The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach. 
We are exploring the pictures of the sounds - graphemes.
We call these Speech Sound Pictures 'Sound Pics'®.


When we speak in English we use over 40 phonemes (Speech Sounds) - these smallest sound units are mapped with 'speech sound pics' (graphemes) when we are 'talking on paper'. Although we only have 26 letters of the alphabet (and upper case versions, so lots of symbols for children to remember by sight and name) these have to represent all the Sound Pics we use to represent the written code. Everyone has a different accent or dialect even when speaking English and so those speech sounds aren't always the same in spoken words. This makes the job of representing those speech sounds onto paper ('sound it out' relates to how you speak) and the translation of 'speech sound pics' on paper into spoken language, fairly complicated! We do not have a simple 'transparent' alphabet because speech sounds are represented by multiple Sound Pics (graphemes) and Sound Pics (graphemes) can represent multiple speech sounds! The way in which children are taught will make a huge difference with regards to how easily each child is able to learn this - especially as 10 - 30% of children will not be born with brain 'wired' for reading and spelling - they need to be explicitly taught to isolate, segment and blend these speech sounds so that they can map with the Sound Pics for reading and spelling activities. If they didn't need to read and spell weak 'phonemic awareness' skills wouldn't really matter! They wouldn't need to learn phonics.  

Phonics is a universally accepted way to map phonemes to graphemes (speech sounds to sound pics) however one reason why so many may not have embraced the concept, or effectively utilised this mapping technique, is because of these discrepancies. It's far more difficult to teach than asking a child to memorise a word or guess what it is by using the various 'cues' available on a page of text; not only with regards to mapping phonemes (yours or mine?) to graphemes but also because of language. 
There is a way of speaking that is often very different to the way we are expected to talk on paper, so that everyone understands us (in their dialect or accent!) Although we know that LEARNING this mapping is vital the results of the UK Phonics Screener Check - which only checks about 1/4 of the combinations used in written English - show that far too many children are not being taught using effective methods. Even after ten years of 'synthetic phonics' being mandated within the UK around 20% of children are still unable to recognise and blend those 85 or so 'high-frequency graphemes' and (even more worrying) can't actually read at the level required to keep up with the curriculum. Fewer and fewer are reading for pleasure at home - many can't read. Our goal must be that all children learn to read but also WANT to read!  

My job is to ensure that the highest number of children can LEARN to recognise and blend those graphemes, while also exploring the rest of the code and developing the necessary skills to read and spell. I recently tried to explain this differentiated and fast-paced (spaced repetition) approach to the DfE but was told they needed to know when the teacher would have covered the required content. My position is that this should not be the focus - and is not in line with the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach.
What matters is when each child has acquired the expected learning goals/ skills - and this may not be linked with when TAUGHT. I hope however wrote to me will rethink their position.

Our SSP ICRWY kids move through the 4 Code level (content aligns with the Phonics Screener Check) at their pace. 
They learn the graphemes systematically using the Coding Poster videos - and then practise and reinforce using the Coding Poster. Every child is working at their Code Level. The teacher tracks their progress and steps in as and when needed either to offer extra support (eg poor blending skills because the underlying phonemic awareness skills are underdeveloped) or to challenge (they are out of the scaffolded, sequential 'Code Level' learning phase. They can be out of this in term 1 of reception - while others are still working on blending s a t p i n! So while others are watching their Coding Poster video and then doing the Coding Poster, they can be Code Mapping words, using Speedy Six activities, or working on a project that will help them apply reading and spelling skills to something they are interested in. 

Spencer started about 10 months, and part of the reason to use the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach was that he had some speech delays and speech (articulation) issues. Speech, Language and Communication Skills are at the heart of the approach. 

You can see him here in Week 1, and then 10 months later when reading at the Yellow Code Level - which equates to around PM 10 - 12 as seen when reading The Green Pirate.   


Spencer started the ICRWY Project programme when he had just turned 4, and is seen here working out whether the u in the word 'careful' (c/are/f/u/l) is a picture of the speech sound ʊ or the schwa ə

The IPA shows k/eə/f/ʊ/l but he doesn't say it that way. The Speech Sound Monsters are phonetic symbols for kids. 

He won't start school until next year (2022) and if being taught using 'synthetic phonics' he may not even be taught about the schwa. He might be expected to learn 'satpin' with the other - even though he will be able to pass the UK Phonics Screener before starting school. This worries me. If he goes to an SSP (Speech Sound Pics) Approach school he will start at the stage where he is currently 'sitting' with regards to his learning journey. eg in Ehri's consolidated alphabetic phase (Ehri 1995, 2014) and is a reader more readily teaching himself new connections (Share, 1995) Please do contact me if interested in becoming a UK 'I Can Read Without You' School' using the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach.  Miss Emma  

Coding Poster

3 and 4 year olds learning the high frequency graphemes - they love the Coding Poster!


Spencer is exploring the mapping of phonemes to graphemes (to read and spell) while also ensuring that he can recognise and blend the basic, high-frequency Code Level Sound Pics.

Phases overlap. Children can - and should- be exploring words eg 'vacuum' (and ESPECIALLY lot of high frequency words) while learning basic ('regular') mapping 

As an experienced teacher I can understand why over 90% of children are not easily passing the UK phonics screener by the middle of Year 1 (at the very lastest) It is not because they are unable to LEARN to do this, it is because of the way teachers in the UK are being told to TEACH. 

Parents who are worred that their child might not be learning the high frequency graphemes as QUICKLY as they are capable of learning them, because of the TEACHING the school is told to embrace, they can use the SSP Monster Mapping app at home to learn the Phonics Screener Check graphemes, as well as over 400 high frequency words used in 'real' texts. Are you a teacher being forced to teach phonics in this way? Contact me for support. Your data will be the proof needed to justify the switch. You could join me as a 'disruptor' and help challenge those mandating this approach. After all, you are the ones then blamed when 10 - 30% fail every year, and can't read before they start Grade 2.   

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New lessons are being added daily - follow them with your child to understand why children learn to read and spell so quickly using my resources and strategies! Perfect for children aged 3+ but also follow ICRWY for Toddlers and you can start even earlier!


SSP Monster Mapping app AU$20



See it in Action and Learn about the SSP Monster Mapping app for Schools


Use with the SSP Spelling Piano app for tablets!


To help learners blend these high frequency graphemes more quickly and easily - whether real or nonsense words (doesn't matter for the test) why not used these Coding Poster word images

Visit the Assessments Page


When checking grapheme (Sound Pic) recognition at Code Level the children know that the graphemes are representing specific phonemes, even if the words are not real - because we are checking CODE LEVEL Sound Picture recognition. 

Ehri, L. C. (1995). Phases of development in learning to read words by sight. Journal of Research in Reading, 18(2), 116-125.

Ehri, L. C. (2014). Orthographic mapping in the acquisition of sight word reading, spelling memory, and vocabulary learning. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18(1), 5-21.

Share, D. L. (1995). Phonological recoding and self-teaching: Sine qua non of reading acquisition. Cognition, 55(2), 151-218.