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Orthographic Learning: Spelling

During reading development, a learner has to establish and improve his or her orthographic lexicon as well as the process of word retrieval from it. Efficient word identification is directly tied to strong mental representations of words, which include spellings, meanings and pronunciations. Orthographic learning is the process by which spellings for individual words are acquired (Share, 2008).

For decades those teaching children to spell have used various strategies, none of which allow ALL children to acquire orthographic knowledge quickly and easily within the neurodiverse classroom. Miss Emma has developed a different approach: ICRWY is a ground-breaking approach that reduces the risk of reading and spelling difficulties by facilitating orthographic learning and increased engagement when children are 4 and 5 year olds. 

Children and adults learn new words when reading, an effect robustly demonstrated through the self-teaching paradigm.
Teachers and tutors using the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach in Australia marvel that children transfer their learning of new words to that of other words, even though they are not sure how. The 'how' doesn't matter to them as much as the evidence that this takes place. The SSP is approach is not 'synthetic phonics' - the approach of choice by the DfE.

In the UK all children learning in state maintained schools are explicitly taught 'grapheme to phoneme' correspondences' and additional correspondences are restricted: most teaching is by a teacher at the front of the class who teaches all children at the same time, pace and in the same way. Differentiation is rarely considered or individual learning differences catered for. Little attention is really paid to understanding exactly what each child is learning during their time in class.  Teachers will discuss what they have 'taught' but are often totally unaware of what, if anything, each child actually learned. This is because the organisation of 'instruction' is designed to make life easier for the teacher - eg by creating a 'Scope and Sequence'. Although we can introduce correspondences (the 4 Code Levels) in a systematic way, and offer code level texts - to read and write - this is not a 'Scope and Sequence' and the phase must be over with as quickly as possible. A Scope and Sequence is not possible as Individual differences and needs MUST be catered for - as seen in her Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach classroom program, used across Australia.


  The correspondences covered within DfE validated synthetic phonics programmes are predominantly used from print to speech - with the GPC shown. The Phonics Screening Check is prime example: when testing phonics knowledge the children are never asked to give phoneme to grapheme correspondences - and yet phonic instruction should focus on both grapheme to phoneme and also phoneme to grapheme correspondences ie decoding AND encoding skills. Encoding is far more difficult - as it involves retrieval of words from orthographic lexicon. Miss Emma has always argued that the best way to avoid difficulties with decoding fluency is to spend a LOT of time in the early stages developing encoding (spelling) skills. It is easier to see which students are at risk: they may blend the sounds into words but struggle to 'Duck Hand' the words. They may be able to 'follow the Monster sounds to say the word' but struggle to do the monster routine - where retrieval is essential. When we show the word we help them to develop phonemic AND orthographic awareness in a systematic and scaffolded manner. We give them the support needed until new pathways are created in their brains, and they can learn about English orthography without help - and move towards being able to say 'I Can Read Without You'. The better they are at spelling, the earlier they reach that phase. 'Phonics' programs only touch the surface of learning to read. 
Not only do ALL children thrive, the children who are usually failed receive the intervention they need.
At least 95% are at the 'self-teaching' phase before they turn 6: with most progress made via implicit learning. The development towards orthographic mapping is portrayed by Ehri (2005a) as a sequence of overlapping phases, each characterized by the predominant type of connection linking spellings of words to their pronunciations in memory; she outlines the process, Miss Emma ensures that ALL learners are able to achieve it. 
Orthographic mapping is enabled by phonemic awareness and grapheme to phoneme knowledge. According to Ehri OM to support sight word reading is facilitated when beginners are taught about articulatory features of phonemes and when grapheme-phoneme relations are taught with letter-embedded picture mnemonics: she researched Letterland, a DfE validated synthetic phonics programme.

Miss Emma argues that this 1:1 pairing is short-sighted: embedded pictures should relate directly to the phonemes, as she does with the Speech Sound Monsters, and not a picture that creates a firm connections between ONE grapheme to phoneme correspondence and that relies on phonemic awareness. eg /a/ shown with an apple. Some children may memorise that connection but without phonemic awareness that connection between a sound they can't isolate, with fruit, can create confusion. Ehri focused on on the very beginning stages, and Miss Emma argues that this is a fools errand: English has an opaque orthography and concepts matter. Within ICRWY children can see /a/ and know the sound value based on the embedded monster, from term 1 of kindergarten. Children are capable of understanding this with the Speech Sound Monsters. The HOW of developing phonemic awareness and orthographic knowledge matters.   


Unfortunately success also depends not just on what taught, and HOW, but on teacher phonemic awareness and orthographic knowledge. Miss Emma saw how difficult this was for many, and is now focused on the AI assisted KS1 Reading Teacher: technology will enable children to learn what they need, when they need it - and this will be free to all children in the Foundation Stage and KS1, whether they attend school or not. It will arguably be easier for children who do not attend school to become skilled readers before their sixth birthday. Synthetic phonics programmes will get in the way of teachers meeting individual learning needs, however well intentioned and skilful.

Miss Emma is a highly successful teacher of reading and spelling and not influenced by 'research' - she does what she does and has been sharing what she does. If researchers wish to study cognitive processes implied in orthographic learning and the transfer of that learning she will be running sessions with learners in the Reading Hut's 'Early Reading Centre' while developing the AI assisted KS1 reading teacher, which will 'learn' to do what she does. It is not work currently being undertaken anywhere else, as no-one else teaches like Miss Emma. Although 'different' can often be initial rejected by the masses, those with a scientific mindset will welcome change if the eradication of illiteracy is of interest to them. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only that Miss Emma be right, which means that she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world.


The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. 

ICRWY learners see the written code differently: ICRWY teachers get different results 

Choose words from books you are exploring together.
Until we have the new tech to give you  - to map words you choose, and drag down the monsters- please do this to check grapheme to phoneme correspondences.
The children Miss Emma works with quickly learn to check mapping themselves- it's amazing to watch!  


Black/ grey shows the segmented graphemes from left to right: Code Mapping.
IPA symbols show the smallest sound units - phonemes - designed by the IPA.
These British IPA phonetic symbols are shown as Speech Sound Monsters when teaching children to read and spell in English.
Simple! English Orthography made visible. A world first! 
Initially created by Miss Emma for her dyslexic learners - who struggle to hear those speech sounds in words (phonemic awareness is an essential skill for anyone learning to read and spell) and her non-speaking learners (who do not easily produce those speech sounds) but loved by ALL and now used by thousands of Reception/ Prep and Year 1 teachers in Australia (KS1)  
Although everything expected by the DfE to be included within a synthetic phonics programme is included, as related to content - eg the 100 or so grapheme to phoneme correspondences with code level / phonics readers, this is not a synthetic phonics programme: the explicit phonics instruction is more accurately described as Visual and Linguistic.  

Visual phonics is designed to SHOW the graphemes and Linguistic phonics is designed to SHOW the mapped phoneme value.
It is both a speech-to-print and print-to-speech approach to teaching learners about the written code, depending on the needs of the learner at any moment in time, however there is far more of a focus on giving children the whole, spoken word (if they can't decode it) and then 'tracking back' ie to encode. The focus is on getting out of the explicit instruction phase as quickly as possible (ideally by the end of reception) Over 90% can pass the PSC by the end of Reception, but are already 'self-teaching' and thinking about 'the whole code'.         

Vocabulary learning is facilitated when spellings accompany pronunciations and meanings of new words to activate Orthographic Mapping.

Teaching students the strategy of pronouncing novel words aloud as they do the Monster Routine, and when they read text silently activates orthographic mapping and helps them build their vocabularies. Because spelling-sound connections are retained in memory, they impact the processing of phonological constituents and phonological memory for words. The DOK Daily activities are POWERFUL!

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