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The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach in Australia

The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach is a whole class - but fully differentiated - system of teaching linguistic and visual phonics systematically, so that children can get on with reading and writing! 

Speech Sound Pics SSP testimonials from real teachers. PM levels, NAPLAN, Phonics Test results. Read testimonials, find out what teachers think about the SSP Approach, used in Reception and Year 1 as the Phonics 'Kick-Start' towards orthographic knowledge 

Speech Sound Pics Approach SSP in Australia- results and data are amazing!

Miss Emma has dual citizenship: UK and Aussie passports. 
She spent over a decade supporting Aussie teachers. 

Emma Hartnell-Baker is an Innovate UK winner, poised to utilise her Speech Sound Monsters to empower non-speaking children by giving them a voice. The capacity of these phoneme characters to support learners, including those with additional speech, language, and communication needs, while engaging all children, is truly exciting #innovateuk #icanspeakwithoutyou

Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach
Speech Sound Pics
Duck Hands!

Having returned to the UK, I am embarking on doctoral research in a country where 'systematic synthetic phonics' (SSP) instruction has been mandatory for all Early Years teachers (reception/year 1) for over a decade. My research aims to explore the impact of this mandate on teachers' proficiency in phoneme-grapheme awareness, a challenging area to study scientifically in Australia due to the difficulty in controlling variables when phonics instruction is not compulsory.

The Covid pandemic hindered my ability to return regularly to Australia to train and support teachers in the Speech Sound Pics Approach (SSP). Training and ongoing support are crucial. For those seeking an effective whole-class phonics program in England I would recommend Read, Write, Inc, complemented by Ortho-Graphix for children with speech delay, and those at risk of dyslexia. You will have seen children learning the RWI letter formation phrases as part of our whole class Speech Sound Pics (SSP) class teaching. Why re-create something that Ruth Miskin did so well. My focus is now on the children who need extra support, to build their Orthographic Lexicon (Brain Word Bank) and I can support phonics teachers, using any phonics program, anywhere in the world. 

The Ortho-Graphix activities are particularly beneficial for the approximately one in four students who may struggle with phonics in a classroom setting and who have specific learning difficulties eg dyslexia.
I will personally train and support teaching assistants, teachers, and school-based speech therapists to support those children using Ortho-Graphix: Building Bigger Brain Word Banks! 

Miss Emma (Emma Hartnell-Baker)

What did Aussie parents and teachers think of the
Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach?

"This is my experience over three years of SSP in a school with 72% EALD and each year two or three children beginning the year with no English. Children began school as long as they were turning five by 30 April, so some started at four years old. Always more boys than girls, as in most classes, and all the usual disabilities, learning difficulties, behaviour issues, under guardianship etc.
Average PM level at the end of the reception year was steady between 17 and 18. Around one-third of each class reached Blue Level, reached the highest PM level tested (25) and could recognise, read and spell all 450 or so Oxford List words (mandated check by school) by year's end.
I worried about those students who did not reach PM 15 by year's end.
Students at my current (different) school undertook the UK Phonics check as part of a pilot in South Australia.
In 2018 only 51% passed, and so I supported the introduction and implementation of SSP. After using the approach for 7 months testing was undertaken again in South Australia. This time students achieved an 85% pass. The average was 34 correct answers out of 40. Gains within learning support were as impressive. 
The approach is now being used school wide."
Teacher in South Australia

My school is in **** ********** and we’ve been using SSP with amazing success since the end of 2014. I’m more than happy to chat (in the support group) and share our results. We don’t use PMs until they are working in the Blue level, but we see an average of PM 17-18 by the end of Kinder. Student phonemic awareness and ability to decode texts is amazing - no guessing strategies etc.

Teacher in NSW 

It is also interesting to learn why teachers chose to use the Speech sound Pics (SSP) Approach

I found SSP as a Reading Recovery teacher who was questioning the way I was being taught. I knew there had to be more than the 3 cueing system. I found Miss Emma! I started teaching the children in my class with the poster and with Fitzroy Decodable Texts. It had a profound effect in a low socioeconomic school. I no longer allow anyone in my room to answer “how do I spell .....?” I teach them to say “what can you hear?”
Students that struggled soon understood that all the answers were in the word and they started to crack the code.
I see a lot of information around now about the Science of Reading and I nod in agreement thinking Yes, that’s what Miss Emma says.
Th/a/n/k Y/ou M/i/ss E/mm/a

My son struggled in his first year in primary school due to his dyslexia, he has since started the SSP program with Ms Rosser in his second year in school. My mind is blown at how much his reading and writing has improved in a few short months. Last week I recorded him reading a book on his own for the first time. His confidence is soaring and he now enjoys both school and doing homework. The ssp lessons have made an enormous impact on him.”


Jody – SSP Teacher & SSP Parent - I discovered SSP after feeling desperate when my prep age son said he was dumb and didn't want to go to year 1. I was devastated that prep was not the fun positive experience it was supposed to be and that as a teacher myself I could not help him - my usual teaching methods did not work (nor were they working for some of my students). I've been using SSP for a year now and in my enthusiasm and with my results I have many others excited about it too! My school including!


Sharon – SSP Teacher - I am definitely a huge fan of Miss Emma and the wonderful work that she and her SSP team have been doing for the children of this great nation. I began my introduction to SSP in late 2014 as I was looking for ways to support students who were experiencing difficulties with their literacy skills. I am a NSW teacher so have also been down the (another program) road with minimal success. Last year I coordinated the implementation of the SSP program at my school in 5 K-2 classes.

Julie – SSP Teacher - I came across SSP about 2.5 years ago when I was doing Learning Support with children and felt like I was failing the children. I started to look into Dyslexia specific literacy and came across SSP. Have attended a number of the PD's, completed the Conductors Course, seen Emma in action at local schools and helped out on occasions when I worked part-time. I've used SSP in a Learning Support role and last year our school did SSP in Prep all year and 1 and 2 for part of the year. Our Admin is supportive and has invested in SSP and all teachers have been amazing willing to give something new a go. This year all our Prep, 1 and 2 classes will be doing the SSP 2 hour block and each class has a box set of resources along with decodable readers.


Carole – Year 4 SSP Teacher - I have been using SSP since T4 2014 in a Qld school North of Brisbane. Last year was a fantastic journey with my year 4's and I'm so looking forward to another great year. Thanks SSP team for your devotion to us. 


Sarah – SSP Teacher - I found SSP about halfway through 2014, in my first year of teaching. I was teaching Year 2 and had a significant number of students who were well under the expected level in literacy and were affected by a number of learning difficulties including dyslexia, ADHD and ASD. As I was essentially 'riding solo' in using SSP, I had to run it alongside the literacy curriculum that the school had in place. I saw so much improvement in the confidence of my students when it came to all areas of literacy which in turn saw excellent growth- with all students reaching or exceeding the expected standard at the end of year 2. This year I am working in special Ed with a challenging class. I am especially keen to implement SSP in my classroom this year and encourage other staff to begin using it too!! I'm excited to see how a whole year of SSP will see my students grow and develop!


Amanday – SSP Parent - I have a beautiful, courageous son with multiple disabilities who was so discouraged and anxious at school during his first term. There were many reasons, but one of his areas of anxiety stemmed from him only recognising a few letters and sounds, despite working incredibly hard. I withdrew him from school and homeschooled for a term using SSP. He's now back at (a different) school part time, and is at the expected level in his reading! We still use SSP at home. He's starting to love learning now. 



Zoe – SSP Teacher - I'm head of inclusive education at my school in Qld and have been using SSP as intervention with the children I support after experimenting with it as a classroom teacher and following the SSP journey for about 18mths. I am absolutely obsessed after seeing the amazing progress of my Students and results first hand. However my favourite thing about SSP is watching the children's confidence and self efficacy grow day after day. I am so excited as my school has agreed to implement it next year.


Tinity – SSP Teacher - I'm a Primary teacher who started using SSP in my Kinder class at the end of 2014 after attending a workshop. 
I used the full SSP approach with my K/1 class in 2015 and saw amazing results. Our school uses SSP from years K-4. I will never go back to teaching reading and writing the old way. 


Robyne – Teacher - I have been using SSP for the last year. I started just about as sceptical as possible and now I am like a crazy preacher lady  just ask anyone who raises the topic of early literacy in my presence. I have been teaching for almost 30 years and SSP has completely rejuvenated my teaching. It makes me excited to go to school and see what will happen next!


Helen – Prep SSP Teacher - I am a prep teacher on the Gold Coast. Our Prep team used elements of SSP last year and will be fully implementing in 2016. Been busy over the hols accessing the training videos, video clips, resources, etc The more I’m ‘getting it’, the more passionate I’m becoming!!


Kristy – SSP Teacher - I am currently Master Teacher at a North QLD State School. Team SSP member. SSP mentor, facilitator, conductor and PD presenter. I started learning about 'speech sounds' about 5 years ago after I first met Em at a presentation. When I first used SSP in my own classroom I was working in a small school on P-3 and found it helped me differentiate well for all my students needs in English. Better than anything else I'd been doing and instead of using bits of this and that, creating my own plans, following any program using great ideas I'd learnt, developed and had PD or researched about - SSP was all of that together and then more! Most of my classroom teaching experience has been on lower years and prior to SSP after years of using several programs/approaches, completing courses and paying for training which I thought I absolutely loved I discovered I truly loved SSP even more! SSP was a game changer to my teaching as it enhanced everything I did and worked super fast! Over the past few years and now I have been in leadership positions which has enabled me to support others, make change and implement effective practice - SSP. My last teaching class was 2 years ago on Prep where after a full grasp of SSP and time to perfect what I'd learnt - my student's literacy results presented amazing data and my teaching was my best.


Vanessa – SSP Prep Teacher - I'm a prep teacher in SE QLD. Been teaching for 10ishyrs and UK trained. Used SSP for 1 & 1/2yrs. Was lucky enough to have had in-school support by Emma in the beginning. Now I fully 'get' the teaching of reading and spelling. My boy starts prep this year and he's a great little SSP reader. Proud of him and me! Loving it 


Stephanie – SSP Reception Teacher - I discovered SSP early last year and read and investigated thoroughly before deciding it was for me. I teach reception/prep/foundation classes in SA. I have taught using (another program) for about eleven years, similarly in 2015. Come July holidays I became convinced that SSP was the only way forward. My first thought was to wait and begin using it in 2016, but on reflection felt to wait would be doing a disservice to those children in my class last year. Oh boy, did my results bear this out after 2 terms of SSP!! I had my best results ever with more than a third of my class of mostly ESL/EALD students achieving reading levels above PM 20. Their sight word knowledge (reading and spelling) was also phenomenal. In 2016 I will be participating in the research project and all of our reception and year 1 classes will be implementing SSP with year 2 teachers investigating SSP. Love it!! 



Kim – Prep SSP Teacher - I have a Prep class this year and started my personal SSP journey about 3 years ago...researching and finding out what I could. After attending a class with Miss Emma I was totally hooked and need to discover it for myself in the classroom. In 2015 I started slowly and dabbled in it within my old reading groups...seeing its power, I quickly changed to full time SSP in Term 2. I have not looked back since much power given back to the children, I love their enthusiasm! I have been teaching for 25 years and this approach is totally amazing and the support from this group is quite overwhelming at times...I truly feel like we are here for the greater good of the children in our classes and we are on a mission! Can’t wait for the new group of kids to get into it!


Trish – SSP Parent - I'm a mum of a gorgeous 8 year old boy - we homeschool him due to his anxiety and schools assuming his potential due to his diagnosis and test results. He has autism, ADHD, and was assessed as having a low iq. Some in the school suggested he would never get above a year two level due to his issues. Thanks to ssp and our faith in our son’s ability and of course special thanks to Miss Emma he is now reading solo chapter books and levels 20-30 fitzroys. I have no idea where that would put him at pm level but this kid couldn't spell cat last year this time.


Sue – SSP  Teacher -  I'm a Special Education teacher working at a QLD state high. We have a dedicated whole school program for reading. Emma introduced SSP to us in 2014. We do small group intervention for non decoders, mostly with dyslexia.
We also have a Reading Project aligned with local primary. Volunteers invested in education come in to assist in the classroom. We in service them in dyslexia and the merits of SSP - they then get practical experience in the classroom either at primary or high school level.
The classroom becomes a very collaborative learning space with all of us facilitating and learning from each other.
Between us we are achieving great results for our kids.


Robyne – SSP Teacher - My school membership has been organised and I have just been to the new website. Can I just say...WOW!!! Emma and friends you are amazing! My life as a teacher is so much easier with you at my fingertips! Thank you!


Katrina – SSP Teacher - I am the curriculum leader at my school. We ran SSP in our 3 prep classes in 2015 as a trial and an intervention group of year 2 students. We will be using the SSP approaches in Yr 1 and Prep in 2016 with other classes adopting processes based on student need. 
The results speak for themselves. 

Maree – SSP Teacher - Started researching SSP a year ago and taught it full on 2nd half of 2015 with amazing results.
Can't wait to teach it for a full year & see what I can achieve!!!

Kameryn – SSP Teacher - Hi, I'm a Prep Teacher in Mount Isa and we were introduced to SSP last year and the results blew us away!! So keen to start again with our Prep classes this year as well.

Candida – SSP Teacher - I've been using SSP since Term 2, 2014. I've used it with my own Yr 6/7s and Yr 2 and was involved in the roll out from prep- yr 2 in 2015. Due to the success we achieved, I'm now a literacy coach, rolling out SSP in a different school. QLD- metro area.


Janine – SSP Parent - I am a Mum to a 3 yo girl. We have been using SSP since August. My sister has been doing SSP with her 11 yo dyslexic son for about 18 months or so and it has made a big difference to his reading and his spelling is slowly catching up. I started SSP with my daughter because I struggled with reading and spelling at school. I don't want her to struggle. My daughter's preschool is amazed at how her writing her name almost her whole name freehand now (7 letters). She also wanted to trace everyone's name in the Christmas cards. I love SSP and look forward to developing my daughter's skills this year and prepare for Kindergarten in 2018.

Sheena – SSP Teacher - I taught Prep/One and I dabbled in SSP for the first 2 terms while I got my head around it and then really implemented it in the last 2 terms. My Preps have never had better results in reading, writing and spelling. I can't wait to see what 4 terms of SSP will result in. Best of all, every child enjoyed the learning journey and developed a positive attitude towards reading and writing regardless of their PM level. I LOVE SSP!!!


Jude – SSP Parent - Mr 7 did SSP with me at home and is now stuck with his nose almost permanently in a book. Mr 5 has sporadically joined in with his brother but is now very keen so we have started. I'm also returning to the classroom part time this year.


Kerri – SSP Teacher & SSP Master Trainer – I am a huge advocate of the approach. I run a specialist teaching service for children with learning differences and ASD in Brisbane. SSP is the best available in Australia by far.


Sally – SSP Teacher - I stumbled across SSP in 2014 when I was looking for another way to teach literacy which would give every child success...dabbled with it in term 4 2014 with my teaching partner in Prep and then got more serious in 2015, using it all year. This year I am taking our cohort onto year 1 and will be continuing the SSP journey - at a smallish P-10 school in Central Qld.

SSP Prep Teacher - SE QLD - I have been using this approach in my prep classroom for almost 4 years and was asked to outline 3 of the BEST things about it. I found it difficult to limit it to 3, but here goes. The kids LOVE that everything makes sense to them eg how the code was created by the Speech Sound King, to send messages to the Prince far away, and the Monsters each say an English speech sound and stand together to build whole words, and that the Naughty Speech Sound Frog tries to mess up the code to trick us, and they have to keep checking. I've never known errors in their work to be so easy to address and have the kids wanting to self-edit their writing. I can see the difference when we start from what the children know how to do (speak) and to take a speech to print approach with everything we do. When they come to words they can't decode we can give the word and they figure out the coding or give them the sounds and they blend. They then check with the Spelling Clouds. As a teacher it is such a stress-free way to teach and they start exploring more of the correspondences than I've even even imagined they would learn in prep.  . Because of the technology my time is spent checking on progress rather than trying to meet the needs of every student, and I can give kids the extra help they need. I know a lot say how great it is because the bottom 20% get that extra time they need for consolidation, but for me the major change is overall engagement and behaviour of the class and I think this is because the bright students are being challenged, especially the boys. I've not known boys to out perform the girls before, when we compare code level and sight word assessment data.     



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