Research

What is a grapheme?

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Research

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A grapheme is a letter or a group of letters that make up a single sound. Graphemes are units of writing corresponding to a single sound. A grapheme (letter) is used to represent a phoneme (sound). In other words, a grapheme is the written form of a sound. For example, the word tap consists of three graphemes t, a, and p. The word trap consists of four graphemes t, r, a, and p. A grapheme can also consist of more than one letter; for example, tch in catch is a single grapheme because it corresponds to a single sound.

A grapheme (letter or group of letters) can represent more than one phoneme (sound). For example, the letter g has a soft and hard sound as in giraffe and get. In each of these words, the letter g is pronounced differently. Further, there are even more ways to spell the soft /g/ phoneme, including j and dge. One sound can have many different spellings or graphemes.

The easy way to remember the difference between a phoneme and a grapheme:
- Graphemes are written letters or combinations of letters. When you forget, think of drawing a graph.
- Phonemes are sounds. When you forget, think of speaking on a telephone.

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Phonics is the method that helps children build systematic connections between letters and sounds. Phonics has a better impact on children’s reading ability than any other type of reading program. It has also been shown to improve spelling, particularly among kindergarteners and first graders.

To find out more, read our Deep Dive into Phonics report. This report provides an easy-to-understand overview of phonics and phonemic awareness - why they are important and how they are taught in the classroom - and explains all the relevant terminology. It's perfect for sharing with colleagues, friends, and to Google Classroom!

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