Orange Level (Step 1) - Pre-Phonics
Info for Parents.

Within 'Steps to Reading' playgroups you will see how Miss Emma teaches children to read before they start school. Do not underestimate the importance of this stage. Miss Emma could not teach our children to read without this vital step; we are explicitly teaching phonemic awareness. 

Steps is an early 'prevention' for children who have dyslexia. We need to give them the tools to be ABLE to read and spell, especially if they will be attending a school that does not have a 'dyslexia friendly' approach to teaching reading and spelling. We run EY groups sessions. 

If they cannot Duck Hand the 'visual prompt' words, or 'follow the Monster sounds to say the words' children will struggle to learn phonics, because they do not yet have sufficient phonemic awareness. The Green Code Level will be harder for them, than children who have phonemic awareness. Dyslexic students will have poor phonemic awareness; let's address that from day 1! 

Whenever I start working with children I need to find out if they have phonemic awareness.

Can they hear the smallest units of sounds in spoken words? Do they know where they are positioned in the word?
Can they blend these phonemes together?
If not they are my 'at risk' kids. Explicitly teaching this skill is my number 1 priority for them, so that I can 'wire' their brains to be ABLE to move to the Green Code Level, and learn to read and spell.   


When I worked with this school I spent a week teaching them to 'duck hands' words, and with a focus on phonemic awareness. We used 6 focus phonemes (that would then be represented by s,a,t,p,i,n in the Green Code Level
To be sensitive to parents I have only shown students in this clip who were not 'at risk'.

I assessed about 150 kindergarten aged children in 45 minutes.

Please use the resources in the member's area, and use the Phase 1 video lessons in the SSP Monster Mapping app ! Up to 35% of the children in any kindergarten class (in ANY socio economic area) do NOT have brains 'wired' to be able to read and spell without explicit instruction in phonemic awareness. Teaching phonics (especially 'print to speech' ie 'what sound does this letter make' type programs) will often do little to address an issue that will cause huge difficulties for so many children, however intelligent they area, and whether their parents read to them from birth.

SSP teachers have a collective belief that no child needs to go into grade 2 still in the 'learning to read' phase, if they have the resources and support to meet the needs of all students; they start grade 2 no longer using reading 'band' or 'levelled' books as they can read age appropriate chapter books of their choosing, for pleasure. We work hard to help them reach the 'self-teaching' phase BEFORE grade 2, and we thank school leaders who allow us to do this.

A growing body of research (see Kilpatrick, 2015) shows that once typically developing readers become reasonably proficient at phonic decoding they begin to ‘self-teach’.  You will see this if you watch SSP students in action, with clear examples of them working towards that even before they reach SSP Blue! 
This self-teaching hypothesis proposes that every time readers encounter an unfamiliar word, they can figure out the phoneme to grapheme mapping by attending to the structure of the word. They then use this new knowledge to establish an orthographic representation of the word in their long-term memory. In typically developing readers, the storing of the word in long-term memory occurs after one to four exposures to the word. 
However students who have poor phonemic awareness will struggle to use these mapping (phonic decoding) skills and do not self-learn orthographic mapping. As a consequence these students do not easily develop a large ‘sight’ vocabulary, compromising their ability to read fluently, which in turn interferes with their comprehension.

When a child is sent to me as they are reading slowly, a lot of working memory used to simply get to the end of each sentence, I take them back to the phoneme level; ascertaining how well they are identifying phonemes, segmenting, blending and manipulating them. Older students need daily 'speedy paired decoding' to force their brain to recognise the mapping, and Speedy Six Spelling activities to explicitly explore how small sound units are represented on paper. The Duck Level words really help, as these are often high frequency words they have memorised; they can SEE and HEAR how the phonemes and graphemes actually map, and can start recognising patterns. They can use the app without needing adult help. If is far easier if we avoid difficulties in the first place however ! So please do not presume that your smart, articulate child will not struggle to read and spell! Find out if they have good phonemic awareness, and use Phase 1 (Steps to Reading Program Step 1) to address it, early !   

Kilpatrick’s (2015) analysis of the research indicates that successful intervention for these students needs to include: 
Teaching phonemic awareness to the advanced level (this includes not only teaching blending and segmenting, but also phoneme manipulation such as deleting, adding, substituting or reversing phonemes).
Teaching and reinforcing phonic skills and decoding. 
Providing authentic literature so students can practise reading connected text.


SSP teachers are doing this within the 4 Code Levels in SSP classrooms, using the Phase 2 Routine, following an intensive phonemic awareness program in weeks 1 and 2 of kindergarten (Phase 1) 
YOU can do this at home too, during school closures.

I am doing this with pre-schoolers in the Steps to Reading Groups I run in England.
I SEND them to school already at that 'self-teaching' stage. And YOU can teach your child to read before they start school too ! I'd love to help you.

Miss Emma X
BEd Hons (EY Specialism 3-8) MA Special Educational Needs. Doctoral Student (Early Intervention for Dyslexia).  

Kensi learns to read before starting school. Please video your child and create a youtube channel, so that we can link to it and share your learning journey too!


This is the same routine we follow in Kindergarten and Year 1 classrooms. 

Join as an SSP subscriber to access online training and resources, and learn how Miss Emma teaches children to read and spell.

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