Phonemes can be difficult for learners and teachers. Here are a few ideas that could help teachers as well as learners become more comfortable when working with phonemes.

Photo of children speaking to each  other in a classroom.

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When learners can recognise and understand phonemic symbols they become more autonomous and able to use dictionaries to find out for themselves how words are pronounced. Many teachers however (maybe because they are unsure themselves) avoid using them in class. Here are a few ideas that could help teachers as well as learners become more comfortable when working with phonemes:


  • Use the dictionary to get phonemic spellings of about 15 words familiar to the class. 
  • Make anagrams from these - i.e. mix up the order of the phonemes in each word.
  • In class give teams 5 minutes to work out as many as they can.

Phoneme rummy

  • Write a large number of phonemes on separate cards.
  • Shuffle them and give 3 consonant and 2 vowel cards to each team. Each team must see if they can form a complete word using some or all of their 5 phonemes. If their word is good, award one point for each phoneme used.
  • Now deal an extra card to each team - can they make an even longer word? Collect the cards, reshuffle and deal again.

Phoneme poker

Play 'phoneme rummy' - but this time the teams keep their cards secret. They declare what word they have made and win the points but don’t have to show that they can really do it i.e. they can lie. If another team thinks they’re cheating they can challenge them to show their cards and prove that they can genuinely make the word they said. If they can't, the team loses all its points. If they can, then the challenging team loses all theirs!


  • Before class prepare a list of short words and check their phonemic spellings. In class, ask everyone to draw a noughts and crosses grid (i.e. a 3 by 3 grid making 9 boxes). 
  • Each learner then chooses any 9 different phonemes (from a wallchart or a coursebook list) and writes one into each of their grid boxes. This is now their 'bingo card'. 
  • Read out your first short word (e.g. 'car'). The learners must decide if this word contains any of their phonemes (maybe more than one). If they have any, they should write the word under the appropriate symbols in their grid. Continue with more words.
  • When someone thinks they have a line (horizontal, vertical or diagonal) pause the game and get the whole class to check if the claim is correct or not. Either way, you can still go on with the game and see if more people can get 'bingo'.


  • Use phonemes to write out some long words on separate numbered cards - one word to a card. 
  • In each word make one mistake - substituting a wrong phoneme for a correct one.
  • Learners work in teams and get one card. They must work out what the original word was and which phoneme is wrong.
  • When they’ve done this they pass the card on and get a new one. The winning team is the one with most correct answers after 10 cards.