Steps to Reading by 6 with Miss Emma

Follow the ICRWY Steps to Reading in Pre-School within the new SSP I Can Read Without You (ICRWY) Project app. if you are a parent - simply follow the lessons in the app, step by step.
Use with the SSP Spelling Piano app.  


How does Miss Emma teach children to read, write and spell so quickly and easily, and to become obsessed with 'Code Mapping and Monster Mapping'?  

Why do the children not only learn to read by 6, but to want to read for pleasure?

Watch children teaching children, and listen to how they describe the Monster Mapping and Code Mapping activities.


Step 1 (Pre-Phonics) - Orange Level
- Steps to Reading & Spelling
As with all Steps, please talk, sing, read and rhyme as often as possible!


Children need to be able to:

Identify the speech sounds in spoken words, segment (order, left to right) and blend them. They must understand that this is how we are to record the 'pics' of the sounds on paper when we start writing words.

They demonstrate the skills using Duck Hands, Lines and Numbers, and by placing the correct Speech Sound Monsters on those lines. If non verbal the Monsters show us which sounds they are hearing.

(early spelling skills)

Identify the target speech sounds and blend them into a whole (spoken) word.

They demonstrate this by 'following the Monster Sounds to say the word' If they are non verbal they can demonstrate by circling the correct visual prompt 

(early decoding skills)

They will be blending words with other phonemes too, but the focus is the first six (especially if ready to be challenged) 

In order to prepare for the transition to phonics, where these speech sounds are mapped (on paper) with graphemes, children practise forming lower case letters, in Steps to Reading & Spelling phonics teaching order
(starting with s a t p i n) 
We use the RWI letter formation phrases, with exits and my own ICRWY resources.
Within Step 1 they only use these 6 letters, and also practice writing their name.


They demonstrate this by forming the letters correctly (eg from top to bottom) and only lift the pencil/ crayon when necessary.  They can write their own name, using a capital letter - all other letters are lower case.

We are NOT teaching letter names at first, even though they will start forming the letters in preparation for Step 2. Some letter names bear little relationship to the sounds the letters represent and interfere with learning the sounds. If the child learns letter names without a clear conceptual and associative emphasis on the sounds the letters symbolise, confusions in reading and/or spelling will occur.

SSP Letter Formation

The National Reading Panel found that certain instructional methods are better than others, and that many of the more effective methods are ready for implementation in the classroom. To become good readers, children must develop:

  • Phonemic awareness

  • Phonics skills

  • The ability to read words in text in an accurate and fluent manner

  • The ability to apply comprehension strategies consciously and deliberately as they read

The Panel found that many difficulties learning to read were caused by inadequate phonemic awareness and that systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness directly caused improvements in children's reading and spelling skills.

The evidence for these causal claims is so clear cut that the Panel concluded that systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness should be an important component of classroom reading instruction for children in preschool and beyond who have not been taught phoneme concepts or who have difficulties understanding that the words in oral language are composed of smaller speech sounds — sounds that will be linked to the letters of the alphabet. Importantly, the Panel found that even preschool children responded well to instruction in phonemic awareness when the instruction was presented in an age-appropriate and entertaining manner. 


Why not start from phonics? Why not introduce graphemes (letters) from day 1?
Children need to understand that spoken words consist of small sound units (phonemes) so that they can map these to the 'Sound Pictures' used when we talk on paper (the alphabetic code) It is important that we ascertain which children find this difficult. That can be masked if we start with letters/ graphemes straight away.  


Why take a Speech to Print Approach?

'One of the most fundamental flaws found in almost all phonics programs, including traditional ones, is that they teach the code backwards. That is, they go from letter to sound instead of from sound to letter. Such programs disregard the fact that speech evolved at least 30,000 years before writing. Alphabetic writing was invented to represent speech; speech was not learned from reading. Following the logic of history, we should teach awareness of the sound system (phonology) and anchor letters to it.


Moats Teaching Decoding 



Children introduced to the first 6 Speech Sound Monsters.

Just as a cow 'says' moo, a dog 'says' woof woof, each monster 'says' a speech sound (phoneme)
They learn to associate the monsters with their corresponding phonemes. Even though it is the first 6 that matter most, they will learn all 46 monsters quickly, using the 2 Minute Monster Video 

Children learn the associated word for the Visual Prompts. When segmenting and blending sounds their brains will be searching for the familiar connection (the word created using only those focus 6 speech sounds) Familiarity helps!


Phonemic Awareness

Children use 'Duck Hands' to isolate, segment and blend phonemes from left to right.  This quickly progresses to also using Speech Sound Lines and Numbers and placing the Speech Sound Monsters on the lines.

Phoneme Segmentation

Children are learning that spoken words are simply smaller sound units (phonemes) and ordered that way to produce the whole word. The ORDER matters if we are to talk on paper (segmentation) 

Phoneme Blending


Children can't learn to read without this skill! Please say 'follow the Monster sounds to say the word'
Are they struggling to blend? Give them the Word, Sounds, Word, and use the Visual Prompt Chart with Monsters. 

We use 'Visual Prompts' which are images that the children associate with a specific word. Those words are spoken using the target 'Orange level' phonemes. As we transition into the Green Code Level, these phonemes are mapped with graphemes. eg they see this VP and say 'pin'. They will learn to read and spell words using the phoneme to grapheme mapping combinations
Phonemes:    s æ t p ɪ n
Graphemes:  s a t p i n


The children love learning with other children, and from other children! 


Phoneme Manipulation


Manipulation is the highest level of phonemic awareness and so although we add, delete and manipulate speech sounds this skill can take longer. Being unable to manipulate won't hold them back from moving to Step 2 

The Monster Routine
Initially with just Duck Hands, Lines and Numbers, and Speech and Monsters.
We start adding in the Sound Pics in Step 2 - The Green Code Level
This routine is essential, as we will use this to explore the spelling of all words, using the Monster Mat.

This is also why we ensure the children can form numbers 1 - 10 quickly. If very young, we just show them!

Learning to recognise all the Speech Sound Monsters. 
They see the mapping of their names from the very beginning, so it is important that they learn to recognise all monsters as quickly as possible. The letters/ graphemes often won't represent the phonemes they will first 'meet' within the four Code Levels. By learning the monster sounds early these issues are understood by the children.  

First Steps to Reading and Spelling. ICRWY!
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