Continuum Unpacked


Consonants and Short Vowels

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Category: Phonics Grapheme-Phoneme Correspondence

 Grapheme-phoneme correspondence (GPC) refers to the association between a grapheme (a letter or cluster of letters) and its corresponding phoneme, and vice versa. It may also be called letter-sound correspondence.

Understanding this relationship enables students to read by relating graphemes to phonemes and blending phonemes together to sound out words, and to spell by breaking words into phonemes and representing each phoneme with a corresponding grapheme, with automaticity.

Learning these skills occurs largely in the context of learning about decoding and spelling of written words.

Knowledge and Skills: Grapheme-Phoneme Correspondence

Kindergarten/Grade 1
Understanding the relationship between simple and high-frequency graphemes (letters or combinations of letters) and the phonemes (units of sound) they represent
Grade 1
Understanding the relationship between simple, high-frequency, and complex graphemes (letters or combinations of letters) and the phonemes (units of sound) they represent 



Grade 2



Grade 3



Grade 4


Looks like: Kindergarten / Grade 1

  • producing the most common grapheme for each consonant sound, and the most common phoneme for each consonant grapheme
  • producing the most common grapheme for each short vowel sound and the most common phoneme for each vowel grapheme:
  • short vowels: /a/, /i/, /o/, /u/, /e/

Looks like: Grade 1

  • applying previously learned GPC concepts


Why is this important?

Effective phonics instruction is systematic: it teaches all skills in a carefully considered sequence, starting with the simplest knowledge or skill, and gradually progressing. Learning basic grapheme-phoneme correspondences for consonants and short vowels is a key first step to reading and writing. 


When teaching consonants and short vowels, first teach a group of consonant sounds with one or two short vowels. This allows students to apply their developing phonics knowledge to reading and spelling. Teaching using other sequences, such as in alphabetic order, or all the consonants first, doesn’t allow students to maximize this phonics knowledge in reading and spelling.

Consider using an embedded mnemonic alphabet to teach basic code. Research shows that embedded mnemonics help students learn letter-sound links more easily (Ehri, 2020).

Take care to link phonics instruction to other aspects of instruction, including spelling and text reading. Spelling practice should focus on grapheme-phoneme correspondences taught, and students should be provided with decodable text to practice reading words with the sound-spellings taught.