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Free download: My Reading and Word Journal

Here’s a free booklet for use in documenting early reading progress and giving credit where it’s due, now many parents with young children are home helping flatten the COVID-19 curve.

Download and print our new Spelfabet My Reading and Word Journal on A4 paper, fold and staple it, and use it to document children’s reading, in two vital categories:

1. Books your child reads. These should mainly contain the spelling patterns they’ve been taught (decodable books, there are quite a few free or heavily discounted ones available now). Reading such books builds word identification skills, which in turn build reading fluency.

2. Books you read aloud to your child. These might be stories, books about animals, places, the universe, anything that interests your child but is currently too hard for them to read themselves. This type of reading builds vocabulary and comprehension, and shows kids that reading is awesome. Continue reading

Gin and phonics with John Walker

John Walker of Sounds-Write in the UK and I had a lovely time chatting about phonics at the pub last night. He is such an enthusiast for getting kids off to a great reading and writing start by helping them get words on and off the page quickly and automatically.

In the interests of flattening the COVID19 curve, most registrants for this free session watched online, not in person. I didn’t know Facebook Live was portrait format only, not landscape, so the Facebook video was sideways (oops, sorry). The other camera was right-way-up, so here’s its video, if you missed it and would like to watch.

INVESTed – amazing value conference in Gippsland

I’m madly reading up on phonological awareness so I can say interesting things about it at the InvestEd Inverloch conference on Saturday 29th February (an extra day, hooray for leap years). The full title of this conference is INVESTed: Sharing Best Practices, Supporting All Students, and it will be at the RACV Inverloch Resort by the beach in South Gippsland.

Like last year’s Sharing Best Practice conferences in Melbourne and Sydney, all the organisers and speakers are volunteers, to keep registration costs low at $88 concession/$99 full. A whole day of high-quality PD for under $100! TV advertisers would call it mad ape bonkers.

Here’s a summary of the agenda, more details are here:

  • 8.30 Registrations
  • 9.00 Welcome, Welcome To Country
  • 9.10am Getting your school moving & improving through the power of instructional leadership with Stephen Dinham, Emeritus Professor, Melbourne University Graduate School of Education.
  • 10.00am: Three options:
    • Practical phonological awareness with me, Alison Clarke, mere Speech Pathologist.
    • Decodable and predictable texts reflect theories about how to teach reading with Associate Professor Tanya Serry, who now (excitingly) works at the La Trobe University School of Education.
    • Orton-Gillingham Math(s!) with Ron Yoshimoto, Orton Gillingham International Trainer.
  • 11.10: Three options:
    • Sharing what works: the common elements of evidence-informed instruction with Steven Capp, Principal of Bentleigh West PS.
    • Better problem-solving with Catherine Scott, Psychologist, education academic and networker-organiser extraordinaire.
    • Evidence-based mathematics instruction: from concrete to pictorial to abstract with Dave Morkunas, high-performance Teacher at Bentleigh West PS (watch him in action here).
  • 12.00 noon: Three options:
  • 12.45pm: Delicious lunch.
  • 1.15pm: Three options:
  • 2.05pm: Three options:
  • 2.50pm: Cognitive Load Theory and learning disorders: is there a connection? With Mandy Nayton, Psychologist, AUSPELD President and DSF WA CEO.
  • 3:55 Thanks and close.
  • 4.00pm Drinks and networking in the groovy-sounding Zenith Lounge.

I am absolutely kicking myself that I can’t stay for the afternoon, as my tiny primary school at the other end of the state is having its 150th celebrations that night.

Registrations for INVESTed close on 20th February, and if you’d like to make it part of a weekend at the beach, please book your accommodation soon, before it fills up. You might also like to stay on for two days of multisensory math(s) with Ron Yoshimoto. Ron will also be presenting courses on Orton Gillingham Basic in the week of 2-6 March and Orton-Gillingham Advanced (morphology) on Saturday 7th March (for which the Basic course is a prerequisite).

Finally, a huge THANKYOU and massive credit to Kerry Harvey, Catherine Scott and the other South Gippsland Learning Differences volunteer organisers.

Embedded picture mnemonics: flashcard size

I’ve had many requests for a flashcard-sized version of our Embedded Picture Mnemonics, so (finally, sorry, I was moving house) here they are.

Embedded picture mnemonics are drawings of letters embedded in a picture of something with a name that contains that sound. The classic example is a snake in the shape of a letter S.

Mentally linking two abstract concepts (a speech sound and its letter/spelling) to the point where one automatically evokes the other is hard work, and typically requires hundreds of repetitions. Continue reading

January intensive reading/spelling groups in North Fitzroy

Here in Melbourne’s inner north, we plan to run some phonemic awareness and phonics/reading and spelling small groups in the weeks commencing 13th and 20th January 2020 (the last two weeks of our school holidays).

The groups will be for children in their first three years of schooling. Each will run for one hour per day for a full week, plus children will be given some activities to do at home each day.

The sessions will be held at the Spelfabet office in North Fitzroy (Suite 3, 430 Rae St), and led by Alison Clarke with support from the other Spelfabet speech pathologists, Caitlin Stephenson, Tessa Weadman and Adrianna Galioto.

Children will be expected to attend all five sessions in the week of their group. Each group will include a maximum of six children, and a ratio of not more than three children per therapist, so will be quite intensive. The cost of the groups will be $450 per child for the five sessions. Many private health insurance companies provide rebates for group therapy, but Medicare care plans only apply to individual sessions.

Times will be as follows:

  • 9:00am-10:00am targeting children who have done a year of schooling, but are still struggling to blend and segment and thus can’t reliably read or spell words with two or three sounds and simple spellings like “at”, “fun” and “hop”.
  • 11.00-12.00am targeting children going into Grade 1 or 2 who can blend and segment a little, and reliably read and spell two and three-sound words like “at”, “fun” and “hop”, but struggle with words with four or five sounds like “jump”, “stop” and “frog”, and with words containing consonant digraphs like “sh”, “ch”, “th”, “ck”, “ng” and “wh”.

Children who are not already on our caseload will need to come in for an initial assessment beforehand, so that we can be sure they are a good fit for one of the groups.

Please email Tessa on if you would like to find out more about these holiday groups and/or express interest in bringing a child to one of them.

If you’re already using my free workbook, here’s the next one

If you’re one of the over 3000 people who have downloaded my free Letters and Sounds Phase 2 workbook since the start of the year, your learner(s) might have finished it by now, and you might want another one.

You’re in luck. I’ve finally finished the Phase 3 book, which teaches at least one spelling for each of the remaining sounds of English.

It’s not free like the first one, but at AUD$10 plus GST it’s super-cheap for a printable, colour workbook of 101 pages. Make as many copies as you need.

The aim of these books is to help people try explicitly and systematically teaching young kids about the sounds of speech and how we write them, even if they don’t have many suitable resources, or much cash to buy them.

I thought teachers could print the workbooks on school photocopiers, make them up using the school laminator (for the moveable alphabet included with suggested sequences) and binding machine, and use them with the super-cheap leaflet-size Pocket Rocket decodable books. That would let them start using a sound-to-print teaching approach on a shoestring.

Book sized Pocket Rockets are also now available, and other decodable books which follow the same teaching sequence as this workbook include the Junior Learning Phase 3 Fiction and Nonfiction books, and the Oxford Project X Hero Academy books. Many other teaching resources follow this sequence too, just google “Letters and Sounds Phase 3” to find them.

I’m pretty sure that once teachers try this teaching approach, they’ll soon be hooked on the success it brings, find it makes complete sense, and want to learn more and invest in more polished and extensive resources. But the first step is getting them to dip their toes in the explicit, systematic synthetic phonics water, and often finances are a barrier.

I hope you like the Phase 3 workbook, find it helps kids understand how sounds and letters work, and that it complements all the other good language and literacy things you’re doubtless doing, like reading lots of stories aloud.

Budget embedded picture mnemonics

Early years teachers around Australia are this week starting to set up their classrooms for the new school year. Many are about to set up alphabet friezes and word walls.

I’m hoping that my new, cheap-and-cheerful embedded picture mnemonics ($10 plus GST) will encourage and help them to instead set up sound friezes or sound walls.

Early last year I commissioned talented, tolerant, patient Melbourne illustrator Cat MacInnes to turn my vague ideas into 46 cute, colour pictures you can print to help kids learn sound-letter relationships. They’re her copyright, so I have a limited number available (get in quick!).

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