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The Fourth Question

The fourth question. I find this last question to be the most troubling for people. Teachers aren't always confident with how to tackle it. First, let's back up and review the four questions we ask when we encounter a word with an interesting spelling.

1. What is the word's meaning?

2. How is the word built?

3. What are the word's relatives?

4. What can we learn from the word's pronunciation?

Many teachers simply present the phonemes in the word without the graphemes and without looking at what can be learned from examining the correspondence. Let's examine this word:


We see that an <x> can spell /ks/ and that the <y> is a schwa. We could ask ourselves why it is a <y> in this word. Answer: it's Greek!

Or we could ask why does the <g> work here to represent the /d͡ʒ/? Well, there's an e, i, y after g in words that have come from/gone through Latin.

Pete Bowers has rephrased the final question from “what are the sounds that matter?” to “what graphemes function coherently here?” Both address the correspondence of the graphemes and the phonemes, which is imperative to study, especially with dyslexic students, but he’s added even more to what should be examined in this step. See more of Pete's work at

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