ssp_logo_2.fw (2).png

Monster Mapping®

press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom

Come to our FUN, hands-on WORKSHOPS in Australia and the UK!


We can Code Map anything! Their favourite books, songs...

Code Mapping® shows students how each written word is segmented into graphemes (Sound Pics®)
Monster Mapping® shows students which speech sounds (phonemes) each Sound Pic® represents. They can work out words without help, by 'following the Monster Sounds to Say the Word'

2 and 3 year olds

They can also read whole sentences using just
the Speech Sound Monsters ! This is a fun way to practice blending phonemes, even before phonics,
to develop phonemic awareness.

press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom

SSP 'Duck Hands'® are also used, as a multi-sensory way to segment and blend these speech sounds, and further develop phonemic awareness. All three tools help students learn to read and spell more easily. 


Code Mapped text shows the grapheme splits, and aligns with the IPA
Monster Mapped text shows students HOW to pronounce the graphemes

Phonemic awareness skills are needed to spell words (encoding). 

Although 'decoding' is an essential skill for reading, it alone may not lead to future word recognition for all of our students; this is where the SSP activities really help the brain. We take a 'speech to print' approach; writing was created to represent speech, and we are starting from what they know. Think of orthographic mapping as going backward from (phonic) decoding. When decoding students are taking the individual sounds (that they have translated from the graphemes) and blending them to make a whole word. (Part to whole.) With orthographic mapping, students will take a whole word and break it into its sound parts and connect to the correct graphemes (letters or letter combinations), paying special attention to the exact sequence of letters and how it connects to the sounds. (Whole to parts.) It’s this process that helps get the word stored in long-term memory.
This is why 'Speedy Paired Decoding' is so effective; a technique unique to SSP, in addition to Code Mapped text!


Phonemic Awareness is one of the best predictors of success in reading (Atwill et al., 2007). 


Even before a student learns to read, we can predict with a high level of accuracy whether that student will be a good reader or a poor reader by the end of third grade and beyond (Good, Simmons, and Kame'enui, 2001).


We can do this by testing their phonemic awareness. Readers with phonological processing weaknesses also tend to be the poorest spellers (Cassar, Treiman, Moats, Pollo, & Kessler, 2005). Over the past 30 years, there has not only been an increasing acceptance that phonemic awareness is important for early reading acquisition, but that it also plays an important role in specific reading disability or dyslexia (Hatcher, Hulme, & Ellis, 1994; Melby-Lervåg, Lyster, & Hulme, 2012; National Reading Panel, 2000; Nelson, Lindstrom, Lindstrom, & Denis, 2012; Share, 1995; Stanovich, 1986) Instruction in phonemic (speech-sound awareness) reduces and alleviates reading and spelling difficulties (NICHD, 2000; Rath, 2001).


Students who can isolate speech sounds in words, segment (order) and put them together again have the foundation skill for using the alphabetic principle (Liberman, Shankweiler, & Liberman, 1989; Troia, 2004). Without phoneme awareness, students will be confused by the written code, and how it represents the spoken word.


Some researchers claim phonological awareness is a by-product of alphabetic literacy learning (Castles & Coltheart, 2004) while others claim that phonological awareness precedes reading and writing ( Muter, Hulme, Snowling, & Stevenson, 2004), and there are findings which support an intermediate view: that phonological awareness and alphabetic literacy learning influence each other (Manolitsis & Tafa, 2011, p.30-31).


Is it any wonder teachers are confused, or that those managing budgets can justify their choice of programs by cherry picking the findings in line with their beliefs. What is clear, however, is that phonemic awareness is vital.  

Miss Emma, the SSP program developer, has a BEd Hons, with a focus on the Early Years (3-8) and a Masters Degree in Special Educational Needs with a focus on Dyslexia.  "Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. " The International Dyslexia Association (2002) All aspects of reading failure can be traced back to phonological deficits beginning in the preschool years.  So with her passion for inclusion, and in early childhood education, she developed 'Monster Mapping®' as tool to be used with even very young children; it is a VERY early intervention for dyslexia ! It can also be used alongside a speech therapy program, offering a fun way to articulate and blend English phonemes, even without phonics.    


Students with limited phonemic awareness will have trouble acquiring the alphabetic principle, which in turn will limit their ability to decode words (Blachman, 1991), and will not benefit from phonics (Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986). 


Strategies that lead to the early development of phonemic awareness, can only be a good thing. Stanovich (1986) concluded that phonemic awareness is a more powerful predictor than nonverbal intelligence, vocabulary, and listening comprehension, and it often correlates more highly with reading acquisition than tests of general intelligence or reading readiness.


But ‘should teachers focus directly on phoneme awareness (rather than on less sophisticated phonological processes like rhymes) from the beginning (Foorman et al., 2003)? There is a common view that to achieve phonemic awareness teachers must follow a teaching sequence, that includes rhyme, onset and rime and syllables. Not only has Miss Emma found this sequence unnecessary, but also that it can prevent, or slow down the journey.  Nation and Hulme (1997) and Hulme et al. (2002) argue that it is likely to be more profitable to emphasise phoneme awareness even from the beginning reading stages.


This Speech Sound Pics program directs the focus to the smallest units, and show children where those phonemes and graphemes map (Code Mapping®) 


Within Phase 1 (this last no more than 20 hours) students identify the different separate Speech Sounds in a word, using ‘Duck Hands ®’ and select the correct Speech Sound Monster to sit on the lines representing each Speech Sound. There is no link to graphemes at this stage. (Speech sound isolation, segmentation, blending and manipulation) 

The addition of ‘Speech Sound Monsters ®’ was initially because it gave us a way to know if a non- verbal student was identifying the correct phonemes, but also because phonemes are so abstract. If a child has poor phonemic awareness they will not understand what we mean when we talk about the ’sounds’ in words, even if we bring their attention to our mouths and focus on the production of each phoneme. This also excites young children. Phonemes become meaningful, and have a purpose. They can even ‘read’ and ‘spell’ whole sentences with the Monsters, before Phase 2. 

The Speech Sound Monsters ® have their own action, music and phoneme. We have footage of 2 year olds who can hear the music with their eyes closed, and find the right monster – even though they may not be able to articulate each phoneme. Parents are sending footage of their children showing the ‘Monster Moves’ (actions) when they show the Monster Cards – and finding the cards when given the phonemes.


They dress up as the Monsters, and talk about their favourites. Even teachers love to play dress up ! This is a very playful approach that excites learners of all ages. 


press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom

Miss Emma, The Reading Whisperer

In Phase 1 children are able to blend phonemes without graphemes (phonemic awareness) In Phase 2 they map the phonemes with graphemes (phonics) as part of the literacy program. 


Students also explore the phonetic symbols, which are a Universally recognised way to represent speech sounds, and used by most who teach English as a Second Language, as well as Speech Pathologists. 


Students understand that we can ‘talk on paper’ even before using the written code. This ‘bridge’ from Phase 1 (oral language and phonemic awareness) and Phase 2 (learning to read and spell using phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension) seems highly effective. This could be correlated with the facts that children are having so much fun! Parents of 2 and 3 year olds are reporting that they fall asleep with the Monster cards at night.

Children as young as three years of age can be seen reading whole stories and poems, in ‘Monsters’.


This ‘bridge’ is uncommon and worthy of investigation. We can find little research relating to phonemic awareness tasks that use unique representations for every grapheme. This is the only study we have found, and the findings are encouraging.


We are considering a shape that visually impaired students can feel, for each Speech Sound Monster, so that they have this ‘bridge’ also. “The Phonological-Awareness Skills of Children Who Are Blind” published in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 96(1) p. 38-49 (Jan 2002) it was found that Braille readers who had trouble reading had difficulties in phonological awareness skills at the same rate as sighted children who had difficulty reading print. If you work in this field, please do get in touch.


The Monsters have been especially interesting to Speech Pathologists as very young children are attempting to articulate isolated phonemes, which is not part of normal speech and language development. Parents are reporting marked differences in oral language skills, especially when they have siblings who are using the Monsters. Parents from countries where the IPA is widely used, for pronunciation, are embracing it as the Monsters are more meaningful and relevant to the students than a phonetic symbol. The students use a multi-sensory approach, and split words using ‘Duck Hands’ from left to right. Text is also ‘Code Mapped’, an SSP Patented technique, to show how the phonemes ‘map’ with the graphemes on paper.

Orthographic Mapping Facebook |Support Group

Could Monster Mapping® not only speed up the rate at which children develop good phonemic awareness, but also the rate at which they acquire an understanding of the alphabetic principle, and can master phonics?  Byrne, Fielding-Barnsley, and Ashley (2000) report on speed of acquisition. In a longitudinal study, they noted that poor readers in fifth grade were those who, though they eventually achieved reasonable levels of phonemic awareness, were slow to grasp it. So, surely, the earlier we start, the better?


SSP students are using decoding and encoding skills before graphemes (phonics) are even introduced.  And yet some researchers claim that this is not useful. “Overall, the data suggest that there is little value in training pre-schoolers in either letter forms or sounds in isolation in advance of providing instruction on the links between the two” (Castles, Coltheart, Wilson, Valpied, & Wedgwood, 2009, p.68). Our findings as action researchers, using the Speech Sound Monsters, contradict this data.


Teachers and speech pathologists, in schools and private practice, who have now been using the Phase 1 (Phonemic Awareness) strategies for around three years, report a massive decrease in the number of children who struggle with general phonological awareness as well as phonemic awareness tasks, as evidenced when tested using SPAT-R or similar.

There is no use of onset and rime or syllables in any of the phonemic awareness or phonics activities. We challenge the assumption of a hierarchy, with regards to teaching phonological awareness, and show that the focus on the smallest units yields better results.


So, can we ‘immunise’ children against reading and spelling difficulties by giving pre-schoolers a 6 week Phase 1 program (approximately 20 hours in total) in the term prior to starting school? Children with high phonemic awareness are known to outperform those with low phonemic awareness on all literacy measures, whether they were taught using a traditional basal instruction or whole language (Griffith, Klesius, & Kromrey, 1992. It would seem logical to assume that if Monster Mapping® significantly increases the level of phonemic awareness for each child, that we are offering an effective safeguard, or defense, against varying levels of instruction at school.


According to Julian Elliott and Elena Grigorenko in their 2014 book The Dyslexia Debate, the phonological deficit hypothesis has been the dominant cognitive explanation of dyslexia for over four decades. According to this hypothesis, "children with dyslexia are hindered by faulty representation of speech sounds, which leads to problems involving the precise processing of spoken words." (Chapter two, Explanations at the cognitive level.) So a hands on, playful program in the early years that enables parents and teachers to identify phonemic awareness deficits even before the children start school, will also allow for a much earlier identification of dyslexia.


And, finally, a special mention of ‘Oral Language’. While learning to speak is a task for which humans are generally considered to be biologically well-prepared (Berko Gleason 1993) reading and writing skills are not. There is a clear interdependence between the transition to literacy in the early school years and oral language competence. Snowling and Hulme observe that 'literacy is parasitic on language (page 597)


Oral language skills underpin the ability to decode and understand text, as well as writing and spelling, and the ability to engage with text across the curriculum. Between 40 and 75 percent of preschoolers with early language impairments develop reading difficulties and other academic problems as they enter formal schooling (Aram & Hall, 1989; Brashir & Scavuzzo, 1992).


The ideal scenario is that all children are taught in the way that they learn best, and that all teachers understand why so many students struggle to learn to read and spell, and what to do about it. Let's assume not all children are this lucky, and offer an 'Immunisation Against Illiteracy' to all in the early years.


Please contact us to start 'Monster Mapping®' at home and in your early years centres and playgroups around the world. Tell every parent of a pre-school child you meet about this exciting project ! 


Monster Mapping Training is FUN !