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Should we teach less commonly used grapheme (spelling choices) or just stick to the high frequency graphemes and a few alternative spelling choices?


What do you think about PM and F&P Benchmarking?

We have a small multi-level school and are inconsistent in our approach. We've added decodable readers but everything is not coming together. How would SSP help?'

What do we do? It's an uncomfortable discussion to have, I know.

We've got to tackle this problem without shaming, and without parents needing to pay extra for something that should be happening in schools. Why isnt it? No teacher I know chooses to fail kids. They'd be mortified if they knew they were. They tend to think there is something wrong with the child, as they aren't learning, and that they need MORE of the same teaching, or have been told 'they will learn in their own time' (whoever told them that doesnt understand the learning to read process) What if it's the teaching that needs to change? What if no-one is supporting the teacher, no-one who has the knowledge and experience to best help? Suppose the people supporting them don't understand why the child is struggling either? Why are so many being failed and what can we do? This teacher is using a program recommended by the gov, and has had training. They have done everything recommended by those who shame teachers. But this child is not learning. So now what? Without blame, now what?

Miss Emma X

When they get the spelling of a 'sight word' wrong what should I do?'

Ask them to Code Map the word and then show the word and they can self-edit (and record in their Spelling Discoveries Diary - which you use for random long term learning checks) and also make use of 'Shall I show your brain'? Give the words 3 times, with one having the correct grapheme.
They write 'sed' and you might write
So it's just the incorrect grapheme that changes. It does represent that speech sound, just not in this word. See if their brains can tell you which 'looks right'. You'll be amazed at how much info is stored, and they can retrieve. 
They also develop this skill during 'Speedy Code Mapping' which they do at the beginning of every day in pairs - or solo, in groups. One (who can read the words) 'follows the sounds' while the partner points. The pointer is able to use unfamiliar graphemes, and blend, and the student 'following the sounds' is practising their spelling! The activity is designed to force the brain to recognise the phoneme to grapheme mapping ( Code Mapping)         

Help ! The 'sounds' we use can conflict with the sounds we use when we say the words ! 

How do we use 'nonsense words'?

I have a student who can't remember the 'sounds'. I show them the letter 'c' and they can't remember to say /k/


Letters are meaningless unless in a word. So kids may learn the letter name, but if teaching phonics the kids need to know that they can represent a speech sound, but the 'sound' it represents depends on the word!

So linking it to words is always vital (not just a flashcard showing a letter, and expecting them to say 1 of the sounds eg c and they say /k/)
I do an exercise with teachers in training where I change the letters of the alphabet to symbols. I then ask them to learn them and tell me the sounds. They can all read and spell but they struggle to remember which is supposed to represent which speech sound; until I start with just 6, and we start to build words. They then quickly (although all are different) remember the associated sounds, and can read and spell words using them, and we build up. Its often hard for us to think why a child would struggle to remember something - until we are given the same situation, with symbols used we don't know. Teachers get really stressed out (and are a lot more empathetic with the kids)

Code Mapping

The main issue for educators is often the teaching sequence, so that it aligns with the way brains learn most effectively eg WHEN to introduce letters as representations of speech sounds (presuming the starting point is phonemic awareness) WHEN to teach letter names within the teaching sequence, what grapheme order to follow when teaching so that they learn as many skills and concepts as possible as they progress (not just to recognise graphemes) ...and so forth. 

When teachers want a specific learning outcome to be achieved by a student they do need to be very clear about WHY they want them to do this, and what the steps are to get there (regarding student understanding - a lot of children can learn to bark '/k/' when they see the letter c k or ck - but if they have poor phonemic awareness they have no awareness that they say this sound because it is representing the sound on paper! - and of course they can't then work out the word is c/a/t as they can't blend)

We have a 'speech sound monster' for every phoneme, so aligned with the phonetic symbols of the IPA. They learn the 'monster sounds' really quickly, and it means they know the associated 'sound' when they look at the letters. Because they use 'spaced repetition' every day to learn the HF graphemes, it also means they learn to look at 'c' and think of the 'sound' but also understand why, and how used !

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The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach. Wiring Brains® for Literacy. Code Mapping® and Monster Mapping®, Dyslexia Doctor House®
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