Synthetic Phonics Glossary

At first the specialist terms of Synthetic Phonics can be daunting, which is why we have created the Synthetic Phonics Glossary. Don’t worry; it will soon become first-hand. As in other areas of learning, using the terminology is a big step towards understanding the whole process. This is why these technical terms are taught explicitly to the children, who will soon pick them up and use them confidently.


Phonic knowledge is only the first step toward reading. If reading is to become fluent then children need to recognise words quickly. In order to gain meaning from a text, children must read it fluently – not needing to break each word down to the individual phonemes/sounds. Think about how you are reading this text; you are not breaking each word down into its phonemes/sounds – you have achieved automaticity when reading.


Blending is the process of synthesising words or syllables from their constituent phonemes/sounds in the correct order to read whole words.


The process of reading a word with Synthetic Phonics has two stages. Firstly the individual grapheme-phoneme correspondence is recognised and then the phonemes/sounds are blended or synthesised into the word. Reading (decoding) and spelling (segmenting) are reversible processes that are taught simultaneously in Synthetic Phonics.


A digraph is a two-letter grapheme that represent one phoneme/sound. For example /sh/ represents one phoneme/sound in ‘shop’ and the vowel digraph /oa/ represents one phoneme/sound in ‘boat’. Two letters come together to represent a new phoneme/sound.


Synthetic Phonics teaches children that the English alphabetic code is reversible; if you can read a word you can spell it. Encoding involves listening for the phonemes/sounds and deciding which letters represent those phonemes/sounds. Also known as spelling!


Fidelity is an important component of your Synthetic Phonics program. It means that every one one of the 44 phonemes/sounds are taught.You should not deviate from the sequence.

Grapheme-Phoneme Correspondences (GPCs)

For reading and spelling children need to know which phonemes/sounds correspond to which letters (graphemes) and vice-versa.


Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings (and may or may not have different pronunciations). This is important because children need to use more than phonic knowledge to read these words. Homographs must be read in the context of a phrase or sentence. For example the word, ‘read’, how you pronounce it depends on the context: “He read that whole book!” compared to “I like to read in bed”.


A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word. It is a term that children need to learn. At the beginning of your Synthetic Phonics program it will be represented by one letter; later on it may be represented by two, three or even four letters. For example /s/ is introduced as being represented by ‘s’, then ‘ss’ and eventually ‘ce’ and more…


Four letters coming together to represent one phoneme/sound. The ‘eigh’ representing /ay/, in ‘eight’ is a quadgraph.


When a vowel phoneme/sound is not stressed. For example, say the word “mother”. Hear how the ‘er’ is not pronounced.


“I want to spell frog, what phonemes can I hear, and what graphemes are those phonemes represented by?” This involves the breaking down of words into their constituent phonemes/sounds in order to spell the word. It is the reverse phonic skill to blending, and also called spelling.

Split Digraph

A split digraph is where another letter comes in between the two graphemes of a single phoneme/sound, for example, the ‘K’ in ‘make’ separates the digraph /ae/, creating split digraph /a_e/.

Synthetic Phonics

The ‘synthetic’ element refers to the blending or synthesising of phonemes/sounds to make a word. Synthetic Phonics emphasises the structure of the written language and teaches it in a systematic and thorough fashion.


Three letters coming together to make one phoneme/sound is a trigraph. The /igh/ in ‘night’ is a trigraph.

N. B. Technical Abbreviations

In the Toolkit we include some common abbreviations. These include: VC, CVC, CCVC and CVCC. In these abbreviations, the V stands for a vowel and C for a consonant. For example: VC – ‘it’, CVC – ‘cat’, CCVC – ‘stop’, CVCC – ‘lamp’.