Introduction to SSP - Module 3 slide outlines

1.     Letters, phonemes and graphemes

[Image: there are three images:

  1. 26 letters: a chart showing all the letters of the alphabet
  2. 44 phonemes (sounds), consonants and vowels: a list of the phonemes showing pronunciation and a sample word for each
  3. About 200 to 250 graphemes (letters and combinations of letters): sample of the Alphabetic Code charts]

2.     Digraphs, trigraphs, quadgraphs and split digraphs


A grapheme made up of two letters that represents one sound. Digraphs can be consonant (sh) or vowel (ar). Examples: sh in shop, ow in crown, ng in song


A grapheme made up of three letters that represents one sound. Trigraphs can be consonant (tch) or vowel (igh). Examples: igh in sight, tch in match, dge in hedge


A grapheme made up of four letters that represents one sound. Quadgraphs are usually vowels. Examples: eigh in eight, ough in although

Split digraph

A vowel digraph where the letters are separated by a consonant. Sometimes called bossy e, silent e or vowel split e. Examples: i_e in like, a_e in plate, u_e in mute

3.     Digraphs and trigraphs

  • sh, th, ng, kn, tch, ph
  • ay, ee, igh, oa, oo
  • ar, or, air, er, ou, oy

[Image: a chart of consonant cluster blends with a large cross through it so that most cannot be read.]

4.     How we develop ‘sight reading’

A sight word is any word that we have committed to long term memory and can retrieve effortlessly. 

This ‘sight vocabulary’ develops through a process called orthographic mapping.

Orthographic mapping occurs, not by learning words as whole shapes, but by working through the phonological route, or through the letter sound correspondences.

Linnea Ehri describes the letter/sound relationships as the ‘glue’ that binds the way a word is said, to the way it is spelled and what it means.

5.     Skilled Reading: four processing systems for word recognition

(Seidenburg & McClelland, 1989). Berninger & Richards, 2002; Eden & Moats, 2002; Shaywitz, 2003)

[Image: shows how the four processes link to each other in a circular process.

Context processor

Selects appropriate meaning based on context.

Meaning processor

Activates all possible meanings of a word.

Phonological processor

  • Activates phonological image of word, ‘hearing the word in your head’.

Orthographic processor

  • Receives visual information from print
  • Recognises familiar patterns of letters
  • Processes every letter

An arrow links context processor to meaning processor. An arrow links meaning processor to both phonological processor and orthographic processor. An arrow labelled ‘phonics’ links phonological processor and orthographic processor.]

6.     Orthographic mapping

Orthographic mapping is a cognitive process, not an activity we do.

Orthographic mapping has three essential components:

  1. Automatic letter-sound associations: correctly identifying letter names and the phonemes they represent, for example for single graphemes /b/, /k/, digraphs /sh/, /ch/, /ou/, /ea/, trigraphs /igh/, /dge/, /tch/ and quadgraphs /ough/, /eigh/ and so on.
  2. Highly proficient or advanced phonemic awareness: automatic access to the sounds in spoken words and being able to perform phoneme deletion, manipulation and substitution.
  3. Word study: making the connections between the phonemes/sounds in oral words and graphemes/letters in written words to eventually secure them for future fast retrieval. Word study will have limited success if the learner has weak letter-sound associations and/or weak phonemic awareness.

It is not the same as learning words as ‘sight words’, where words are memorised as logographs (word shapes) without reference to the grapheme-phoneme properties of the word.

After approximately one to four exposures to a written word, the word becomes unitised or instantly familiar (Kilpatrick, 2015). We can say it has been orthographically mapped when we can quickly and effortlessly recognise the word when we see it again and when words that look similar are no longer confused e.g. barn/bran or small/smell.

[Five from Five logo]

7.     Mapping words

Mapping words in the early stages of reading and spelling development involves:

  • identifying the phonemes that you hear
  • indicating how many there are
  • representing those phonemes using single letters.

1. Consonant Vowel Consonant Words:

  • m, a, t: mat

2. Words with three sounds including digraphs (sh, th, ng, ch):

  • sh, o, p: shop
  • sh, ow, n: shown

3. Words with 4 and 5 sounds including consonant clusters (blends such as sp, nt):

  • s, t, o, p: stop
  • g, oa, t, s: goats

8.     Let’s recap

Knowledge of the alphabetic code is the glue that connects the way a word is said, the way it is spelled and its meaning.

All words eventually become ‘sight words’ and are recognised instantly.

Sight recognition develops through the process of attending to the internal structure of words and by the repeated process of blending all through the word. 

All children learn to read in the same way, but with different levels of ease and speed.