Correcting spelling errors in the upper primary grades using a speech to print approach.

Updated: Jul 22

I was recently asked in the OM group to share my thoughts about helping a student who had been asked to spell 70 words as part of a standardised test, and who had not achieved a high score. I spend my life analysing reading and spelling skills, and am more than happy to offer free advice when asked for help by parents and teachers in my support group. These are not students I am working with, which makes it difficult as I have to find the root cause - which I do relatively quickly when I can talk to the child and use my techniques. The group was created to share ideas about getting the highest number of kids to the 'orthographic mapping' phase as quickly and easily as possible ie when they recognise words without conscious thought (by 'sight'). I want them there before grade 2. I create off-the-cuff videos, as they can be easier to understand. I don't have time to edit them, and am often so brain dead that I play them back and hope viewers excuse any waffling or when I miss out important stuff! :-) At the end of the second clip I said something about it (the process) being natural for the kids and missed off the somewhat vital link - ie it is natural to them to do what YOU do when faced with spelling an unknown word, when they’re mapping all the time’.

This was an activity being undertaken by a school with an amazing leadership team, who focus on what their teachers and students need, and are not easily 'persuaded' to toe the party line. Because their students are Code Mapping they are developing great phonemic awareness, and far more aware of the phoneme to grapheme mapping. The phonetic symbols for kids offer teachers and even deeper diagnostic tool, so they can step in and help each child as an when needed. The Speech Sound Monsters will also get kids thinking far more deeply about which phonemes are being used when we speak that universally recognised 'spoken spelling code', whether they are the phonemes they use, and which 'sound pics' they map with - often not the combinations they have explored within the 4 SSP Code Levels. Members can use transparent images to drag and drop on the screen, and so that from day 1 children understand that the written code - talking on paper- is not an easy 1:1 correspondence. (ie a does not always 'say' æ. You will have seen lots of videos where children are exploring this in The Reading Hut - eg Jessica, who visited me yesterday.

Sorry, not a Letterland fan, even though the reason there are some positive research findings are useful. I can't see how it's a 'synthetic phonics' program even just for the reason that 'blends' are taught, as opposed to teaching children TO blend. Call me dramatic, but I find this stuff scary - because I teach children who at at risk of struggling and may be dyslexic.

Early PREVENTION and intervention is what I spend my life talking about. I use linguistic phonics, not synthetic phonics, but one element of synthetic phonics I (used to?) applaud is the mapping of phonemes to graphemes - eg word segmented into the smallest sound unit. So p/r/a/m not pr/ .... Also as I thought synthetic phonics program developers and I were on the same page (LOL) with regards to 'decodable readers'. Letterland decodable readers are not decodable readers as described here. If this is considered 'systematic synthetic phonics' by the UK government it raises serious questions as to what they are telling UK schools to use (and remember they will only give money from certain pots if schools choose the programs they recommend) If the aim is to teach the highest number of children to read as quickly as possible using systematic phonics this is not the way. In my opinion.

I outline why we need those mnemonics to be for the kids, not adults, and actually represent a phoneme, not a phoneme and grapheme combination. I explain why the monsters, from day 1, will avoid issues and especially when past the very early stages of learning to read and spell.

Let me know if you find these clips useful. Please do join our little Orthographic Mapping group on facebook and let me know if helpful, and what else you would like my opinion on. You can do with it as you wish. If nothing else my opinions tend to get people talking:-) Miss Emma aka The Reading Whisperer®

Creator of the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach and ICRWY Project (I Can Read Without You) Obsessed with Code Mapping® - the mapping of phonemes to graphemes using a speech to print approach- and have therefore a passion for 'talking on paper' ie exploring representations of the smallest sound units on paper (no syllable division rules taught in The Reading Hut!)