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Pupil Using Tablet

Teaching phonics with tech

Most phonics programs in the UK are predominantly 'teacher-led' and taught by a teacher from the front of the class. This is the DfE preferred method as seen within the Systematic Synthetic Phonics program validation guidance. SSP Programme developers were informed that the programme should   
"be built around direct teaching sessions, with extensive teacher-child interaction and a multi-sensory approach, with guidance on how direct teaching sessions can be adapted for online delivery, either live or recorded"
Note 4: Direct teaching sessions should involve a routine so that teachers and children get to know what is coming next and minimum time is spent explaining new activities. Teaching and learning activities should be interesting and engaging, but firmly focused on intensifying the learning associated with the phonic goal. Where computer-based resources are included, these should support or supplement direct teaching by the teacher, but not replace it.
Miss Emma talked about this with SpLD teachers recently, and questioned how Neuro-Inclusive this position is. 

Mastering the basic grapheme-to-phoneme correspondences tested within the Year 1 phonics screener check: Speech Sound Pics Approach teachers do this with tech so that all can work through at their pace. Many children prefer learning constrained skill with tech, especially if neurodivergent.

PATOSS Training 1.5 hours CPD
Tech to Teach Linguistic Phonics - SSP
Tech to Teach Phonics - Speech Sound Pics Approach - SSP
Does a different approach to teaching phonics make a difference?
(Also see SSP Stories Page)

This school in South Australia trialled the Speech Sound Pics Approach using the online training and with the support of Stephanie, an SSP trained teacher.

Most schools in South Australia had been using Jolly Phonics under the state wide push by SPELD SA etc. According to the SA trial evaluation report, 2017, teachers and leaders observed: “…students did more poorly than expected, across the board. Numerous respondents reported feeling surprised and disappointed by the results ..." One of those schools shared the results of changes made after the screener.  

Miss Emma visited them to offer support
 in 2019, and to model the Speedy Six Spelling Activities in Upper Primary. Activities to boost orthographic learning are highly effective, especially as these older students were taught with synthetic phonics before the trial.

All classes added in 'Duck Hands' to improve phonemic awareness.

 ****** Primary School is a public primary school with an enrolment of 409 students. We have a high population of students with English as an Additional Language/Dialect.
Speech Sound Pics (SSP Code Mapping) is our chosen approach for the teaching of reading and spelling and has had a significant impact on the learning outcomes of students from Reception to Year 7.
In 2018 our school was using Jolly Phonics consistently across our Junior Primary team. 2018 was the first year that we participated in the Phonics Screening Check. 51% of our Year 1 students passed the test, and about a third of students were being identified for intervention.
In Term 4 2018 we trialled an Intervention group with Speech Sound Pics (SSP) and measured a noticeable improvement in building knowledge of phoneme/grapheme correspondence, blending and decoding skills.
Our poor Phonics Screening Check results in August 2018, provided the impetus for us to investigate other programs and approaches. After comparing several different approaches we chose SSP, and implemented the approach across our Reception to Year 2 classes from the start of 2019. We also ran Year 3-7 intervention groups using this approach.
In 2019 our Phonics Screening Check results significantly improved, with 85% passing. We also used the Screening Check to test our Year 2s. Whereas only 51% had passed as Year 1 students, in 2019 88% of that same cohort passed as Year 2s.
In 2020, even with the impact of COVID-19 which affected attendance for several weeks, 87% of Year 1 students passed and 92% of Year 2s passed.


Over the past couple of years we have been using the Phonics Screening Check with all of our Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 students. Some of our best success stories relate to students with specific learning needs and learning disabilities. One student with a significant language disorder scored zero for the Phonics Screening Check as a Reception student. The following year with Tier 3 intervention support using SSP, the same student scored 30 out of 40.


Running Records are still mandated by our system for Year 1 and 2 students. There has been improvement in this data also in terms of the percentage of students meeting the Standard of Educational Achievement:


The following graphs show our relatively high results when compared to state, partnership and like-schools.


Year 1

Impact has also been measured on the learning of Year 3-7 students involved in the SSP Intervention groups. 0.9 Effect Size growth was measured in pre- and post-test results in 2019, using both PAT-R and Words Their Way tests. In 2020 the average Effect Size of the students involved in the SSP Intervention groups was 0.7.

We have also noticed a significant improvement in students’ abilities to segment sounds in words, and to decode words.


One student, a Year 5 diagnosed with ASD, who has not responded to previous intervention programs, has begun to build his  knowledge of phoneme/grapheme correspondences and can now decode and encode at the SSP yellow code level (approximately Level 15 PM Benchmarks).


Another Year 5 student who had also not responded to previous reading/spelling instruction and intervention programs, is now able to read texts, coping without issue in the Year 5 Reading test of the recent National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy.


Yet another student, diagnosed with ASD and intellectual impairment has responded to SSP Tier 3 intervention, and can now read simple texts and write simple sentences.


Perceptions of a Year 6 student who has been involved in SSP Intervention group, and is now confidently engaging in the class reading and spelling program:


What have you learnt from using the SSP Approach? 

  • How to use sounds 

  • Helps get somewhat of an idea of spelling patterns 

  • Try a few different spelling options to see which is correct – based on the sound pics I know 

  • Some are still tricky, I only usually get a schwa wrong 

What are your goals before moving on to high school at the end of the year? 

  • To read more fluently 

  • Spell more trickier words with ease and without having to write down the options 

Is there anything else you would like to say? 

  • When reading harder novels, before I would skip trickier words. Now I always have a go, and nearly always get it correct. Sometimes it’s just the pronunciation that I get wrong. 



Training and Mentoring

We have been able to access the support of a mentor teacher who has had previous experience with the SSP approach. She led professional learning in the approach and modelled sessions in classes.

We also hosted a Workshop with Emma Hartnell-Baker in May 2019, which most of our teaching and support staff attended.


Further training has been accessed through the SSP website and online videos, SSP social media connections/support, and SSP printed resources.


Parent workshops have also been provided for our community, which have been well attended. We have received very favourable feedback from parents about their children’s reading and spelling abilities, especially from parents who have had older siblings go through the school prior to the inception of SSP.





Student Survey

Examples of some of the student comments:

Year 6

I am very grateful for this wonderful learning invention. Sometimes I struggle to use SSP in work but most of the time it is a great aid.

I think SSP has changed my life and I really think it has made a big difference to the school (in a good way).

I like how it is fun and enjoyable compared to normal spelling lessons.

SSP helps me feel and be more confident with my spelling words and sentences. It allows me to visualise what each sound in each word can possibly be.

It is helping me get 2-3 years improvement in a few months and it is making me want to read and practise spelling.

It has made me spell difficult words or made me get them very close to spelling them right.

I enjoy reading more now because I can just keep on reading along because I just have to do one quick thing and then I just pronounce the word correctly. Instead of hesitating and not doing anything about the word I now use SSP.

I think that SSP is very useful to me and it has improved my understanding of words.

It can explain how spelling and sounds are related for people who aren’t confident with their spelling

I found SSP very helpful with my spelling I think something that really helped was the key rings even though the upper primary didn’t use the key rings I found them very helpful because I used it with my tutor.

SSP has taught me the patterns of spelling and how to spell things properly.

SSP helps me remember some words that I have forgotten, while further helping me and other people on how to pronounce them. Since some people come from different parts of the world, pronunciations of some words are different. This helps people remember to pronounce the word and remember the word correctly, according to the Australian English.

I can spell words I never thought I could spell so writing a page is much easier.

I can read books that I wanted to read that have hard words in them.

SSP has been great and has boosted my confidence with spelling, reading and writing.



Year 3

I would like to say that SSP has helped my learning, education and vocabulary a lot.

SSP improved my learning.

It helped my work a lot and I love it.

Spelling is easier now!


Differences in Teaching and Learning

SSP has enabled our teaching and support team to align with research informed practices. It has provided us with the ‘how’ as we have learnt about the Science of Reading through Professional Development provided by our Department for Education.


We are now using a Speech to Print approach, which systematically introduces phoneme/grapheme correspondences. Both the simple and complex code are introduced and practised through regular routines which are differentiated depending on the knowledge and skill level of individual students.


Spaced retrieval practice is built into classroom routines, so that individual mastery is developed of each code level before moving on. Through repeated routines students are led through the process of orthographically mapping phoneme/ grapheme correspondences, building their lexical store of words – both common letter patterns and irregular. Previously these irregular / exception words were referred to as ‘tricky’ and taught as whole words. Learners now map phonemes to graphemes for all words.


Decodable texts which align with each code level help students to practise their decoding and blending skills, building skills and confidence.


Cognitive Load is carefully considered with the germane load broken down into manageable chunks.


Phonemic awareness is developed to a proficient level through carefully designed repetitive but challenging routines from Reception through to Year 7.


We are aiming to reach our goal of at least 95% of our students reaching reading and spelling benchmarks. SSP Code Mapping has been the best route to orthographic mapping for our students and as we learn more, as teachers, about facilitating the process, the better we can meet the needs of children at our school.

Spelling-Improvements SSP South Australia

It is worth noting how certain groups interpreted results of the 2017 trial Phonics Screener Check, especially those selling synthetic phonics programs! Despite most schools already using synthetic phonics - especially Jolly Phonics - only 43% of children got 28 items right. 
They were quick to convey that the report showed approximately 33% of children achieved a score above 32 and that, by comparison, 81% of Year 1 students in England had achieved this score in 2018. We can now follow that up: 1 in 4 children of those children still could not read by the end of primary school. Luca was one of them. So one has to ask, surely, if 4 out of 5 children  can pass the UK Phonics Screener check, why aren't more children actually learning to read?

Miss Emma knows why, and will train you to improve the phonemic and orthographic awareness of all learners, so that almost all will read with fluency and comprehension! It is vital that you do specific work before the end of Year 1 however. Add in Ortho-Graphix activities: totally separate to the synthetic phonics the children have to do, because policy makers assumed that passing a phonics test would result in children becoming skilled readers. That 'simple view' is no longer fit for purpose.
Maybe it's also time to stop allowing synthetic phonics program developer to sit on advisory panels claiming to be experts: anyone with a financial stake in this issue cannot be allowed anywhere near policy decisions.  
It is not phonics that is flawed, it it the way taught - eg teacher-led direct instruction, and what is NOT being taught or used eg orthographically mapped levelled readers, when these synthetic phonics programs are used. 
Even the Level 1 Award will show you how to fill the learning gaps 

Speech Sound Monsters (phonemes made visible) are used throughout the learning to read and spell process, not just in the early stages. They support the WHOLE learning process, rather than just used to kick start an understanding that letters are used to represent speech sounds.  They are an alternative to phonetic symbols and designed to also focus on the phoneme to grapheme mapping (speech to print) rather than rely on the traditional grapheme to phoneme (print to speech) approach. Many phonics programs also restricts the pairings eg 'a (æ) for ant'- with the grapheme /a/ - rather than 'what sound does this grapheme represent, IN THIS WORD, and which graphemes are used to represent this sound IN THIS WORD.  

Children using picture embedded mnemonics such as Letterland may seem to be learning one or two 'sounds' for graphemes initially, but that soon falls apart when the 'whole code' is explored eg when they have to write words eg

There waanother scary father ant on that orange table: it was no ordinary ant, it did not have any antennae!    

Ehri has not yet explored this issue ( ie past children being more interested in mapping letters with sounds when characters such as 'Annie Apple' are used on the letter /a/ - but not when /a/ maps to the other 8 or so sounds and not just æ and her research would encourage EY teachers to use of Letterland, especially if they are not aware that English is an opaque orthography. I would as teachers to read the previous sentence in phonemes (speech sounds) and identify the mapped phonemes. Our little ones would show the phoneme characters, but adults can use phonetic symbols

 ðeə wɒənʌðə ˈskri ˈfɑːðər ænt ɒn ðæt ˈɒrɪnʤ ˈtbᵊl: ɪt wɒz nəʊ ɔːdən
əri: ænt, ɪt dɪd nɒt hæv ˈeni: ænˈtɛniː! 

This is why it is vital that researchers consult with effective practitioners, and that teachers become more orthographically aware. Those using the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach and exploring words using Ortho-Graphix would quickly point out the issues so many children will face when taught in this way, even if they initially learn to look at /a/ and think 'Annie Apple'. The link to the phoneme requires phonemic awareness. As Letterland is now a DfE validated systematic synthetic phonics program, despite going against the validation panel guidelines, eg see Notes 1, 2, 6 : teachers DO teach consonant blends, and HFWs as whole words, and use readers that are not fully decodable to the children (ie not aligned to the GPC teaching order) I would welcome data to show how many children using this program in KS1, who started in 2023,  still cannot read by year 3. I suggest this would be at least 1 in 4 unless something else is used to fill the learning gaps.

Unfortunately (Note 9) the recommendation is that
'Children who are at risk of falling behind need extra practice to consolidate and master the content of the programme. Programmes should provide guidance on how to support these children so that they keep up with their peers. Options for support could include one-to-one tutoring. They should not suggest or provide a different SSP programme for these children."

While I would not suggest a different SSP programme - and experience more of the same - I would suggest Ortho-Graphix.

"It is time for us to step up and be there for the 1 in 4."
Miss Emma      

Ortho-Graphix: An Exploration oSpeech Sounds and Sound Pics!
Ortho-Graphix is not a programme. 

Ortho-Graphix - Linguistic and Visual Mapping of Words ! Boosting Orthographic Knowledge - Including ALL Learners - NeuroReadies

Ortho-Graphix stands out as a ground-breaking approach in speech therapy, reading and spelling education, particularly tailored for neurodivergent children, including those who are very young. Ortho-Graphix is used to more easily build each learners' Orthographic Lexicon ie their 'brain dictionary' by bringing together three important pieces of the puzzle in a unique way.
A complete “brain dictionary entry” includes information about the three forms of the word: its phonological form (its pronunciation); its orthographic form (its spelling); and its semantic form (its meaning(s)  The speed and ease with which words are retrieved from the orthographic lexicon depends on the degree to which these three forms are linked – or “bound” - to one another in memory. When there are no learning difficulties an increasing number of words will be stored in the orthographic lexicon and committed to memory without conscious effort or explicit instruction following a 'kick-start' of phonics. Unfortunately some children fail to self-teach and store words. Their mental dictionary is sparse, and they cannot see when words 'don't look right'. The gap between learners becomes vast, the more words children store - and the more books they read. Being unable to read independently before Year 2 puts children at a distinct disadvantage.   

Developed by Miss Emma, known as The Neurodivergent Reading Whisperer, Ortho-Graphix is grounded in a "Less Teaching, More Learning" ethos and facilitates speech and language development that is very much play based and child-led. It specifically targets the inherent challenges of English orthography, where a single grapheme can represent multiple phonemes, and a single phoneme can be depicted by various graphemes. This complexity is further compounded in educational environments where the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) isn't consistently used to standardise speech sounds (phonemes) and where adults who teach phonics are insufficiently trained in ways that help them to overcome the orthographic confusion so many skilled readers face. As a teacher of phonics these challenges need to be acknowledged and overcome. Speech therapist are already well-trained to use the IPA and have been using the phoneme characters as alternatives to phonetic symbols in Australia for over 5 years.   


To address challenges, for children, speech therapists and teachers of phonics, Miss Emma has innovated two key resources. The first is an orthographic mapping tool that visually presents graphemes in words. The second is a child-friendly adaptation of the IPA, utilising phoneme characters in place of conventional phonetic symbols. Children understand that a dog says 'woof', a cow says 'moo' etc: these Speech Sound Monsters have their own sounds - they just happen to be English phonemes!
Together, these tools form the essence of Ortho-Graphix, which not only makes the written code visible and supports English pronunciation but also aids children in understanding the universally expected phoneme-to-grapheme mapping: the perfect 'cheat code' for those who do NOT speak like the King!

A distinctive feature of Ortho-Graphix is its immediate, interactive learning capability. Children can click on words they are unable to read and instantly see the 'Sound Pics' (graphemes), along with hearing the corresponding phonemes. This feature significantly enhances their orthographic knowledge by providing immediate answers and auditory reinforcement. This method is especially beneficial for neurodivergent children who often thrive with technology-based learning solutions, Children do not need to be able to speak, to use Ortho-Graphix: they can use the Speech Sound Monsters. 

Another unique feature of Ortho-Graphix is its potential to develop the Phoneme-Grapheme Awareness of phonics teachers, and to overcome Orthographic Interferences, which Emma Hartnell-Baker refers to as being 'blinded by the letters'. Orthographic interference poses a considerable challenge for phonics teachers, a phenomenon which seems to be under-explored in current research, This is addressed in the Level 1 Award. Workshops and in-house training for nurseries and schools can be arranged.

Looking ahead, Miss Emma is set to incorporate more technological advancements into Ortho-Graphix. This evolution will further streamline the speaking, reading and spelling process, empowering children to read any chosen text independently and learn spelling more intuitively. This tech-enhanced, personalised approach is anticipated to bring forth new innovations that simplify learning. Ortho-Graphix, with its 'cheat code', aims to transform reading into a delightful, accessible journey for all children, encouraging them to discover the enchanting world of written English and experience the joy of reading for pleasure. The upcoming technological suite promises to make a significant impact on reading education & teacher professional development as well as to speech therapy, marking a new era of learning accessibility.

SpLD Awards - Speech Sound Pics Ortho-Explorers! Ortho-Graphix
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