The Alphabetic Principle and Systematic Phonics

Logic of English

The Logic of English teaches the Alphabetic Principle and systematic phonics through engaging and explicit teaching of the:

Through explicit instruction of the seventy-four phonograms, Logic of English students establish a clear understanding of how the combinations of letters on the page represent the sounds of English and gain a deep understanding of the Alphabetic Principle. Logic of English students learn that the most elemental form of the written code represents sounds.

Instruction begins by teaching the sounds of the twenty-six single-letter phonograms (a-z) while de-emphasizing the names at the early stages of instruction. This provides students with the information most critical to learning to read and spell.

The introduction of phonograms has been ordered so that students learn the most commonly used phonograms first in order to efficiently acquire the knowledge needed to read real books as soon as possible.

Students develop mastery of the phonograms through fun multi-sensory games which develop a strong memory link between the sounds and their corresponding written symbols.

The second stage of written language development is learning the connection between the phonemes and the letters that encode them. Understanding the relationship of speech to print is the second critical factor in determining reading success (Fletcher & Lyon, 1998).

Understanding the relationship of speech to print is the second critical factor in determining reading success.

The understanding that sounds are anchored to letters or strings of letters is known as the Alphabetic Principle (Moats & Snow, 2005). The Alphabetic Principle is an abstract concept which is best taught explicitly to students in order to provide clarity about what the symbols on the page represent in their most elemental forms.

Phonics uses the Alphabetic Principle and phonemic awareness to teach students the relationship between the sounds and symbols. The symbols that represent sounds are called phonograms. Phonograms may be written with one, two, three, or four letters. In English, each phonogram may represent one to six sounds.

For emerging readers, knowing the sounds of the phonograms is more important than knowing the letter names. In fact, knowledge of letter names may even delay the acquisition of reading (Dehaene, 2009) for some students. To know that an S is named /ess/, a K /kay//, or an I /eye/ is useless when we try to read the word ski. Letter names cannot be assembled during reading; rather, it is the sounds of the phonograms that are blended together into words (Dehaene, 2009). Therefore it is no surprise that knowing letter-sound correspondences is a much stronger predictor of reading success than knowing letter names (Stuart, 1995; McGuinness, 2005).

Phonics instruction should provide explicit lessons in the Alphabetic Principle (Adams, 1990) and teach students to associate each sound with its corresponding spellings (Moats, 1998). In this manner students will learn to recognize and decode words using the sound-symbol correspondence, a strategy that all good readers demonstrate (Ehri, 1991).

Logic of English

As students grow in the Alphabetic Principle and their knowledge of phonograms, they are then systematically taught to blend phonograms into words. Blending practice begins as soon as students have acquired the phonograms needed to create one-syllable consonant-vowel-consonant words. In this manner the students develop an understanding that the purpose of learning phonograms is to be able to decode words.

As students advance, they systematically learn how to read and spell:

  • Long vowel words
  • Words with multi-letter phonograms
  • Words described by the spelling rules, such as silent final E words, single vowel Y words...
  • Multi-syllable words

Students are taught the spelling rules through discovery-based activities which encourage critical thinking and engage students in becoming better language learners. Concepts are practiced through games and creative learning activities to develop mastery of these vital skills.

Research demonstrates that it is necessary to first teach common sound-symbol correspondences and then less common ones step-by-step. These sound-symbol units can then be read and spelled into words (Moats, 1998; Ehri et al., 2001). The English language has 44 sounds and only 26 letters to represent them, resulting in an opaque orthography. Therefore students need to be taught more complex units which correspond to phonemes (Dehaene, 2009), such as ough, as well as the sounds for A-Z. The human brain develops neurological pathways for this information by encoding spelling units as large as four letters which map onto speech sounds (Dehaene, 2009).

In addition to being taught the sounds that each phonogram makes, students should be taught the rules governing where a phonogram may be used within a word and what sound it will make in different word positions. With explicit instruction in these rules, students are able to understand letter patterns and reach fluency more easily (Diggory, 1992).

As students progress in phonemic awareness and the alphabetic principle, they should be explicitly taught how to decode words (Adams, 1990 from Moats, 1998). Researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that readers who read fluently are able to map phonograms to their sounds automatically (Yoncheva et al., 2015). The process occurs so quickly it appears they are reading “by sight” (Ehri & Snowling, 2004).

An explicit understanding of how each phoneme is encoded is vital to retrieving the pronunciation of an unknown printed word and to spelling (Moats, 1999). This is expressly shown in the research related to dyslexic readers. Impaired, or dyslexic readers, suffer from poor phonemic awareness skills and faulty sound-symbol correspondence (Dehaene, 2009). Compared to non-impaired readers, dyslexic brains show less activity in the anterior and posterior reading systems located on the left side of the brain, and more activity in right hemisphere sites. The right side activity is thought to be attempting to compensate for the disrupted left side systems (Shaywitz et al., 2002).

Logic of English

Logic of English teaches the true linguistic structure of English, so at no point are students left to guess or make large leaps in knowledge. Instead, students are taught phonetic rules that eliminate exceptions and describe 98% of English words.

By incorporating the latest linguistics research, Logic of English helps students develop critical thinking skills about language and minimize rote memory of sight words.

For example, Logic of English teaches nine reasons for a silent final E, whereas most phonics programs teach only one reason. While knowing the rule the vowel sound changes because of the E is important, this rule accounts for only fifty percent of silent final E words, leaving the rest as exceptions. By teaching simple rules such as English words do not end in V; therefore add an E (as in have, mauve, comprehensive), thousands of words are explained, exceptions decrease dramatically, and students become stronger readers and spellers.

After a phonemically based reading intervention, impaired readers showed marked improvement in their reading skills and developed the neural systems for reading in both the anterior and posterior right hemisphere (B.A. Shaywitz et al., 2004). Also, with intervention and development of the left hemisphere systems for reading, the right sided compensatory systems were no longer necessary (B.A. Shawywitz et al., 2004). In other words, students who receive instruction about the phonemes and how the phonemes are used to form words not only become stronger readers but develop pathways in the brain that are consistent with strong reading skills.

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Adams, M. (1990) Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA:MIT Press.

Dehaene, S. (2009). Reading in the brain: the science and evolution of a human invention. New York: Viking.

Diggory, S. (1992). The learning-disabled child. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Ehri, L. (1991). Development of the ability to read words. In R. Barr, M. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, & P. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research Volume II (pp. 383–417). New York: Longman.

Ehri, L.C. (2005). Learning to read words: Theory, findings, and issues. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9(2), 167-188.

Ehri, L., & Snowling, M.J. (2004). Developmental variation in word recognition. In Stone, C.A., Silliman, E.R., Ehren, B.J., and Apel, K. (Eds.), Handbook of language and literacy: Development and disorders, pp. 433-460. New York: Guilford.

Ehri, L., Nunes, S., Willows, D., Schuster, B., Yaghoub-Zadeh, Z., & Shanahan, T. (2001). Phonemic awareness instruction helps children learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s meta-analysis. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 250-287.

Fletcher, J. & Lyon, R. (1998). Reading: A research-based approach. In W. Evers (Ed.), What’s Gone Wrong in America’s Classrooms (p. 49-90). Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

Moats, L. (1998). Teaching decoding. American Educator, Spring/Sum, 1–8.

Moats, L. (1999). Teaching reading is rocket science. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.

Moats, L., & Snow, C. (2005). How Spelling Supports Reading. American Federation of Teachers, 1–13.

Shaywitz, B.A., Shaywitz, S.E., Pugh, K.R., Mencl, W.E., Fulbright, R.K., Skudlarksi, P., Constable, R.T., Marchione, K.E., Fletcher, J.M., Lyon, G.R., & Gore, J.C. (2002).Disruption of posterior brain systems for reading in children with developmental dyslexia. Biological Psychiatry, 52(2), 101–10. Retrieved from

Shaywitz, B.A., Shaywitz, S.E., Blachman, B.A., Pugh, K.R., Fulbright, R.K., Skudlarksi, P., Mencl, W.E., Constable, R.T., Holahan, J.M., Marchione, K.E., Fletcher, J.M., Lyon, G.R., & Gore, J.C. (2004). Development of left occipitotemporal systems for skilled reading in children after a phonologically-based intervention. Biological Psychiatry, 55(9), 926–33. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2003.12.019.

Yoncheva, Y., Wise, J., & McCandliss, B. (2015). Hemispheric specialization for visual words is shaped by attention to sublexical units during initial learning. Brain & Language, 145-146 (2015), 23-33.

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