The Reading Hut
Inclusive Literacy Learning Toolkits
Oral language, phonemic awareness, systematically taught phonics, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary knowledge.
New! Online I Can Read Without You Project lessons
Use the SSP Monster Mapping app and follow the lessons. You will see which resources are needed (if any)
There is a school version - 1 login on all devices - and the ICRWY Project Lessons will be added there when complete.
Follow the uploads in the SSP Monster Mapping app for parents, which is AU$20 (approx GB10)
Parents and teachers can use the lessons as day to day training - they watch each lesson before the children to prepare
- eg printing off the relevant photocopiable resources from the Monster Mapping Handbook.
The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach launched in Australia about 10 years ago, as an alternative to synthetic phonics programmes in Australia, because Miss Emma found that too much needed to be adapted and added to those programmes in order for children to actually read independently, and to read for pleasure. She wanted children to not only learn to read earlier but to be given more opportunities to do so. 'Less teaching, more (implicit) learning'. Miss Emma was worried that children were not being taught to edit their writing at the time of writing, to write enough, or to explore words (orthography, phonology, etymology etc) within meaningful context, or to spell without rote learning or memorisation. She worried that they were not all LEARNING, even if sitting in a classroom every day.
An evidence-based linguistic phonics (speech to print) approach is taken and taught systematically. But as suggested by
Seidenberg et al 2020 'the science does speak to the importance of integrating print and sound early in development and to the role of instruction. However, it does so in the context of other skills and knowledge, their dependence on each other, and the time course of learning.'
Miss Emma's Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach lessons are structured, cumulative, sequential and full differentiated - regardless of how many children are in the class. Individual needs are met, so there is no need for 'learning support' as this is embedded. Early identification becomes a part of the Reception and Year 1 teacher's daily practice. However, a HUGE reason why teachers love Miss Emma's approach is that children do not have to go through the sequence at the same time and in the same way. Some children only need a relatively small number of spelling-sound patterns to facilitate learning other, partially overlapping patterns, and some need far more scaffolding. Miss Emma wants teachers to identify the needs of each learner. This is difficult to do when following a handbook, or trying to plot phonics teaching for the term or year! She wants the focus on the LEARNING - so as to guide the teaching. When asked 'when will the children have covered all high-frequency graphemes' the teacher can't know. How could teachers possibly know this? The teacher might 'teach' these to the whole class, but what really matters is what the children are actually learning. A handbook gives lessons plans - a teacher creates lessons around what each child needs. Miss Emma wants to bring the focus back to the LEARNING, which is what she was taught by her mother and grandmother - both exceptional teachers; the kind of teachers children remember when they are grandparents.
All students start at the Orange Level (Phase 1) with the development of phonemic awareness, using Speech Sound Monsters (alternatives to phonetic symbols) This makes the transition to using letters (gaphemes) as representations on paper for those speech sounds (phonemes) much easier. Some are ready to transition on day 1, and some will be ready around the end of week 1. The Speech Sound Monsters enable teachers to use picture embedded mnemonics but without limiting the children to a 1 grapheme: 1 phoneme combination. The Speech Sound Monsters represent one phoneme- as every phoneme of English can be represented by multiple graphemes. English has a very complicated alphabetic code, which is often referred to as ‘opaque’ whereas alphabetic languages, such as Finnish, German, Hindi, Italian and Spanish have very simple alphabetic codes. The phoneme to grapheme (sound-symbol) relationship in these languages is reliable, which is why they are known as ‘transparent’ alphabetic codes. Fonts the children see are also varied, and in the initial week or so many will have started school already thinking of those letters in terms of their name, according to the letters of the alphabet, rather than representations for sounds – that they may not be able to hear. Therefore we work on phonemic awareness skills, initially, without the potential difficulties arising from the use of letters in the first week. For example, a child called Lara (l/ ɑː/r/ ə ) does not have to figure out why the 2 letter ‘a’s in her name map to two different sounds, one being the schwa (often not taught within synthetic phonics programmes) and the other being pronounced in the same way as the letter name of the r (also in her name) Neither /a/ represents the æ ie the ‘sound the letter a makes’. Students therefore do not have to wonder why they do not hear the æ 'sound' when their Aussie teacher says the word 'ant', even though they are told that the /a/ represents that speech sound. There are so many issues presented to children in the very early stages of most synthetic phonics programmes that literate adults are not aware of. Miss Emma teaches as if every child speaks no English, cannot (or chooses not to) speak, has poor phonemic awareness, poor oral language skills...by teaching as if every child has the very issues known to make reading and spelling difficult, she misses no-one. If the children do not have any difficulties, it is soon apparent. They move through the 'steps' more easily. Children who 'get it' all quickly - why hold them back, to align the teaching of those children with the curriculum? Let them fly.
Miss Emma spent ten years trying to share how she teaches children, teens and adults to read and spell. Some teachers will speak of how successful this was, and that it changed the way they teach, but it has come at a price. Because Miss Emma challenges much that happens within schools there are many who stand to lose a great deal if teachers listen to her ideas. Many, around the world, work hard to undermine her work and silence her. Those who have followed her since she started 'Read Australia!' know of the struggles. Educational policy relating to the teaching of reading still tends to factor out the teacher’s voice, preferring instead to take direction from international organisations or think tanks that often have cursory knowledge about the contexts where the work of teaching and learning is taking place, and may even have a financial stake with regards to decision making. The programmes schools buy, and the way teachers teach is heavily influenced by policy, and then difficult to quickly change when policy changes. It may be difficult for those heavily invested in synthetic phonics, for example, to critically examine the impact of this narrow focus of phonics (with only a limited number of phoneme to grapheme correspondences) on reading levels.
Synthetic phonics became a legal requirement in state-funded primary schools in England in 2007, advocated for by the Rose Review (Rose 2006) and has remained, unchallenged by political parties. The labour government published a non-statutory programme Letters and Sounds (DfES 2007) to further promote ‘synthetic phonics’ and in 2010 this approach was again emphasized by the coalition government, publishing The Importance of Teaching (DfE, 2010) Self-assessed commercial synthetic phonics programmes were promoted on the DfE web site between 2010 and 2014 and schools were encouraged to purchase them over non listed programmes, eg through match-funding.
In Sept 2021 The Teachers Standard (DfE 2011) required teachers to demonstrate their understanding and adherence to the underlying ‘alphabetic principle’, and to ensure compliance, a phonics screening check (PSC) has been undertaken at the end of Year 1, since 2012. The test is to measure if students can ‘decode’ a set of real and pseudowords, based on around 85 high-frequency graphemes, to an appropriate standard (decoding 32 out of 40 words) In 2016 the Conservative government published ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ (DfE 2016) and most recently the government has invited programme developers to submit their ‘systematic synthetic phonics’ programmes to be validated; this time to be reviewed by a panel of ‘independent evaluators’.
Miss Emma's Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach meets and exceeds all criteria for a systematic synthetic phonics programme. There are 16 elements to demonstrate in order to be 'validated'. Further information demonstrating this will be posted on the site shortly.
It is worth noting that this term ‘systematic’ was a key finding with regards to the teaching of phonemic awareness and phonics within the National Reading Panel (2000) Systematic phonics instruction was found to be effective, however no statistical differences between synthetic phonics and other types were found. Neither the Torgerson et al. (2006) meta-analysis nor that of the National Reading Panel (Ehri et al., 2001) found evidence for a difference in effect size across different methods, with both concluding that the key ingredient of a successful phonics program is that it is systematic In a report dated April 2007, professors Dominic Wyse and Morag Styles concluded that the evidence "supports" systematic phonics; however, the Rose Report's assertion that synthetic phonics should be the "preferred method" is "not supported by research evidence". This criticism is based on the way the research was conducted and how the results were interpreted.
The addition of the word ‘systematic’ may have given ‘synthetic phonics’ more credibility, however this abbreviation is unfortunate because Miss Emma had launched the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach within Australia in around 2011, as an alternative to synthetic phonics. Although 'SSP' is now widely used in the UK to refer to the government’s preferred approach to teaching phonics, the majority of teachers in Australia who refer to SSP are referring to The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach. Miss Emma's approach (always known as an approach rather than a programme) was offered as a ‘non synthetic phonics approach that offers an early intervention for the issues experienced by learners at risk of dyslexia’ and yet was criticised by those supporting synthetic phonics for dyslexic learners. See https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-20/mylor-primary-school-adelaide-to-introduce-ssp-literacy-program/6773892 Ironically, many schools have publically shared data demonstrating the positive impact on literacy outcomes after dropping ‘synthetic phonics’ programmes listed on the DfE web site, and made a note of the impact on children with learning challenges, including dyslexia. They have also included data relating to improved PSC results – data was collected after a recent push to use the PSC in Australian schools. The PSC aligns with Speech Sound Pics (SSP) approach grapheme testing and teachers have also tracked this phonics testing with ‘reading levels’ for over 5 years and have found a significant correlation. When not ordered to water down the approach or activities, most found that over 80% were able to pass the Phonics Screener Check towards the end of their first year in school (n reception). Teachers also found a correlation between the way they were teaching phonics with reading levels. https://www.speechsoundpics.co.uk/high-frequency-words As far as we know this has not been done before. Seidenberg (2020) suggests that ‘existing systems – from formal curricula to informal practices by individual teachers – should be examined and augmented in a way that moves them closer to what we know about how learners learn.’ Currently, however, these findings from action researchers (teachers) are deemed anecdotal by researchers and generally ignored.
The Inclusive Literacy Learning Toolkits are being designed by 'Miss Emma, The Reading Whisperer' to focus on LEARNING, even if the adults are unfamiliar with the Speech Sound Pics Approach and do not feel confident TEACHING it.
Using 2 main apps and an online bookshelf (with the free Code Level guide) the children work through ICRWY Project lessons. New lessons are being added to the SSP Monster Mapping app daily and will take students from Phase 1 through to independent reading, and with a passion for spelling through Code and Monster Mapping. ICRWY Project Lessons are being developed to avoid confusion and as an early intervention for dyslexia. Students are, in effect, taught by Miss Emma directly, but with the adults learning about the approach by following lessons with the students. They will understand whether the student is grasping concepts (also observing them using the Spelling Pianp app) and can whizz through the steps, or if they need additional practise to reinforce and consolidate. Support is offered through the Facebook.com/groups/OrthographicMapping
Those wanting to understand in more depth can undertake the online training, but the lessons themselves offer the essential info.
The Speedy Six Spelling, Speedy Sight Words and also Snap and Crack Toolkits will be used.
Miss Emma has a Masters degree within which she studied dyslexia, and currently undertaking doctoral work with a research focus on early literacy intervention. The word dyslexia is made up of two different parts: dys meaning not or difficult, and lexia meaning words, reading, or language ie difficulty with words (Catts & Kamhi, 2005). ‘Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction’. (Lyon, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz, 2003, p. 2) instruction’. (Lyon, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz, 2003, p. 2)
The earlier children who are likely to struggle are identified and provided with systematic, intense phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, the less severe their problems are likely to be (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000; Torgesen, 2002) Children with dyslexia are unlikely to be formally diagnosed in their first two years of schooling, ie prior to the PSC. According to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) ‘a child can only be diagnosed with dyslexia through a Diagnostic Assessment but these are usually only carried out from 7 years old’, and ‘whilst current legislation in theory provides good support for young people suspected of having dyslexia, in practice, support is poor or nonexistent.’ https://cdn.bdadyslexia.org.uk/images/Educational-cost-of-dyslexia-APPG-for-Dyslexia-and-other-SpLDs-October-2019.pdf The existence of phonological deficit prior to explicit instruction in phonics, and its significant relation to later literacy achievement, has lent support for the phonological deficit's potential causal role in dyslexia (Snowling and Melby-Lervåg, 2016; Law et al., 2017b ) although this casual role questioned by Castles and Coltheart (2004) As argued by Hulme et al (2005) however ‘We believe that it is far better to expect such complexities to be operating and to actively seek out moderated and mediated relationships in longitudinal and intervention studies of early reading development’ Early identification of phonemic awareness deficits and intensive instruction is therefore widely accepted to be necessary for children within the early grades, and especially for children not yet diagnosed with dyslexia.
In order to continue with the 'speech to print' approach linguistic phonics is used rather than synthetic phonics. Miss Emma worries that the Phonics Screener Check is too late in the learning journey, and should be undertaken at the end of the Reception Year and promotes a separate phonemic awareness assessment at the same time, to ascertain if the children who fail to decode 32+ real and nonsense words, using the 85 target graphemes, are failing because they do not recognise those graphemes or cannot blend them due to underlying phonemic awareness deficits (or both)
The ICRWY programme also has a huge focus on oral language and comprehension from the beginning, which she worries is missing within Systematic Synthetic Phonics programmes listed. The DfE criteria does not specify all of the essential skills.
Within the January, 2019 Ofsted report entitled Education inspection framework: overview of research the dept claim to support systematic synthetic phonics together with phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. One might question why systematic synthetic phonics needs to be taught together with phonemic awareness, if this core phonological awareness skill is understood to develop as part of the approach? Or if the SSP programmes are deemed sufficient to ensure that children become fluent readers. Those of us teaching children known to struggle to learn to read because of these phonemic awareness deficits understand the importance of this ‘foundation’ on which all other skills can then develop. However, understanding what is needed, according to decades of research, does not necessarily equate to improved learning outcomes. We know more about the science of reading than about the science of teaching based on the science of reading (Seidenberg et al 2021) Systematc, synthetic phonics is the vehicle of choice within the UK and according to the DfE ‘a complete systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) programme is one that provides:
all that is essential to teach SSP to children in reception and key stage 1 years of mainstream primary schools
sufficient support for children in reception and key stage 1 to become fluent readers
a structured route for most children to meet or exceed the expected standard in the year one phonics screening check
all national curriculum expectations for word reading through decoding by the end of key stage 1
However in the ‘Essential Core Criteria’ (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phonics-teaching-materials-core-criteria-and-self-assessment/validation-of-systematic-synthetic-phonics-programmes-supporting-documentation#essential-core-criteria) the term ‘read’ or ‘reading’ is only used 5 times, and in every case as it relates to decoding of a single words, and that those words consist of the graphemes taught systematically, along with a few ‘exception’ words – and only as they encounter them within their ‘decodable readers’. If children are to become fluent readers, then more is needed to achieve this than seems to be offered within systematic synthetic phonics. Teachers would need to supplement these programmes in order for children to become fluent readers.
The I Can Read Without You (ICRWY) Programme will offer sufficient support for children to become fluent readers within Key stage 1, and offer a structured routie for most children to meet or exceed the expected standards in the year one phonics screening check within their reception (first ) year. All National Curriculum expectations for word reading will be met or exceeded, using a range of strategies that are appropriate to the student at that time. Within Systematic Synthetic Phonics and the PSC, the DfE states that children must be taught to ‘read printed words by identifying and blending (synthesising) individual phonemes, from left to right all through the word’ (DfE 2020) and ‘should not encourage children to guess unknown words from clues such as pictures or context’. Theorists such as Ehri (2014) instead outlines the various strategies used when faced with unfamiliar words. Readers might use their knowledge of the writing system to apply a decoding strategy, and in languages with regular grapheme-phoneme relations decoding is straightforward. However, the English writing system includes multiple ways to pronounce graphemes and to represent phonemes, so readers must be flexible and expect variability. This is helped by a meaningful context. The PSC only tests a group of ‘regular’ graphemes, and therefore does not assess alternative strategies used when faced with unfamiliar words, or provide meaningful context so as to ascertain reading behaviours – the behaviours exhibited during the learning to read learning journey. Another strategy for reading unfamiliar words is by analogy, which involves finding in memory the parallel spelling of a known word and adjusting its pronunciation to match letters in the unknown word (e.g., reading thump by analogy to jump). As beginners accumulate a larger store of written words in memory, this strategy becomes more useful. Is this expected by the end of year 1, ie after 2 years of explicit instruction? The PSC again does not assess how students use existing code knowledge. Prediction is also a strategy known to be used to read unfamiliar words. Initial letters, for example, plus context cues in the sentence, the passage, or pictures to anticipate what the word might be. Once a word is predicted, then its pronunciation is matched to the spelling on the page to verify that the sounds fit the letters.
The Ofsted inspection handbook states that the sequence of reading books should show a cumulative progression in phonics knowledge that is matched closely to the school’s phonics programme and that children should read and re-read books that match the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they know. This expectation is consistent with the English programmes of study: key stages 1 and 2 National curriculum in England which states that pupils should read aloud accurately books that are consistent with their developing phonic knowledge and that do not require them to use other strategies to work out words. This does not align with Ehri’s theory of reading development, or others such as The Simple View of Reading, in which there is an explicit acknowledgement that word recognition alone is insufficient to produce good readers.
And what of irregular words? Rules are usually used to produce patterns and “exception” or “sight” words whose pronunciations violate the rules and students are told they must be memorised. The ‘rules-plus-sight words’ approach remains the basis of phonics instruction. Teaching phonics by teaching rules and memorising exceptions, however, leaves out the statistical patterns that permeate the system and drive the fast, implicit learning process.(Seidenberg et al 2020) In her 1995 paper, Ehri puts considerable emphasis on the concept of the way that ‘sight words’ are memorized and claims that this is not a rote memory process; instead it involves making systematic connections between the spelling of the words and their pronunciation. However, this is not what happens within synthetic phonics programmes, where these words have been called ‘tricky’ and teachers told by most developers that they must be learned by ‘sight’. Flashcards are usually used. If using Jolly Phonics around 50% of the written English language would be considered ‘tricky’ if only the taught graphemes, as aligned with those tested within the PSC, are those known as ‘regular’. For reasons likely more to plot the teaching scheme, to make the 'teaching' more consistent the DfE would like teachers to introduce decodable readers as they are covered within the 'decodable readers' - but what about the words children need, to write independently? And what of the theory of learning? Most Speech Sound Pics (SSP) students can read and spell all 7 'duck levels' by the end of reception - over 400 words. All are segmented to show the phoneme to grapheme mapping. Why restrict the children to words found in decodable readers? Children may pass the PSC and decode books in which these words are restricted, but how do students become independent readers and writers? Miss Emma worries about how frustrated children must be when taught in this way - and especially those capable of moving through the steps more quickly.
Most phonics programme developers assume that children acquire knowledge of phoneme to grapheme patterns through direct instruction, ignoring the reality that there are simply too many letter-sound relationships in English orthography for children to acquire by direct instruction, probably between 300 and 400 (Gough & Hillinger, 1980). Much, if not most, of what children learning to read in English come to know about its written orthography is acquired through implicit learning, especially knowledge of context sensitive letter-sound correspondences that depend on position-specific constraints or the presence of other letters (Bryant, 2002; Tunmer & Nicholson, 2011; Venezky, 1999). In contrast, those combinations taught and tested within UK newly validated Systematic Synthetic Phonics programmes are fewer in number and are largely context free, involving one-to-one correspondences between single letters or digraphs and single phonemes. Would teachers know of these 350+ phoneme grapheme combinations?:? How would they ensure that learners are exploring them? Would the training and support of teachers be more beneficial in this regard? ‘Combining our observations about the integrity of the national phonics screening check data with our findings that teachers perform reliable and sensitive assessments of phonics progression, we argue in favour of using resources to continue to train and support teachers in the knowledge, assessment and teaching of early literacy skills.’ (Duff, Mengoni, Bailey, & Snowling, 2014)
So, through the ICRWY programme, Miss Emma seeks to offer something new - a focus on LEARNING, with adults as guides.
She will work through the systematic phonics teaching within the SSP Monster Mapping app (ICRWY Project lessons) but also add supplementary lessons - extra Snap and Crack (Cracking Comprehension) The Speedy Six Spelling activities, Rapid Writing, Writing for a Purpose and more, on her Youtube Channel The Reading Whisperer
ICRWY - let's all move in the same direction, helping children to make their way up the steps.
Some will take their time, some will skip up them and miss a few, but all are working their way towards independent reading and writing.
The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach is a 'speech to print' approach to teaching reading and spelling with a focus on systematically taught phonemic awareness and linguistic phonics. Learners are exploring Speech Sound Pics® and being taught to read for pleasure, not a level. Strategies enable most children to pass the UK phonics screener at the end of their Reception year, and to read and spell over 400 high-frequency words. In addition to Code Level Readers they use ICRWY texts from the Purple Code Level. The goal of SSP Reception and Year 1 teachers is to send 90% of children into Grade 2 reading to learn, no longer learning to read, and reading for PLEASURE. SSP was introduced to Australian schools by 'Miss Emma, The Reading Whisperer' about ten years ago to raise standards of literacy; 'Read Australia!'. Miss Emma is a former OFSTED Inspector and has returned to the UK to undertake doctoral work, with a focus on early interventions for dyslexia. She has launched her global 'I Can Read Without You' project, and this SSP ICRWY for UK Schools website gives schools an overview of how primary school teachers use SSP to teach children to read and spell using a fully differentiated approach. Visit ICRWY to learn about the Early Years (pre-school) and Dyslexia programmes. SSP Code Mapping® and Monster Mapping® are integral to all ICRWY programs, as are 'Duck Hands®, Lines and Numbers'. All ICRWY programmes include scaffolded, systematic phonemic awareness and linguistic phonics instruction, however the teacher does not teach all children from the front of the class in the same way at the same time. Parents support them by using the apps at home.