Speech Sound Pics (SSP) 
ode Mapping Case Study
I Can Read Without You (ICRWY) Project

****** 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


Year 2


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.


NAPLAN Improvements since using the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach school-wide in 2019


SSP Code Mapping®
One student, one school at a time.

You can also see clips and videos of schools I mentored for a few weeks, months and even a whole year! I was determined to SHOW what change looks like. 
These are clips from 8 or 9 years ago (excuse the quality, I'm a teacher, not a videographer!) and I was trying to raise awareness about issues relating to 'reading levels' and 'benchmarking', teaching whole words as 'sight words' and was showing teachers how every word could (and should) be 'Code Mapped' using a speech to print approach (linguistic phonics)
I also introduced 'decodable readers' and 'Code Level readers' to teachers, as most had only ever used levelled readers before. I faced huge resistance, but I persisted.

I will be supporting teachers in the UK who are looking for more. Are you in the UK and would like me to come and share new ideas, and perhaps even mentor some curious teachers? Get in touch!
This is my passion in life - every child a reader. Reading for pleasure, not a level!