Is SSP A Phonics Program ? The Speech Sound Pics Approach from Miss Emma


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Is SSP a Phonics Program? Miss Emma compares it to Synthetic Phonics programs such as TTRASS, Jolly Phonics, RWI to show that there are differences even between 'phonics' programs. SSP includes phonics, but is not a phonics program.

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Is SSP A Phonics Program ? The Speech Sound Pics Approach from Miss Emma

  1. 1. Someone asked me if SSP is a phonics program. Short answer? No. Longer answer... SSP is method for teaching reading and writing (in English) by developing learners’ phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes—in order to teach the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns (graphemes) that represent them (phonics). SSP goes to a far deeper level than ‘phonics’ as every word in the English language (except ‘one and ’once’) are coded, using the SSP system, including all words traditionally still taught using the whole language approach of ‘Look, Cover, Say' as a way to memorise whole words, or as 'tricky words' or 'sight words'. Only one of the words shown above is not coded correctly- can you see which?
  2. 2. Within SSP there is nothing tricky or difficult about them. Nothing needs to be memorised, all is understood and stored away, ready for the brain to use when needed. If a student closely looks at 'ea' in feat, bean, bear- and the brain 'pings' as it 'sees' that ea represents two different speech sounds, and is part of a picture to represent the 'air' speech sound, it can then use this to later investigate 'mean' etc Within SSP students are not asked to look for syllables or vowels (as they may not know what these are, and teaching this would mean yet more time spent before they can work out the word) Within SSP onset and rime are also not used. Pure speech sound to sound pic links is the ONLY focus. This is to make life easier for all students- SSP keeps everything simple. As long as the students can use Duck Hands to split words according to the SSP system, they can split any word into sound pics. They do this through spelling, and also by paying close attention to the parts in words when reading; they can 'follow the sounds, say the word' for any word- especially if told how the word is pronounced. Then they simply find it's meaning in the Speech Sound King's book (a dictionary) or google:-) So children are not stuck, trying to spell words, when they have not yet learnt that part of the code- and having to 'try it' in a book, to ask the teacher to write it, as they do not have the skills or resources to work out at least most of the word themselves. This is also the case with readers. SSP students put their code knowledge into practice within a real book, even from the first Code Level. This enables them to not only rapidly code at their level (fluency) but also to start visualising, and understanding the sentence. As they learn more of the code, they move through readers that include this code, and the children do not have to keep stopping and starting to 'sound out' words as they are already familiar enough with the sound pics, that they say the words aloud with fluency. Comprehension and also problem solving skills can be developed from the very beginning. The Jolly Phonics creators only developed books for children who knew 42 'letter sounds' Even flap books with single words, can only be read if the students know the code within
  3. 3. those words. Otherwise they are forced to guess. This means that if the program was followed as prescribed, children would not read actual books independently for at least one term (the program specifies 1 per day for 42 days) The whole code is never taught (see SSP Spelling Clouds to see whole code) Although more of the code has recently been added, some phonemes added could confuse dyslexic students (wo / wa ) and also as they still refer to ‘silent letters.’ RWI however starts children off with a group of phonemes and then offers them readers, to practice these, and includes comprehension. Sight words are put in red, so the children know to learn these, however they are again taught as ‘tricky words’ and not coded. The whole code is never taught (see SSP Spelling Clouds to see whole code) however it is more comprehension than the JP program, and complements Letters and Sounds, which is useful as free resources can be accessed. RWI is used widely across the UK. THRASS has no Coded Readers, and again does not include the whole code in resources. THRASS has just added a new resource to show sight words, and does attempt to show parts of the code within high frequency words (vowels) but doesn’t help children see the individual phonemes (ie the whole word isn’t Coded) They split words into vowels and consonants, rather than linking them with speech sounds. Children need, therefore, to start with print rather than speech. Within SSP they start with what they know, and if not speaking easily we also help them with this within the Orange and Green Levels (Orange in pre-school). The whole language strategy of ‘Look, Cover, Write, Check’ is used, rather than the strategy used within SSP ie Say the word, split it using Duck Hands, Write a Line for Each Speech Sound, Number Them, Make Your Choices. When spelling words children are asked to ‘establish how many are vowel phonemes, clap the syllables for the word eg gar den has 2 syllables. The number of syllables is dictated by the number of vowel phonemes, so if you know there are 2 syllables there must be 2 vowel phonemes. In the word ‘garden’ the vowel phonemes are “ar” as in car, and “e” as in wooden. The ‘ar’ is made up of two letters but it is only one phoneme.’
  4. 4. SSP advises against clapping as it makes the hearing of the speech sounds more difficult, and splitting into syllables means that the individual speech sounds are lost. This strategy relies on students knowing what a vowel is, and having a fairly high level of understanding already. When reading unfamiliar words students may look for vowel letters a,e,i,o,u even though they are part of a cluster of letters that represent a speech sound. They ca see these letters and think of letter names, which again confuss the coding process. It is important to recognise that a ‘vowel sound’ relates to speech, and the letters a,e,i,o,u are called ‘vowels’ but are related to the alphabetic code.. Rather than talking about ‘vowel sounds’ – which is not as simple as it might sound – we choose to talk about speech sounds. It helps us bridge speech therapy with coding. There is a conflict between the definition of a "vowel sound" when used by speech therapists (a sound produced with no constriction in the vocal tract) and the definition used within coding (print) - a sound that forms the peak of a syllable. You can again see how this phonics program starts with print and not speech when reading this ‘Note that the letter Q and X are represented on the THRASS Chart as follows - Q makes the C as in cat sound so it goes in that group and X (in X-ray) is made up of three phonemes – ‘e’ as in bed, ‘c’ as in cat and ‘s’ as in sit. In ‘fox’ the X is made up of two phonemes – ‘c’ as in cat and ‘s’ as in sit. Very tricky.” Within SSP we start from speech, so the Spelling Clouds relate to speech sounds, no letters. There is a speech sound cloud for every speech sound, however there is also a spelling cloud for ‘ks’ – you will see x sitting in there – and also ‘kw’ – you will se ‘qu’ sitting in there. Again we are bridging ‘speech’ with ‘coding’ Poor phonemic awareness – ie the ability to hear speech sounds in words, and to blend and manipulate them- is the number 1 predictor of reading and spelling issues. Therefore, by enabling them to constantly use this skill and to further develop it (speech to print not print to speech) for example by using Duck Hands Lines and Numbers, all children are able to succeed. If there is word the child does not have the skills to tackle (they don’t yet know those sound pics) then we tell them the word, so that they can use their Duck Hands, to then work out the splits (and underline the sound pics, and order them) They can quickly see how the word ‘works’ – and how it relates to how they say the word. This may be different to how someone else says the word, so this is a vital skill to develop. I may say a/n/t – you may say it as ‘air/n/t’ in Australia. How the student speaks varies, how the word is written does not (usually – USA gray / AU and UK grey) Only SSP Codes all words in the English language (though we are sure others will soon follow) and allows children to learn the whole code before they enter Year 2.
  5. 5. So 'phonics' is taught very differently between programs- even between these three widely used programs. What matters is how a program (and the way it is used) produces results, and so it will be interesting over the next few years to collect data, and see how an approach and program compared to others, even if all are called ‘synthetic phonics’ programs. SSP is not a phonics program, synthetic or otherwise. SpeedySSP is a Reading and Spelling Program. It allows children to learn to read and spell, so that teachers can get on with literacy teaching. Within SSP 90 of the most commonly used phonemes (sound pics) used to represent the main speech sounds (around 46) are explicitly taught within 4 Code Levels, with the other representations for the 46 speech sounds shown in the Spelling Clouds. Students access these, even while working at their own code level. They learn them but also discover the ones they need at the time they need it- eg if writing about their holiday, or splitting their own names. If a child with the name Phoebe is able to straight away see the spelling clouds for the first speech sound in her name, she feels a sense of belonging, even if this is not formally introduced until later. Other children are also able to see this - and understand the links when they see the word 'dolphin' in a pot luck reader. The SSP Spelling Strategy allows students to spell any word, even while working at a specific Code Level, as they then simply have to ask for help to choose the right sound pics. They are not limited, or held back. Every student experiences success, at every level. A wide range of wall and table top tools support their learning and allows them to work independently for longer. There is a great deal of repetition so that children do not miss out or fall behind- and so that children able to take on more, can do so. This is why the morning video lessons go through all 4 levels, even if the children are actually working on Green or Purple! We expose their brains to the info, and do not set limits on what they can absorb. Then, when they get to that level, they know most of it already! It also always amazes me to see how much more they learn, than I could ever 'teach' in a whole class setting. All children are able to work through the 4 levels at their pace. Even though there will be a difference in levels, it is no longer a 2 year difference- which is apparent in many non SSP classes. The lower level children are generally only one Code Level behind- and they feel confident in what they are doing. They all support one another- some get it faster than others, but this does not mean they are 'better' than them. Children try to better themselves, rather than trying to be better than others.
  6. 6. The most important thing to recognise is that the need for explicit phonics teaching (coding) ends after around 4 terms for most children using SSP. Compare this to most phonics programs. Handbooks actually specify what children should be achieving in Year 2. By that time they should be no longer learning to read or spell?? They should be reading and writing to learn. Reading refers to the ability to decode, recognise and draw meaning from the printed word. The time spent learning how to do this can end within 3 terms, but generally will take 4. It is a measurable skills. At that stage children move into 'literacy' teaching. They are now reading independently, pushing themselves to read more and more, with more advanced text, and using higher order skills, and need to think about 'coding' far less- as they are proficient coders already. It is only when they come across unusual words that they go back to using these skills consciously, and the eyes have to slow down while the brain processes it – eg if given a word like ‘gallimaufry’. They are now doing what YOU do. When spelling an unfamiliar word they now do what YOU do – they write it as few times using their knowledge of the code, to see which ‘looks right.’ Literacy involves students in listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts. They are USING the reading (and spelling) skills you have taught them within the 4 Code Levels in Prep. This is, again, why Coding and Comprehension are viewed as separate processes until at least the end of SSP Yellow, which can be as early as term 2 in Prep. A range of standardised testing can be used, such as Probe. Watch this 6 year old, in Year 2, who struggled to code when she first entered Year 2, and a term later graduated to Chapter Books. This shows her Probe test- which tests for coding AND comprehension (separately) Sip to 13.26
  7. 7. Without moving students through the 4 SSP Levels (and using the Spelling Clouds) quickly and easily, many children will struggle to cope with the expectations of the National Curriculum from Year 2. The gap will become wider and wider. More money and resources are needed, to get these students up to grade level. Statistically, this doesn’t ever happen. Even with extra time, and 1:1 or small group interventions the children still go from year level to year level unable to read and spell to even minimum expected levels. They do not need more ‘time’, and especially not outside of the classroom, they need the right kind of teaching and resources. If you use SSP from term 1 of Prep- or start it asap with Year 1 and 2 students- focusing on this as you only literacy teaching for at least two terms, then the children can surpass all expectations for the National Curriculum (and usually for the grade level above as well) You can include all, and prevent difficulties. Teachers can teach every student, as they can all read and write. If you use SSP as an intervention for older students, they will be up to grade level within 4 terms. If not, look at the teaching strategies far more closely than the student. SSP plus exceptional teachers = outstanding results for all. Let us strive to develop both. Miss Emma /