phonemes, graphemes, morphemes what is the difference

Phonemes, Graphemes, and Morphemes Are For Everyone To Understand

Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you hear about Orton-Gillingham or Structured Literacy instruction? If so, you’re not alone!

It can be hard to understand the terminology used in the science of teaching reading, such as phonemes, graphemes, and morphemes.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what these terms mean and how they are related to each other.

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Phonemes

Phonemes are the smallest units of sound in a language. In English, there are 44 phonemes, including sounds like /s/, /t/, and /sh/. Phonemes are the building blocks of words and language, as they can be combined to create words with multiple syllables. For example, the word “cat” is made up of three phonemes, /k/, /a/, and /t/.

When teaching reading, it’s important to understand how to break words down into their phonemes. This can help children recognize and pronounce new words more easily. Teaching phonemic awareness helps students learn to blend and segment phonemes to read and spell words.

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Graphemes

Graphemes are the written symbols that represent individual phonemes in a language. A single grapheme can represent a single phoneme, such as the letter “b” in English, or it can represent multiple phonemes, such as the letter combination “ck” in English. In addition to letters, graphemes include punctuation marks, diacritical marks, and numerals.

Graphemes are an important part of teaching reading because they give us a visual representation of the sounds that make up words. By combining phonemes and graphemes, readers can decode unknown words and recognize them more easily.

For example, when a student sees the grapheme “th” they know that it represents two phonemes: /t/ and /h/. They can then use this knowledge to decode words like “thing” or “theory.” Knowing how to decode using graphemes is a critical part of learning to read.

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Morphemes

Morphemes are the smallest units of meaning in a language. In English, they can be either a single word or a part of a word. For example, the word “unhappy” is composed of two morphemes: “un-” and “-happy”. The prefix “un-” means “not” and the root “happy” means “feeling content and pleased”, so together they create the meaning “not feeling content and pleased.”

In Orton-Gillingham and Structured Literacy, morpheme analysis is an important tool used to help students learn new words. By breaking down a word into its individual morphemes, students can gain insight into a word’s meaning, as well as its spelling pattern. 

For example, if a student understands the root “spect” (to look), they can more easily decode and spell the word “expectation” (to look forward to).

In addition to helping with decoding and spelling, understanding the meaning of morphemes also helps students increase their vocabulary. By recognizing and understanding the meaning of common prefixes, roots, and suffixes, students can identify unknown words and make educated guesses about their meaning. 

For example, if a student knows that the suffix “-ion” usually means “the process of,” they can guess that the word “transition” means “the process of moving from one state to another.”

By mastering morphemes, students can become better readers and writers. Morphemes can help with both decoding and comprehension, as well as build a better understanding of how language works. It is an invaluable skill for any student learning how to read and write!

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