pairs can make will help you
decode words. First you try… if that doesn’t
work, then you try…
More about vowel pairs:
What are digraphs & diphthongs?
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Digraphs are two letters that make one
sound. That means that one of the letters is
silent, or the two letters form a new sound
when paired together.
Diphthongs are two letters that make an
unexpected, blended sound. Your mouth
makes two really quick sounds for the
vowels.
Diphthongs are the easiest!
There are only two diphthongs, but they have
two spellings each. Let’s start with the first
one – (oi).
The (oi) sound is spelled oi if it is found in
initial or medial position.
The (oi) sound is spelled oy if it is found in
final position.
Sound for diphthong oi and oy:
oi
(oil)
oy
(toy)
Practice reading diphthong (oi):
Initial
Medial
Final
oil
oink
oint / ment
coin
foil
broil
boy
enjoy
deploy
Digraphs:
2 letters - just 1 sound
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Two letters that make one sound are called a
digraph, pronounced (di-graf). We underline
digraphs to code them.
The best way to learn digraph sounds is to
practice with the picture cards – your brain
will begin to connect the sound to the
digraphs by relating them to a picture that
soon will begin to “pop” into your head!
Common Digraphs starting w/ “a”:
Initial & medial
positions
Final position
ai (as in aim, sail)
au (as in saucer)
ay (as in hay)
aw (as in paw)
Common digraphs starting with “e”:
ea
(It makes 3 sounds!!!)
(If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!)
1st try: long e (as in eat, mean)
2nd try: short e (as in bread)
3rd try: long a (as in steak)
More digraphs beginning with “e”:
ee (as in eel, beet, tree)
ei (1st try: as in receipt,
2nd try: as in veil)
ey (as in key)
eu (as in Europe)
ew (as in pew, blew)
Even more digraphs:
ie
1st try: long i (as in pie)
2nd try: long e (as in thief)
ue long u or (oo) (as in blue)
More and More Digraphs:
oa
oe
ou
ow
(long o as in soap)
(long o as in toe)
(oo) as in soup) ***
(long o as in bow) ***
*** ou and ow can also be diphthongs, so
be sure to try both to see which sound
makes a word.
Syllable Type # 6: F.S.S.
Final Stable Syllables
A final stable syllable (F.S.S.) is just what it
says it is. It is found in final position - right at
the end of the word. It makes a syllable all by
itself, and it makes the same sound every
time.
We put a half-bracket [ in front of the F.S.S.
Common final stable syllables are found on
the next slides.
More on Final Stable Syllables…
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[ble (as in bub [ble) – says “bul”
cle (as in un [cle) – says “cul”
dle (as in fid [dle) – says “dul)
fle (as in ruf [fle) – says “ful”
gle (as in an [gle) – says “gul”
kle (as in wrin [kle) – says “kul”
ple (as in pur [ple) – says “pul”
Even more Final Stable Syllables
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sle (as in tus [sle) – says “sul”
tle (as in bot [tle) – says “tul”
zle (as in puz [zle) – says “zul”
tion (as in lo [tion) - says “shun”
sion (as in man [sion or as in ex-plo [sion)
(shun)
(zhun)
age (as in cott [age) – says “ij”
Syllable division rules
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All words are made of these different kinds of
syllables.
We have to learn syllable division rules to
help us separate the syllables and apply the
rules we’ve learned.
Stay tuned for syllable division rules. 
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Learning to Decode Words