SSP 'Duck Hands, Lines and Numbers'

Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of a student’s ability to read fluently. This ability to hear speech sounds clearly, and to differentiate them, is what allows us to acquire language easily, and this knowledge of language is key to our understanding of what we read.


In the brain, the angular gyrus and corresponding regions in the occipital and temporal lobes are responsible for phonological processing abilities. Neuro-imaging of dyslexic brains reveals disruption in this area of the brain; deficits in phonemic awareness are a hallmark of dyslexia and require explicit and systematic instruction (as well as repeated practice) to build up these neuro-pathways.

The National Reading Panel in-depth review of over 50 phonemic awareness articles found that explicitly teaching phonemic awareness has a direct and significant impact on children’s reading, significantly more than instruction that lacks any attention to phonemic awareness.
National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. Reports of the Subgroups. Author. 2.1-2.8

This foundational skill must be taught systematically. Even just the addition of Miss Emma's 'Duck Hands, Lines and Numbers' will enhance any systematic phonics program, as the student cannot help but become an orthographic mapper! 

The 'speech to print' approach helps the written code make sense to learners.  As cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Paula Tallal explains, “To break the code for reading, a child must become ‘phonologically aware’ that words can be broken down into smaller units of sounds (phonemes) and that it is these sounds that the letters represent.

Tallal, P. (2012). Improving neural response to sound improves reading. PNAS. vol. 109, no. 41, 16406–16407

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