I’m Alison Clarke, and have been a Speech Pathologist since 1988. I also have a Masters in Applied Linguistics and a Cambridge RSA English teaching certificate.
I’ve worked for the Victorian Education Department, Yooralla, SCOPE, a University in Mexico, a hospital in London, the Royal Children’s Hospital Autism Assessment Team, Lewis and Lewis, and as a contractor in mainstream and specialist schools.
I started my private practice in Footscray in 2000, moved it to Clifton Hill in 2012, and then to North Fitzroy in September 2018. I was 2015-16 Vice President of Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA), and have also worked as an administrator, and been a City Councillor and Mayor. I received LDA’s 2018 Mona Tobias Award.
Children with speech and language difficulties often struggle with reading and spelling. Learning to read and spell helps with listening and speaking, so I did lots of professional development to make sure I knew how to build literacy skills. Since then, children, teenagers and a few adults with spelling and/or reading difficulties have become my main client group.
The use of explicit, systematic linguistic/synthetic phonics in the early years of school would prevent many literacy difficulties, and improve everyone’s spelling, and thus also boost teacher success and satisfaction. I’m keen to help parents, teachers and others incorporate this evidence-based approach into high-quality initial instruction and early intervention, while also working on vocabulary, comprehension and fluency.
1. To provide helpful, accessible, Australian information for anyone who wants to help a beginning or struggling reader/speller with:
- Discerning and manipulating sounds in words (phonemic awareness), and/or
- Learning the complicated way English sounds are represented by letters/groups of letters (graphemes), and/or
- Learning how longer words are often made up of meaningful word parts spelt in patterned ways (morphemes).
To promote high-quality research information relevant to teaching reading and spelling, and publicise teaching resources which reflect/are based on this information.
2. To encourage schools to adopt a Response To Intervention (RTI) approach to ensure all children without significant intellectual disabilities learn to read and spell well before the school system switches over from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”.
RTI usually has three phases. First, excellent, explicit, systematic, linguistic/synthetic phonics classroom instruction, delivered by teachers who know the sound system (phonology), spelling patterns (orthography) and word structure (morphology) of English, and also teach vocabulary, comprehension and fluency. Second, intensive small group work for the approximately one in five children who need some extra help/practice. Finally, intensive, individual, expert help for the small number of children who still struggle (children with Specific Learning Disabilities or dyslexia/dysgraphia).
3. To make my Spelfabet literacy-teaching materials publicly available, and promote my assessment and therapy services and workshops. Income from these make it possible to maintain this website.
Many mainstream phonics materials are poorly designed, and show a weak understanding of the sounds and spellings of English, and how we learn. Many high-quality synthetic phonics materials available are too “teddy-bearish” for use with older learners, because they’re designed for five and six-year-olds.
I devised the Spelfabet materials because I needed materials to use with older children and teenagers which were affordable, phonetically accurate, easy for aides and parents to use, progressing in tiny, errorless-learning steps and with Australian English grammar, vocabulary and spelling. I also wanted something easy to carry on a USB stick, so that I could quickly print, laminate and bind materials at school. Materials are pdf downloads from this website’s shop.
Your feedback and suggestions
I’d love to hear your feedback, suggestions or questions on my materials or website. Any researchers who’d like to subject my materials to scientifically rigorous testing would have my full and enthusiastic support.