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Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping — Printable Parents

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Heard all the buzz about phoneme-grapheme mapping? It’s the most efficient and effective way to read and spell.

It was March 2020. Distance learning had just begun. I sat with my first grade daughter as she struggled to write anything – even a single word.

For the first time, it became crystal clear to me – my daughter couldn’t segment words into separate phonemes. That’s teacher speak that she just couldn’t hear sounds in words. She couldn’t even spell the word, “pet.”

While I told my husband I thought she had a learning disability, I still knew I needed to find a way to help her learn to hear sounds and write them down.

One day, I grabbed the same plastic counters we had been using for math.

I said, “Pet.”

I grabbed three counters and tapped each one for the sounds /p/ /e/ /t/. From then on, we used this little trick to help her hear sounds in words.

But I knew she needed a systematic way to hear the sounds that make up words (phonemes) and connect them to letters (graphemes).

That’s when I discovered using Elkonin boxes for phoneme-grapheme mapping. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry. I have you covered.

This is the beginner’s guide to phoneme-grapheme mapping.

What is the phoneme-grapheme connection?

First, let’s define both phoneme and grapheme:

  • Phoneme is the smallest sound in a spoken word.
  • Grapheme is the written symbol (letter or letters) that represent a sound.

So simply, the phoneme-grapheme connection is the relationship between sounds and letters. By making the phoneme-grapheme connection, students learn that words are made of sounds.

What is phoneme-grapheme mapping used for?

Phoneme-grapheme mappping is used to help students learn to read and spell words. In short, it improves word recognition and word writing skills.

Phoneme-grapheme mapping improves a child’s:

  • phonemic awareness
  • spelling
  • word recognition

It is one of the most effective and efficient ways to help a child to read and spell well. Because children see the written symbols to the speech sounds, it is stored in the language center of the brain.

What is the difference between orthographic mapping and phoneme-grapheme mapping?

Orthographic mapping is the cognitive process where a brain permanently stores words in memory. We can’t teach orthographic mapping to our students or our children.

We can do activities that promote the process of orthographic mapping.  Phoneme-grapheme mapping develops orthographic mapping.

What is the purpose of phoneme-grapheme mapping?

The purpose of phoneme-grapheme mapping is to help children learn how sounds are spelled with letters. Your child takes a word from its speech sounds (phonemes) and puts it into letters (graphemes).

Phonemic awareness skills help your child learn that a spoken word is made up of individual sounds. Your child needs phonemic awareness to be a strong reader and speller.

Phoneme-grapheme mapping also makes children explicitly aware that the letters on a page represent the sounds in language.

While this might seem obvious to you, a lot of children are not aware that:

  • language is made up of sounds, and
  • words are groups of sounds that put together in order to carry meaning.

What are the steps in phoneme-grapheme mapping?

The steps in phoneme-grapheme mapping are:

  1. Say the word aloud to your child.
  2. Ask your child to repeat it.
  3. Give your child manipulatives to place on the phoneme-grapheme template.
  4. Your child segments the word by sounds and places one manipulative for each sound.
  5. Then your child will map the sounds with the letter or letters that spell each sound in its own box.
  6. Next, your child will spell or write the word on the lines.
  7. Finally, your child reads the word.

It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Here’s an example:

Say the word to your child

Phoneme-grapheme mapping isn’t an independent activity initially. You need to say the word to your child or students.

I said the word theft to my child.

Your child repeats the word

Make sure that your child repeats the word.  Sometimes I make this mistake but it’s really important for your child to hear themselves say the word.

Hearing the word develops phonemic awareness. When a child pronounces the word themselves, they will also feel how they say the sounds. Different sounds are made in different places in the mouth and this connection is so important.

Give your child manipulatives

Teachers have tons of manipulatives in their classrooms like linking cubes and counting chips.  At home, you can use pom poms or coins. You could even use legos or rocks!

These are some fun manipulatives we use at home or in tutoring:

  • dinosaurs
  • frogs
  • linking cubes
  • insects
  • counting bears

Segment the word into sounds

Your child segments, or breaks, the words into its individual phonemes or sounds. They place one manipulative on the phoneme-grapheme mat for each sound they hear.

In the example of the word “theft,” a child places one pom pom for each sound /th/, /e/, /f/, and /t/.

Map the sounds

Next your child will map the sounds. This means they will connect the letters that spell the sounds to each sound they hear in the word. They write the letter or letters that spell each sound in its own box.

In our example word “theft,” the letters th are in one box because they spell the sound /th/.

Spell or write the word

After mapping the sounds, your child will spell the word as a whole unit.  Seeing the word together makes the connection stronger for your child.

So my daughter wrote theft on the lines.

Read the word

Finally, your child will read the word. Hearing and seeing it at the same time after mapping helps solidify the new word.

On the printable activity above, my daughter slides her finger along the arrow as a multi-sensory way to read the word.

What does it mean to map sight words?

First, let’s define what the term “sight words” means in this question. It refers to high-frequency words like “said,” “had,” and “the.”

When most parents and teachers think of sight words, they think these words just need to be memorized. That’s not true. And it’s also an ineffective way to learn them.

Many sight words can be decoded completely and almost all have at least one decodable part. The only exception I can think of is “of.”

Mapping the word “said”

Your child or students can phoneme-grapheme map sight words just like they map any fully decodable word. In the picture above, I mapped said.

  • The word said has three sounds: /s/, /e/, and /d/.
  • There are three pom poms on the phoneme-grapheme mapping template – one for each sound.
  • In the first and third boxes, I wrote s and d in green because those are completely regular sound-spellings.
  • In the middle box, I wrote ai in red to show it is a trickier part.

For more about Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping, check out Droppin Knowledge with Heidi on Instagram.  She does a great job of making videos where she maps a ton of high-frequency words.

Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping Examples

When learning how to do phoneme-grapheme mapping, it’s really nice to see a lot of examples. So below you will find examples of mapping these types of words:

  • CVC
  • CVCe
  • Blends
  • Digraphs
  • Bossy R
  • Vowel Teams

CVC Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping Example

CVC words are the easiest to map. Each sound is spelled by one letter and those sound-letter spellings are regular.

The only exception would be a word like “fox.” X spells two sounds /k/ /s/ so the letter x would bridge two boxes.

Words ending with x are not included in the activity pack, however.

CVCE Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping Example

After CVC words, words that follow the CVCe rule are easy to map.

The main trick is to include the silent e with the final consonant. The silent e doesn’t represent any sounds – it helps the other vowel spell its name. So it joins the consonant to signify that it’s not spelling a sound.

The example picture is poke:

  • Say “poke.”
  • Tap the sounds. It has three sounds.
  • Map the letters that spell the sounds. Include the silent e with the final consonant. So it is mapped p-o-ke.
  • Write or spell the word poke.
  • Read the word poke.

Blends Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping Example

Blends have two consonants side-by-side. It can be hard for readers and spellers to hear the sounds separately since they blends together. However, they do have two distinct sounds.

Here’s how to map a word with two blends:

  • Say “twist.”
  • Your child repeats it.
  • Place one pom pom for each sound. There are five sounds.
  • Map the letter that spells each sound in its own box: t-w-i-s-t.
  • Write or spell the word on the line.
  • Read the word twist.

Digraph Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping Example

Digraph words are pretty straight-forward as long as your child already knows that two letters spell that one sound.

Here’s how to map the digraph word chest:

  • Say “chest.”
  • Your learner repeats.
  • Your learner counts the sounds in chest – /ch/ /e/ /s/ /t/ – and places a manipulative.
  • They map the letters that spell those sounds.
  • They write the word chest.
  • They read the word chest.

Vowel Team Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping Example

Vowel teams can be some of the hardest words to map because there are so many sound-spellings to learn. So start with the .long vowel teams like ai/ay, ea/ee, or ie/igh.

Here’s an example of mapping a vowel team word:

  • Say the word “flight” to your child.
  • They repeat the word flight.
  • They tap the sounds and place a manipulative for each sound: /f/ /l/ /I/ /t/.
  • They can map the letters that spell the sounds /f/, /l/ and /t/.
  • You’ll likely need to say, “In this word, igh spells the long i sound.”
  • Your child writes the word and reads it.

Bossy R Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping Example

R-controlled vowels are in 10% of words so it’s important for your child to learn them. I only learned about them when I started teaching 2nd grade!

It’s important to have mastered digraphs before jumping into r-controlled vowels.

Here’s how to map the word shirt:

  • Say the word “shirt.”
  • Your child repeats and taps the three sounds /sh/ /ir/ /t/.
  • They map the letters that spell those sounds.
  • They write the words.
  • They read the word shirt.

Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping Template

You don’t need a template to do phoneme-grapheme mapping. You can just draw boxes on a whiteboard for your child or students and use any counter you already have.

But a lot of teachers and parents need the structure of the template. So you can grab this free black and white phoneme-grapheme mapping template by entering your email in the box below.

This free printable is a gift to email subscribers so you’re agreeing to get my welcome emails and newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time, but I bet you’ll want to stick around.

Make sure to check you enter your email address correctly – that’s the most common reason why parents don’t get their free printable! And if you’re a teacher, use a personal email, not your school district email.

Phoneme-Grapheme Word Mapping Activity

I was looking for a comprehensive phoneme-grapheme word mapping activity to use with my dyslexic daughter and tutor students. I wanted something that would provide repeated practice and was organized phonics skills in a structured way.

I couldn’t find what I wanted, so I made it.

All the phoneme-grapheme mats included in this pack can work with a pom pom as a manipulative. So you don’t need to go buy a ton of supplies. One bag of pom poms is enough.

The novelty comes in with the 16 themes. They are:

  1. apples
  2. pumpkins
  3. squirrels
  4. pine trees
  5. hot cocoa
  6. heart-shaped box of chocolates
  7. pot of gold
  8. Easter egg
  9. flower
  10. watermelon
  11. lemonade
  12. dinosaur feet
  13. gumball machine
  14. bee hives
  15. lily pads
  16. roads

This pack includes all those phonics skills:

34 Sets Phonics Skills Cards (each set has 12 cards+)

  1. CVC short a
  2. CVC short e
  3. CVC short i
  4. CVC short o
  5. CVC short u
  6. CVC mixed review
  7. CVCE long a
  8. CVCE long i
  9. CVCE long o
  10. CVCE long u
  11. CVCE mixed
  12. Beginning L Blends
  13. Beginning R Blends
  14. Beginning S Blends
  15. Final L Blends
  16. Final M&N Blends
  17. Final S&T Blends
  18. Blends with final ck
  19. Words with blends and digraphs
  20. Digraphs mixed (X3 – 36 total cards)
  21. R-Controlled AR
  22. R-Controlled ER
  23. R-Controlled IR
  24. R-Controlled OR
  25. R-Controlled UR
  26. Long a spelled ai/ay
  27. Long e spelled ea/ee
  28. long I spelled ie/igh
  29. Long o splled oa/oe
  30. Long U spelled ue/iu/oo
  31. au/aw
  32. oi/oy
  33. ew/oo
  34. ou/ow

Grab the Word Mapping Activity in the Printable Parents Shop or on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping

This is a different way to teach reading and spelling than you and I learned. But it is the most effective. Grab the free printable template and try mapping sound words today.

grapheme — Wiktionary

See also: Grapheme and graphème


  • 1 English
    • 1.1 Etymology
    • 1.2 Pronunciation
    • 1.3 Noun
      • 1.3.1 Translations
    • 1.4 Further reading



From Ancient Greek γράφω (gráphō, “write”) + -eme. Doublet of -gram.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈɡɹæf.iːm/


Examples (graphemes of the phoneme /f/)
  • f (as in fun)
  • gh (as in rough)
  • ph (as in philosopher)

grapheme (plural graphemes)

  1. A fundamental unit of a writing system, corresponding to (for example) letters in the English alphabet or jamo in Korean Hangeul.
  2. (Unicode) A sequence of one or more code points that are processed and displayed as a single graphical unit of a writing system.
    Synonym: (formally) grapheme cluster
    Coordinate term: glyph
  3. (linguistics) In alphabetic writing, the shortest group of letters composing a phoneme.
    • [1987, David Caplan, Neurolinguistics and Linguistic Aphasiology: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 234:

      The term for a letter or combination of letters which represents a particular sound is a “grapheme”. Languages like Italian and Serbo-Croatian have very simple “grapheme–phoneme conversion” rules.]

    • 2019, Flavia Belpoliti; Encarna Bermejo, Spanish Heritage Learners’ Emerging Literacy: Empirical Research and Classroom Practice[1], Routledge, →ISBN:

      In terms of specific graphemes, Table 2. 5 identifies the most frequent inconsistent phoneme-to-grapheme patterns.


fundamental unit of a writing system

  • Armenian: գրույթ (hy) (gruytʿ)
  • Asturian: grafema m
  • Balinese: ᬳᬓ᭄ᬲᬭᬩᬕ (aksarabaga)
  • Belarusian: графе́ма f (hrafjéma)
  • Bulgarian: графе́ма f (graféma)
  • Catalan: grafema m
  • Chinese:
    Mandarin: 字素 (zh) (zìsù), 字位 (zìwèi)
  • Czech: grafém m
  • Dutch: grafeem (nl) n
  • Esperanto: grafemo
  • Estonian: please add this translation if you can
  • Finnish: grafeemi (fi)
  • French: graphème (fr) m
  • Galician: grafema (gl) m
  • Georgian: გრაფემა (grapema)
  • German: Graphem (de) n
  • Greek: γράφημα (el) n (gráfima)
  • Hebrew: גְּרָפֶמָה‎ f
  • Hungarian: graféma
  • Italian: grafema (it) m
  • Japanese: 書記素 (しょきそ, shokiso), 字素 (じそ, jiso), 文字素 (もじそ, mojiso), 図形素 (ずけいそ, zukeiso)
  • Kazakh: графема (grafema)
  • Korean: 자소 (ko) (jaso), 문자소 (munjaso), 서기소 (seogiso)
  • Macedonian: графема f (grafema)
  • Malay: grafem
  • Polish: grafem (pl) m
  • Portuguese: grafema m
  • Romanian: grafem (ro) n
  • Russian: графе́ма (ru) f (graféma)
  • Serbo-Croatian:
    Cyrillic: гра̀фе̄м m
    Roman: gràfēm (sh) m
  • Sicilian: grafima m
  • Slovak: graféma f
  • Spanish: grafema (es) m
  • Swedish: grafem (sv)
  • Thai: หน่วยอักขระ (nùai-àk-kà-rà)
  • Ukrainian: графе́ма f (hraféma)
  • Urdu: (please verify)اکائی‎
  • Vietnamese: tự vị (vi)

Further reading[edit]

  • grapheme on Wikipedia. Wikipedia

is… Types and features of graphemes Relations between graphemes and phonemes

The invention of writing is the most important stage development of the language system. Through writing, people are able to convey information in non-verbal ways. Thanks to writing, books, newspapers, movies and the Internet exist, thanks to it you can read this article. The smallest meaningful elements of writing are graphemes.


This term was introduced into linguistics by the Russian linguist I. A. Baudouin de Courtenay.

The branch of science that studies graphemes is called graphics. The words «grapheme» and «graphics» are of Greek origin (γράφω — «I write»). The concept of a grapheme is opposed to a phoneme — the smallest sound unit of speech.

You will be interested in: How to find the sum of an arithmetic progression: formulas and an example of their use

In linguistics, speaking of graphemes, they are enclosed in angle brackets: ⟨а⟩, ⟨К⟩, etc. , by analogy with square brackets for phonetic transcriptions and slashes for phonemes (/a/, /l/).

In alphabetic writing systems, a letter corresponds to a grapheme. But the concept of a grapheme is wider, it includes not only the letter itself, but also various variants of its outline. Uppercase and lowercase, typed in different fonts, handwritten — all these are graphemes. Therefore, the number of graphemes is much greater than the number of letters of the alphabet.

In addition, graphemes include punctuation marks, mathematical symbols, ligatures, etc.

Non-alphabetic writing systems use hieroglyphs instead of letters. They are characteristic of many ancient and modern languages ​​of the world: ancient Egyptian, Yiddish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. The graphemes of hieroglyphs consist of ideograms — conditional icons or drawings that convey the author’s thought. The peculiarity of the ideograms of some languages ​​is that they can be understood even by people who do not speak this language.

Types of graphemes

There are different types of graphemes in a language.

  • Homophonic. These are graphemes that convey the same sound.
  • Allographs — different styles of the same letter.
  • Auxiliary — graphemes, including punctuation marks and diacritics.
  • Ligatures — continuous spellings of graphemes.
  • Monographs — graphemes consisting of one letter.
  • Grapheme complexes — units of graphics, consisting of two or more graphemes (for example, English ch, sh, augh, etc.).

Relations between graphemes and phonemes

Often in a language, a grapheme represents a phoneme, that is, a sound unit corresponding to a letter in this case (regardless of the writing style). But this correspondence does not always appear.

For example, two or more graphemes can correspond to only one sound. For example, the French combination of letters ch conveys the sound /sh/. In English, the /o/ sound can be conveyed by various combinations of graphemes, one of them is augh (taught, caught).


Artemy Ponomarev

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What does grapheme mean — Meanings of words

grapheme in the crossword dictionary

  • Unit of written speech
  • Term in literature, linguistics
  • Minimum unit of written speech
  • The minimum unit of written speech corresponding to a phoneme in oral speech

Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1998


the minimum unit of written speech corresponding to a phoneme (its variant or sequence of phonemes) in oral speech. A letter, a combination of letters, a hieroglyph or part of it can act as a grapheme.

Great Soviet Encyclopedia


(from the Greek grapho ≈ I write), the smallest meaningful unit of written speech corresponding to a phoneme in oral speech, for example, “a”, “b”, etc. The gramophone system of a certain script forms the alphabet of this script. It is necessary to distinguish from G. a letter (letter) corresponding to the sound of speech (for example, A, a, a, etc.), and a graphic combination (i.e., a set of letters) that is regularly used in this writing to denote one or another phonemes (for example, ch ≈ «sh» in French, «x» in German, «h» in English writing). The term «G.» introduced at 1912 J. A. Baudouin de Courtenay.

Lit.: Baudouin de Courtenay I. A., On the relation of Russian writing to the Russian language, St. Petersburg, 1912; Volotskaya Z. M., Moloshnaya T. N., Nikolaeva T. M., Experience in describing the Russian language in its written form, M., 1964.

A. G. Shitsgal.



Grapheme is a writing unit (in the alphabet — a letter, in non-alphabetic writing systems — a syllabic sign, a hieroglyph, an ideogram, and others).

The grapheme is uniquely distinguishable from any other unit of the same script.

The same grapheme can take various specific forms (allographs, glyphs, styles), but must retain some construction scheme, the “skeleton” of a letter or sign, discretely distinguishing it from other letters of a given script, regardless of the typeface, individual handwriting and others.

With an anomaly in the development of speech, or simply with the so-called «illegible handwriting», there may be a mixture of graphemes (for example, uppercase α and o , m and w , d and y ).

The concept was introduced in 1912 by J. A. Baudouin de Courtenay.

Examples of the use of the word grapheme in the literature.

The modern city with its geometric grid falls on the intricacies of historical labyrinths, as if forcing them, creating many microfields of tension where graphemes do not coincide, where continuously multiplying differences are read between them.

Valjean’s movement between the letters of someone else’s text is in many ways analogous to this non-stop sliding from grapheme to grapheme, which, instead of making the text readable, only multiply diagrams of violence.

Changed handwriting — still the handwriting of the given body, even the distortion of the grapheme testifies to the continued identity.

New graphemes appear in Low German under the influence of English writing.

But the monogram has another important property, it combines graphemes in such a way that they intertwine in a pattern in which they lose their readability.

By alexxlab

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