[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Summer 1982 pp7-9]

A Hierarchy for Teaching Phoneme-Grapheme Correspondences in Beginning Reading,

by Earl H. Cheek, Ph.D.*

*Louisana State, Univ., Baton Rouge, La.

Reprinted from Reading Improvement, Fall, 1980.

For many years educators have debated the ways words should be selected for use in teaching beginning reading. Some think the words selected should be those having the highest utility. That is, those words necessary for sensible, connected discourse. Others think that the words selected should be those that are made up of similar sounds represented by similar letters. Thus, one group would teach the phoneme-grapheme options as they occur in the high frequency words while the other group would initially teach the options as though they were constants, not options. The author of this article takes the position that the same letter and/or combinations of letters often represents a variety of phonemes and that the progression of the options taught should be determined by their utility to the reader in learning to read American-English connected discourse.

What then is the progression, when words are selected in terms of utility, in which the common phoneme-grapheme options should be taught? The purpose of this study was to ascertain this progression.

Procedures.

In order to determine the hierarchy for teaching the various phoneme-grapheme correspondences at readability levels 1.0-5.0, the following procedures were utilized:

1. The Cheek Master Word List (Cheek, 1974) was used as the core vocabulary. This word list was developed for readability levels 1.0-5.0 by extracting words (according to level) from each of the following lists: A Revised Core 8 Vocabulary: A Basic Vocabulary for Grades 1-8, An Advanced Vocabulary for Grades 9-13 (Taylor, et al., 1969); Basic Elementary Reading Vocabularies (Harris and Jacobson, 1972); Word Frequency Book (Carroll, et al., 1971); and Computational Analysis for Present-Day American English (Kucera and Francis, 1967).

2. Each word selected for the Cheek Master Word List was studied for the graphemic representation of each of the phonemes. To maintain consistency in phoneme identification, Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (Gove, 1971) was used.

3. For every level, 1.0-5.0, each phoneme was classified according to its corresponding graphemic option. These classifications were analyzed to determine the readability levels at which they occurred in the most frequently used words. This analysis provided a listing of phoneme-grapheme correspondences which appeared most frequently in words at each level.

4. The level of the phoneme-grapheme correspondences was determined by listing the total number of words containing a given phoneme-grapheme option at each readability level from 1.0-5.0 and then finding the level at which five words containing that correspondence first occurred. For example, the /a/ phoneme represented by the grapheme <a> appeared in two words on level 1.0-2.0, seven words on level 2.1-3.0, twelve words on level 3.1-4.0, and eleven words on level 4.1-5.0. Thus, it was listed at level 2.1-3.0.

Discussion of Findings.

The purpose of this study was to determine the order of introduction of the common phoneme-grapheme correspondences needed for use in decoding written words introduced in the primary grades of the elementary schools. The investigator found that forty-six phonemes were present in the words appearing on the Cheek Master Word List.

Of the forty-six phonemes introduced, all were represented by one or more graphemic options. One of the phonemes, /yu/, occurred so infrequently that both of the graphemic options representing it were assigned to readability levels above 5.0. All other graphemic representations of phonemes were assigned to readability levels 1.0-5 .0, or above 5.0, depending upon the first level at which the criteria was met.

Tables 1, 2, and 3 present summaries of the vowel and diphthong phonemes, consonant phonemes, and a hierarchy of phoneme-grapheme correspondences.

Implications.

The findings in this study suggest that a hierarchy for teaching phoneme-grapheme correspondence does exist in the elementary grades. This hierarchy may be used for developing a scope and sequence for teaching these correspondences at readability levels 1.0-5.0. Stress should be toward teaching those phoneme-grapheme correspondences which occur most frequently in readability levels 1.0-5.0 in the beginning stages in reading. The findings in this study further suggest that many of the more commonly used phoneme-grapheme correspondences occur in words at readability levels 1.0-5.0. Implications for developers of reading programs are that systematic instruction in soundsymbol relationships should be incorporated as an integral part of any such program.

Further findings from this study indicate that the use of a hierarchy for introducing phoneme-grapheme correspondences should enable a student to gain the necessary decoding skills which in turn would enhance the prospect of that student becoming a capable reader.

The awareness of a hierarchy for teaching phoneme-grapheme correspondences offers teachers and program developers an opportunity to develop and evaluate instructional approaches which possibly could increase the effectiveness in teaching reading. Unlimited opportunities for research are provided in order to ascertain the effectiveness of developing decoding skills based on this awareness of a hierarchy for teaching phoneme-grapheme correspondences.

References.

Carroll, John B.; Daires, Peter; and Richman, Harry. Word Frequency Book., New York: American Heritage Pub. Co., Inc. 1971.

Cheek, Earl H. The Cheek Master Word List. Waco, Tex.: Educational Achievement Corp. 1974.

Gove, Philip B., Ed. Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Mass.: G & C Merriam Co. 1971.

Harris, Albert J., and Jacobson, Milton D. Basic Elementary Reading Vocabularies. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1972.

Kucera, Henry, and Francis, W. Nelson. Computational Analysis of Present-Day American English. Providence, R. I.: Brown Univ. Press, 1967.

Taylor, Stanford E.; Frachanpohl, Helen; and White, Catherine. A Revised Core Vocabulary: A Basic Vocabulary for Grades 1-8, An Advanced Vocabulary for Grades 9-13. Huntington, New York: Educational Developmental Laboratories, 1969.


Hierarchy for Introduction of Phoneme-Grapheme Correspondences.

TABLE ONE

Readability Level 1.0 - 2.0 Readability Level 2.1 - 3.0

Phoneme
/ā/
/a/
/ä/
/au/
/e/
/ē/
/ī/
/ō/
/o/
/u/
/ü/
/ə/
/b/
/ch/
/d/
/f/
/g/
/h/
/hw/
/k/
/l/
/m/
/n/
/ng/
/p/
/r/
/s/
/sh/
/t/
/th/
/th/
/v/
/w/
/y/
/z/
Graphemic Options
a-e, ay
a
o, a
ou, ow
e
y, ee, e
i-e, i, y, igh
o, o-e, ow
o, a
oo
oo
e, o, u, a, i, ou, o-e
b
ch
d
f
g
h
wh
c, k, ck
l, ll
m
n
ng
p
r
s, ss
sh
t
th
th
v
w
y
z
Phoneme
/ā/
/e/
/ē/
/i/
/u/
/ü/
/d/
/f/
/j/
/ks/
/əl/
/n/
/ng/
/ən/
/p/
/r/
/s/
/t/
Graphemic Options
a, ai
ea, e-e, ai, a
ea
ea, i-e
u
ew
ld
ff
g
x
le
nn
n
en, n
p
wr
c
tt

Readability Level 3.1 - 4.0 Readability Level 4.1 - 5.0

/a/
/ē/
/ī/
/i/
/ō/
/o/
/ü/
/ə/
/ch/
/d/
/j/
/al/
/n/
/ən/
/r/
/sh/
/z/
a-e
i, ey
ie
a-e
ou
aw
ou
u-e, i-e, e-e, a-e, ea
t, tch
dd
j
al
kn
on
rr
ti
z
/ā/
/ē/
/i/
/o/
/oi/
/ ü/
/yü/
/yə/
/f/
/m/
/w/
/z/
/zh/
eigh
ea-e, ie, ay
y
au
ou, oi
o-e
u
u
ph, gh
mm
u
es
s

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