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Starting with existing schema enhances understanding and retention by connecting new information to what children already know. Our approach begins with each child's existing knowledge, making the screening and learning (intervention) process more intuitive and effective. This personalised approach is at the heart of an Ortho-Graphix® mindset and ensures deeper learning and better long-term outcomes. 

Schema-Based Phonemic Awareness Screening

Schema-based phonemic awareness screening focuses on assessing 3-year-olds' phonemic awareness without involving letters. Schemas are cognitive structures that help children organise and interpret information based on their experiences and knowledge. This method evaluates whether a child is naturally developing phonemic awareness, which is not natural for many children (at least 1 in 4).

The screening employs "Phonemies," which are fun, speech sound characters that visually represent different phonemes. These characters help children engage in short phonemic awareness activities, allowing us to collect data on how well the children learn and process these sounds. This approach provides insight into each child's current level of phonemic awareness and their ability to improve with targeted instruction within a very short period of time.

Our screening is unique in several ways: it focuses solely on phonemic awareness—not larger sound units such as syllables—provides insight into phonological working memory (seeing if the child can recall and blend more than three sounds at a time), and assesses phoneme articulation. There is some evidence of subtle sub-clinical signs of spoken-language abnormalities, primarily (but not exclusively) in speech processing among dyslexics. It also helps us to highlight the need to connect with a speech pathologist if not already recognised.

Phonemic Awareness (PA) has received immense publicity in reading education circles and public debate on the teaching of reading, especially in the US and the UK. Explicit instruction is often needed to develop PA. Of course, even when children have good phonemic awareness and can learn phonics, more is needed to begin building the orthographic lexicon by chunking sub-lexical symbols into higher-order meaning units—key to rapid, automatic word recognition - and eventually become a 'reader'.

Any difficulties that a novice reader may have in processing speech sounds or in processing the nuances of phonology will almost invariably impair learning to read. To give the most children the best chance of becoming readers, we must ensure that they start school with good phonemic awareness.


A 3-year-old demonstrating phoneme articulation, phonemic awareness AND phonological working memory - without letters!

Learning builds on existing schema because schemas are cognitive structures that help individuals organise and interpret information. Here are some key reasons why this is important:

Facilitates Understanding: When new information is related to existing schema, it is easier for learners to understand and integrate it. This connection helps in making sense of new concepts by linking them to prior knowledge.

Enhances Memory: Learning that builds on existing schema is more likely to be retained. The brain is more efficient at storing and retrieving information that fits into an existing framework.

Promotes Deeper Learning: By connecting new information to existing schema, learners are encouraged to think critically and understand the underlying principles, rather than just memorising isolated facts.

Improves Problem-Solving: Existing schema provide a foundation for applying knowledge to new situations. Learners can use familiar concepts to approach and solve new problems.

Increases Engagement: When learning is relevant to what learners already know, it can be more engaging and motivating. Learners are more likely to be interested in material that connects to their experiences and knowledge.

Supports Cognitive Development: Building on existing schema helps in the development of more complex cognitive structures. It enables learners to build a more sophisticated understanding of the world.

Those with an Ortho-Graphix Mindset purposeful leverage the child's natural cognitive development and makes the learning process more intuitive and effective.

The Different Framework from The Reading Hut - Phonemies - Phonemic Awareness Mastery
The Different Reading Framework
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