Phonics Sounds List


You want to help your child read but you didn’t learn this in school. This phonics sounds list is your cheat sheet for teaching phonics.

You want to teach your child to read. You know your child needs phonics but you have no clue where to start. You are not alone.

Most of us parents were not taught to read this way. We learned to read with Whole Language, or the belief that children learn to read words as pictures.

Cognitive scientists have disproven that theory and know exactly how the reading brain rewires itself. We connect symbols (letters) to speech sounds to break the reading code.

But most parents aren’t really clear on what the speech sounds are. We cannot teach what we don’t know.

So check out this phonics sounds list. It helps make all the sounds clear to you, and you can grab a free printable phonics sounds list.

Phonics Sounds List

Most phonics sounds lists have 44 sounds. But some lists will have between 42 and 45 sounds. Even linguists don’t always agree on the number of sounds.

This is why:

Regions have variations in sounds.  Dialect heavily influences the pronounciation of sounds.

For example, in my area /hw/ in whether sounds exactly like /w/ in weather. The words whether and weather sound no different in my area.

Similarly, short o and broad a can sound a lot alike. I’ve seen phonics sounds list where they place them together with words like cot and caught. I can hear a subtle difference in those sounds.

So just be aware that phonics sounds lists are slightly subjective based on dialect.

Basic Consonant Sounds List

These are the basic consonant sounds. When you think of the alphabet, these are the most common sounds.

  1. /b/ like ball
  2. /d/like dog
  3. /f/ like fish
  4. /g/ like goat
  5. /h/ like house
  6. /j/ like jam
  7. /k/ like kite or cat
  8. /l/ like ladybug
  9. /m/ like mittens
  10. /n/ like nest
  11. /p/ like pig
  12. /r/ like robot
  13. /s/ like sun
  14. /t/ like turtle
  15. /v/ like vase
  16. /w/ like watermelon
  17. /y/ like yo-yo
  18. /z/ like zebra

What is the Sound for X?

You might have noticed that X isn’t included on the list above. This is because X actually spells two of those sounds combined.

X spells the sounds /k/ and /s/, or /ks/.

So in the word ‘fox,’ x spells two sounds. X sometimes spells the sound /g/ /z/ like in the word example.

What is the Sound for Q?

Technically the letter Q represents the /k/ sound. But q and u are always together in English.

Qu represents the sounds /k/ /w/.

It is not on the consonant list above. It represents two separate sounds that are already on the list.

Both /ks/ and /kw/ are included on the phonics sounds list so you can remember to teach them to your child.

More Consonant Sounds List

These consonants include digraphs.

  1. /ch/ like chin
  2. /sh/ like shop
  3. /zh/ like treasure
  4. /TH/ like bathe (voiced sound)
  5. /th/ like bath (unvoiced sound)
  6. /hw/ like when
  7. /ng/ like ring

Short Vowel Sounds List

There are five short vowel sounds in English.

Sometimes it’s easier to hear the sounds in its middle position than in the beginning sound position. So both keywords are included on the phonics sounds list.

  1. /a/ like cat or apple
  2. /e/ like hen or elephant
  3. /i/ like pig or igloo
  4. /o/ like hog or octopus
  5. /u/ like pup or umbrella

Long Vowel Sounds Lists

There are five long vowel sounds.  They are typed with a capital A or a line above the letter called a macron: ā

These are the five long vowel sounds:

  1. /A/ like cake or aim
  2. /E/ like Pete or sheep
  3. /I/ like time or light
  4. /O/ like home or coast
  5. /U/ like cube or dew.

Some people list the two common sounds of the spelling of u-e under long vowels like the word dude. I choose to put the /OO/ sound with other vowel sounds below.

Check out the Long Vowel Word Mapping Worksheets in the shop or on Teachers Pay Teachers.

R-Controlled Vowels Sounds List

R is known as a bossy sound. It is liquid so it changes the way that the proceeding vowels sound.

Here are the three bossy R sounds:

  1. /ar/ like car
  2. /ir/ like her, bird, and hurt
  3. /or/ like corn

Other phonics sounds lists contain the sounds /ear/ and /air/.  In my dialect, they sound like a long vowel plus the /r/ sound. So they are not considered separate sounds.

Other Vowels Sounds List

These vowels don’t belong to the other categories. They are either diphthongs – where your mouth glides from one position to another while forming a sound.

Some of these vowels (aw and OO) are also added to other phonics sounds lists as short and long vowels.

I think it’s most helpful to have an ‘other’ category. These are the other sounds:

  1. /aw/ like pause or paw
  2. /oo/ like book or good
  3. /OO/ like zoom or food
  4. /oi/ like in boy or foil
  5. /ou/ like in house or cow

These long vowel team and vowel diphthongs worksheets are helpful for teaching your child vowel sounds. Find them also on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Schwa Vowel Sound

The symbol for the schwa sound is an upside-down e.  It sounds like /ih/ or /uh/.

It comes in a multi-syllable word in an unstressed syllable.

  • again
  • camel
  • festival
  • wagon
  • focus

One hack for finding the stressed and unstressed syllable is to pretend you’re calling the dog. The longest, most emphasized syllable is stressed.

Think of the word ‘bacon.” When calling a dog named Bacon, you’d say “Baaaay-kin.” The first syllable is stressed. The second gets a lazy schwa /ih/ sound spelled with the letter O.

Printable Phonics Sounds List

You can grab a printable version of this phonics sounds list by filling in your name and email address in the box below.

This printable is a gift for email list subscribers. But you’re welcome to unsubscribe at any time.

I’ll send you more tips for reading, then you’ll just get my regular weekly newsletter with sale, freebies, and actionable strategies you can really use.

Using a Phonics Sounds List

You can use this list to keep track of the sounds your child already knows and the ones they need to know.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the ways sounds can be spelled.  However, it will give you a good idea of what your child needs help with.

When working on phonics skills, you can:

  • Start with consonants and short vowels
  • Next work on digraphs and vowel-consonant-e spellings
  • Finally work on r-controlled vowels and long vowel teams.

Start consonant and short vowels

Consonant and short vowels tend to be the easiest to learn. Here’s how you can practice:

  • Grab a whiteboard and write out CVC words
  • Ask your child to read them.
  • Mark off any sounds your child gets correct on the phonics sounds list.

Need a CVC Word List with Pictures? Grab it in this post.

Next work on digraphs and vowel-consonant-e words

You’ll repeat this same process with words with consonant digraphs: ch, sh, th, and wh:

  • Grab a whiteboard
  • Write down words with digraphs and a short vowel
  • Mark off any your child knows.

After that, write out words with long vowel spelled vowel-consonant-e following the same routine.  You can use these words:

  • lane
  • Pete
  • bike
  • dome
  • cube

Last, work on R-controlled words and vowel teams

Check the Phonics Sounds List for words with r-controlled vowels and vowel teams.  You can have your child read those words. Mark any your child already knows.

If you need more guidance, you might be interested in Sound School!

How do I teach the 44 sounds of English?

Check out Sound School. It’s an almost two hour on-demand training that breaks down:

  • the 44 sounds
  • how to correctly pronounce them
  • how to teach them to your child
  • a sequence for teaching them
  • a simple three-minute routine to learn and review sounds
  • using the sounds to read words
  • the practical strategy for learning to spell the sounds

It comes with an eBook with printables you need to work on phonics sounds with your child.

Plus there are bonuses:

  • a B/D reversal game
  • Phonics Read and Spell Game – includes 74 phonics skills that build on each other
  • Support – stuck on something? Sound School members can email me, send me voice memos on Instagram or schedule Zoom calls and I’ll help you problem solve!

Recapping Phonics Sounds List

  • Your child needs to know these sounds
  • You probably didn’t learn it in school.
  • Grab the free phonics sounds list printable.
  • Get started on working on the sounds with your child.

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