I'm not quite ready to put this material out to the public, but I'm trying to see how it might work in a digital medium. Please be advised that this is under construction!
English vowel patterns are so ambiguous that I designed this ColorCode to let students internalize the patterns more easily.
Glyph: A letter or group of letters, treated as a unit ([ph]).
Phoneme: A single unit of sound within a language (/f/).
So the phoneme /ah/ (as in wash) is a sound unit represented by the glyphs [a] (Ma), [aw] (saw), [o] (Tom), [au] (pause), and even [ough] (bought).
Following the concept of written sound, I have attempted to match this text closely with the actual sounds of the dialect I speak, that of the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, give or take). I hope to eventually create versions for other broad dialects, so as to best serve a variety of students both within the United States and beyond.
In English, one glyph can represent a number of phonemes:
[ea]: bead bread break /ee eh ey/
And we have no unambiguous way to write certain phonemes:
good goof, bus bushes, should shoulder
My system removes ambiguity by using colored vowel glyphs. Example:
The glyph [ou] has four sounds (four you young out), which goes a long way toward explaining the [ough] expansion (thou thought though through rough bough cough hiccough), with [gh] sometimes saying /f/ and hiccough as the sole aberration with /p/.
In this text, after picking up the code, the student should never be left wondering which vowel sound to use. (It also indicates unusual consonant sounds, but less emphasis is placed on them, as English consonants aren't nearly as much trouble as the vowels are.)
Don't rush to add complexity! The set of elements has been carefully curated to provide the greatest utility with the least confusion, especially for a student who starts with no exposure to written language (the Primer) or one who hasn't yet developed any skill with English (First Reader). We don't hit closed syllables until the end of the Primer, and we don't hit consonant blends until the Second Reader; there's a lot that can be explained with much simpler mechanics, so as to create good, clear mental anchors before the whole process gets muddied up by additional complexity.
- No Consonant Names
- Consonant names can be unnecessarily confusing; avoid them.
- [m] is not "Em," but /mmm/. [b] is not "Bea," but /b/.
- (Vowel names get used, because they actually make those sounds.)
- Stick to Small Letters
- Why make the student memorize two forms of each letter? Over 90% of the letters we encounter are small, and we can write many complete sentences with just a handful of easy caps.
- The Primer only introduces the weirder caps (QGR, etc.) after almost the whole alphabet has been internalized (in small form only).
- Stick to Open Syllables
- If the student is taught the right decoding habits, a word like "gazebo" is technically easier to figure out than school, become, or should. The Primer doesn't even teach "cat" or "dog," but its challenge word is "hypothermia"!
- Avoid All Consonant Blends
- A word like "strength" is ridiculously hard for a beginner, and worse for someone from a vowel-friendly language (like Japanese or Hawaiian). This system gets as far as possible without using [s][t][r] or [ng][g][th]. Just because you know all the sounds doesn't mean that combining them is easy!
- Where Practical, Show a Vowel's Primary Sound First
- This is practical for [e i o y], and thus provides names for the shapes.
- [a] gets introduced with its Tertiary (Ma, Pa) because it's immediately useful, and then picks up its Reduced sound (Mama, Papa) before finally getting its Primary (as [ay] in "may I pay" then [a] in "baby").
- [u] gets introduced with its Tertiary (emu, puma) as well, because the full Primary (cutie) is not only comparatively rare, but causes sound shifts through its palatalization (sugar, fury).
- Treat Y as a Variation of I
- No, seriously: It's the same letter. They make 100% of the same sounds, even the consonant!
- Jim's gym, hi by, radio baby, resident syringe, onion yuck
- Since the name of Wye can get confused with [w], I personally would try a tactic like this: "Its normal name is Wye, but it doesn't make the /w/ sound, does it? So we'll just call it Yi." (Rhyming with "pie," as in "ay yi yi!" Or is that "Ay yai yai"?)
- Delay a Consonant's Second Sound
- We get [c] as /k/ a long time before /s/. We get [g] as /g/ a long time before /j/. And so on.
- This helps create a good strong mental anchor, with no confusion; the student can intuitively memorize the patterns as they're presented in the text, rather than trying to work out a logical rule. This ensures that the text is still approachable even to the very young.
- The sole exception is Buzzy S (zoos), which is immediately useful, and directly related to its normal sound, as so many second sounds are not.
- Use inventive terms to anchor concepts.
- This includes Helper H, Buzzy S, Disappearing W, and some other names for the roles that certain letters play. It also includes shorter or more memorable alternatives for common terms: capitals are "big fancy" forms of the letters the student knows; a period is a "dot," an exclamation mark is a "bang," a written unit is a "glyph" (which covers any number of letters that work together to make one sound), and so on.
- The terms "long vowel" and "short vowel" are outdated and misleading; instead, use the terms "Primary" (when it says its name), "Common" (bat bet bit bot but myth), "Tertiary" (wash to emu), "Reduced" (want a ton of petite residents' focus), "Tense" or "Tense Common" (cafe radio pony), "Lax" or "Lax Primary" (said again, been), "Lax OO" (good bushes should today), "Liquid" (syllabic R and syllabic L, as in "purple turtle"), "Diff" (cowboy, from "diphthong"), "Glide" (one fewer -- unmarked [w] or [y]), and "Odd" (sounds not related to the letter).