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The IPA and the Speech Sound Monster

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabet created in the 19th century to accurately represent the pronunciation of languages. Its primary goal was to provide a unique symbol for each distinct sound in a language—that is, each phoneme that differentiates one word from another. It is the most prevalent example of phonetic transcription.

The IPA concept was initially proposed by Otto Jespersen in a letter to Paul Passy of the International Phonetic Association and further developed by A.J. Ellis, Henry Sweet, Daniel Jones, and Passy in the late 19th century. The creators aimed to standardise the representation of spoken language, thus avoiding the confusion caused by the inconsistent conventional spellings in every language. The IPA also aimed to replace the various individual transcription systems that existed. It was first published in 1888 and has undergone several revisions in the 20th and 21st centuries. The International Phonetic Association maintains the alphabet and publishes a chart summarising it.
The IPA did not become the universal system for phonetic transcription that its designers had intended, and it is used less commonly in America than in Europe. It is widely employed by linguists and in dictionaries, though often with some modifications. The IPA is used by the Department for Education to indicate the phoneme value of the Grapheme-to-Phoneme Correspondences (GPCs) explicitly taught within systematic synthetic phonics programs. 

Unlocking Orthographic Knowledge - Ortho-Graphix
Unlocking Orthographic Knowledge

'Pictures of Speech Sounds!'
An Ortho-Graphix concept introduced by 'Exceptional Coaches' that even toddlers understand. 

Speech Sound Monsters have their own Speech Sound. What are the 'pictures' of their sounds?  

Speech Sound Pics

How do you say 'Grandpa'? With a fairly basic understanding of 'grapheme to phoneme' mapping children can 'decode' the word - but would they actually then use those phonemes? Or would they say it like 'Grampa'? This is linked to the development of graphophonological‐semantic cognitive flexibility (GSF) - even though it is not the meaning as such that changes the correspondences used (as with 'the dog lead' - 'there is lead in my pencil') Avery - at 2 years of age - is processing the differences between spoken and written language. Notice how he pauses and wants to go straight to /p/ - not /d/ - as he has developed such good phonemic awareness. Mummy reminds him to 'follow the monster sounds' and then he repeats them, and reverts to 'granpa'. All of this 'cognitive juggling' of sounds and pictures of sounds is helping him navigate an opaque orthography in ways he would not experience anywhere else. 
We are Exceptional Coaches Inspiring Unique Minds!  

Learning the IPA helps adults guide children towards orthographic knowledge more effectively, as THEY will become more aware of the phoneme to grapheme correspondences used within the WHOLE written code (all 300+ GPCs, not just the 100 or so explicitly taught within 'phonics programs).

We aren't teaching children the IPA.
The phoneme characters (speech sound monsters) are used in the way that adults, eg speech therapists, use phonetic symbols. Adults, therefore, need to understand these symbols and how used to create consistency for those teaching orthographic knowledge through phonics.  

Emma Hartnell-Baker, the Neurodivergent Reading Whisperer, (Australia, 2016) talking about 'wiring brains' for literacy.
Many found her ideas to map ALL words (including HFWs) and to incorporate 'code level' texts too 'controversial'
'Miss Emma' now divides her time between Australia and the UK but is predominantly based in Dorset (UK) where she lives with her 'reading dogs' and is on a mission to make English orthography more 'transparent', and easier for ALL children to learn: especially those who learn differently.  

The concept of phonemes and graphemes in the English language is both intricate and vital for developing literacy skills, particularly in young learners. Phonemes, the smallest units of sound in speech, play a crucial role in phonics, which is the method of teaching reading and spelling that emphasises the relationship between sounds and their written symbols, or graphemes. English, known for its opaque orthography, presents unique challenges in this learning process.
 

One of the complexities of English orthography is that phonemes can map to multiple graphemes, and vice versa. This means that a single sound can be represented by different letters or combinations of letters, and a single letter or combination can represent multiple sounds. For example, the phoneme /f/ can be represented by the graphemes 'f', 'ph', or 'gh' as in 'fish', 'phone', and 'enough'. Conversely, the grapheme 'c' can represent different phonemes, as in 'cat' and 'ceiling'.
 

This complexity is further compounded by the influence of dialects and accents. The way phonemes are pronounced can vary significantly based on regional or social dialects. For instance, the pronunciation of a word in a northern British accent might differ from its pronunciation in a southern British accent, affecting how phonemes are perceived and produced.

To address these challenges, Miss Emma, The Neurodivergent Reading Whisperer, has developed an innovative approach using Speech Sound Monsters. These monsters are aligned with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to provide a standardised way of mapping phonemes to graphemes. By using these unique characters, children can visually associate specific sounds with their corresponding written symbols. 

Additionally, Miss Emma has created a tool for mapping words orthographically, which visually demonstrates the graphemes in words. When Speech Sound Monsters are used in conjunction with this tool, they offer a visual aid that helps children understand the mapping between phonemes and graphemes. This understanding is crucial, as it allows children to read and spell words correctly, even if they pronounce them differently due to their accents.


In summary, the Speech Sound Monsters concept, alongside the orthographic mapping tool, offers a standardised and visually engaging method for teaching phonics at all stages. It addresses the complexities of English orthography and accommodates the variations in phoneme pronunciation due to dialects and accents, thus aiding in the development of orthographic knowledge in children learning to read and spell.

DALL·E 2023-11-22 17.38.44 - Illustration of diverse children sitting on fluffy white clou

Engagement is Key!
They WANT to play with the phoneme characters again and again.

Incorporating innovative tools and methods like 'Ortho-Graphix' with the Speech Sound Monsters', complete with their 'Monster Moves' and 'Monster Music', can be particularly effective for children with learning differences, such as those with poor working memory. These engaging tools transform learning into a playful and immersive experience, capturing the children’s imagination and interest. The unique and interactive nature of the 'Speech Sound Monsters' aids in simplifying complex language concepts, making them more accessible and enjoyable for children who might otherwise struggle with traditional teaching methods. This approach not only addresses their learning challenges but also fosters a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their abilities. The excitement and engagement generated by these methods encourage children to eagerly participate in activities specifically designed to target their learning needs. Consequently, integrating such creative and tailored educational tools is crucial in providing an inclusive and effective learning environment, especially for children with distinct learning requirements.

How Miss Emma explains the 'standardised' grapheme to phoneme correspondences, regardless of accents, to children.
The Speech Sound King - Accents

Video clip here soon 

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