The Speech Sound Pics® Approach!

Use the tools and activities as a catalyst for instructional change. This is not a synthetic phonics programme.  SSP is an early intervention for reading and spelling difficulties including dyslexia.
Use this Visual and Linguistic Systematic Phonics programme in KS1, to ensure that every child thrives! Full training can be purchased on the I Can Read Without You site - for KS1 and also whole school spelling (and learning support) using the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach 


Shaping Brainfor Thinking and Learning! Visual and Linguistic Phonics

Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach
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Exploring speech sounds, and the way we 'talk on paper'. We are taking pictures of speech sounds with our Magic Speech Sound Cameras - what do they look like in written words? Letters do not 'make sounds' - they represent speech sounds in the written word;  which sounds they represent depend on the word! We have fun figuring out the mapping of words! Code Mapping® shows how the words are segmented into graphemes (Speech Sound Pics®) and Monster Mapping® shows how to pronounce each Sound Pic! Speech Sound Monsters are 'phonetic symbols for kids'

Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach
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Read Testimonials for the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach and Case Studies here

Interested in taking part in SSP research? Contact us!

The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach includes the 16 essential core criteria published SSP programmes must meet in order to be validated by the DfE however it is not a synthetic phonics programme. The focus is on differentiation and 

Although the high-frequency graphemes seen within the UK Letters and Sounds Programme are covered within 4 'Code Levels' and complementary 'decodable readers' are used to support these levels, the children do so at their pace. There is very little 'front of the class' teaching seen within synthetic phonics programmes, with the whole class generally working through the same phonics lessons in the same way and at the same time. Therefore we cannot 'plot' during the year when children will have been taught specific skills and concepts, as this will depend on the learners. We track learner activity.
Spaced repetition is used, with children working on the same activity but at their pace. So they learn those skills and concepts when they are ready. 
They use the SSP Coding Poster - an indestructible plastic laminate A4 work mat with the 4 Code Levels and first 100 High-Frequency Words. Around 60 - 90 seconds is spent on phonemic awareness using 'Visual Prompts', recognition, pronunciation and writing of code level graphemes, blending of code level graphemes into words, SSP chants, 100 high-frequency words (separated into levels) 
and finally SSP sentence word reading at Code level. 
As a result, more children are able to pass the Phonics Screener Check earlier and with more confidence; over 80% will pass before the end of Reception. Our aim is that 95% are reading to learn (have finished explicit phonics instruction) before the end of Year 1.


The A3 Coding Poster can be replaced with the A4 individual Coding Posters in pre-school if they prefer. 

These are words and many others say ‘can’t be sounded out’. Our pre-schoolers disagree. In fact, they’re so easily ‘sounded out’ when taught Monster Mapping in the very early years they barely have to glance at the words. Spencer is facing the camera!! 

They spell them correctly when writing, and recognise them when reading - after very few exposures.
Within synthetic phonics programs these words are often taught as whole words, and the number of words 'taught' is limited - can be as few as 45 in Reception. Speech Sound Pics (SSP) kids cover 200 - 500 - and map them all.   

When the kids think of a better rhyme than yours ‘Red frogs, pig and cat, All looked a bit fat’ 

Lara is reading an SSP Purple Code Level reader that forces the reader to retain meaning in order to keep up with the rhyming, and tests their recognition that the e in ‘landed’ represents the Schwa sound. Regular ‘decodable readers’ don’t tend to push them to do much other than blend known graphemes, page to page. It often means the Schwa-graphemes so frequently seen in ‘real’ texts, are ignored. Lara used the ‘e’ (as in end) sound but then ‘translated’ to ‘landed’ (as she knows the word - vocab knowledge aids this) and so I’d later go back to it and use the monsters on the word to explore every map. However she correctly identified the /er/ Schwa map in ‘after’ (a previously seen high frequency word) Brilliant Purple Code Level work Lara!

Children explore new phoneme-grapheme 'maps' using controlled vocab/ repetitive word readers, alongside Code level readers. 

This does not happen within synthetic phonics programmes; only decodable readers are used for independent student reading.

Within the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach we guide students to use alternative skills if they cannot decode the unknown words. They are also exposed to more words when they use our technology. Code Mapping shows the segmentation, and Monster Mapping shows them how to pronounce each grapheme.  

Children also explore new phoneme-grapheme 'maps' within the Speedy Six Spelling. 
They use the Speech Sound Clouds to check the maps.



Students can start 'levelled' (book band) readers when they reach the end of SSP Yellow Code Level readers, and will read at around a PM Level 10 - 12.  However they can start the 1,2,3 and Away and Pirate Stories around the end of SSP Purple, when using the Code Mapped and Monster Mapped versions. These 'Transition Readers' have connected books ie the children not only become familiar with the structure, but also emotionally invested in the characters and story lines. 

This use of strategies other than decoding, and non 'decodable' texts are not permitted according to the DfE, who validate synthetic phonics programmes. This is just one reason why we agree with the DfE that our approach does not align with the synthetic phonics method. To be validated as a synthetic phonics program our Transition Readers would not be permitted, at any stage.

Indeed, according to the DfE Validation Panel, even the grapheme 'h' is not be permissible in this decodable reader, because the 'decodable reader' is supposed to ONLY contain s a t p i n at this stage. That the word is clearly 'hat' and therefore the children could deduce the sound value of this grapheme (not yet explicitly covered in the teaching sequence) is apparently problematic - as the child has 'guessed' at the word. They must not figure out words and 'work backwards' (I know the word, so what are the sound values? ie comprehension to decoding) They must ONLY decode the words, and therefore the concept of using additional strategies when graphemes are unfamiliar (Speech Sound Detective work) is not permissible. 


Teachers have expressed concerns that within 'synthetic phonics' programs children read decodable readers (with only a limited number of graphemes and high-frequency words) and are read TO - eg classic children’s literature (and therefore exposed to a wide range of text) but that there is a huge divide between the skills used to decode their own 'readers' and the phase in which they are able to read words as 'sight words'. They may crack the basic alphabetic code (with around 100 high-frequency phoneme to grapheme 'maps' - a critical starting point for learning to read - however much remains to be acquired beyond this. Orthographic learning is an umbrella term that encompasses both the acquisition of the word-specific knowledge required to access a particular word’s meaning from print and also the accumulation of more general knowledge about orthographic regularities within the writing system. There is much to be learned to move a student from the basic phonic decoding taught within synthetic phonics programmes towards this 'end goal'.   The most influential theory of the transition to skilled word reading has been Share’s self-teaching hypothesis, which sets out a theoretical framework (Jorm & Share, 1983Share, 1995) and provides an experimental paradigm for exploring it (Share, 19992004). Teachers using Code Mapping to explore unfamiliar words will understand the concept. Central to the hypothesis is that exposure is key to this transition, and why Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach teachers so happily expose children to words they would be advised to steer clear of when using a synthetic phonics approach, and especially in the early stages. However, exposure to a wide range of texts (with attention to the mapping) provides the dynamic database from which children can accumulate detailed orthographic knowledge, supported by a foundation of alphabetic decoding skill.
As a real teacher, working with real children, and in order to shift the highest number of children from phonics decoding of 'regular' words to sight word reading we use 'Transition Readers' to EXPLICITLY and SYSTEMATICALLY bridge the gap and guide learners into the Orthographic Mapping phase as quickly and easily as possible (before the end of Year 1 

The single most effective pathway to fluent word reading is print experience: students need to see as many words as possible, as frequently as possible. Teachers can seek to provide as much exposure to print as they can during classroom activities but what they can achieve will be minuscule compared with the exposure that children can attain for themselves during their independent reading. This is why we aim to ensure that 95% of children are reading authentic texts of their choice before they enter grade 2, including those with dyslexia. We could not do this by aligning our teaching to the DfE's current 'recommendations'.