Embedded picture mnemonics – flashcard size

(1 customer review)


New, improved Embedded Picture Mnemonics in flashcard size, four to an A4 page. Download the Australian/UK English version or the US English version, or both if your accent is from elsewhere and you need to mix and match.

These sets of colourful, fun illustrations represent all the speech sounds of English and include all the letters. Each has a letter or spelling (e.g. e, sh, ou, air) integrated into a picture representing a word containing that sound (e.g. egg, shells, cloud, hair). Research has shown this helps children learn sound-letter relationships more easily.

These embedded picture mnemonics can be used for word chain activities, to build classroom Sound Walls with children, and in many other ways.

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When teaching children sound-letter relationships, integrating letter shapes into relevant pictures has been shown to be more effective than just associating letters with a relevant picture, as occurs in typical alphabet friezes/charts. The embedded picture mnemonic on the right below is thus more likely to help learners remember the letter C and the main sound it represents than the image on the left.

You can watch US expert Dr David Kilpatrick explaining this at 18:40 on the video clock here, read about it on p272 of his excellent, accessible book, or read relevant research for yourself here, here, here and here.

You can use these cards in word-building sequences/word chains, as seen here:

Consonants in the set are grouped in voiced-voiceless pairs by sound type (stops, nasals, fricatives, glides, liquids). Keeping voiced-voiceless pairs together helps you explain why they sometimes use each other’s spellings e.g. the /v/ in ‘of’, the /z/ in ‘is’, and the /s/ in ‘pretzel’.

‘Short’ vowel sounds in the set are followed by ‘long’ vowels, and finally the ‘r-controlled’ and other vowels. All the ‘long’ vowels are now in a consistent format (ae, ee, ie, oe, ue). Consonant sounds are in Portrait format, and vowel sounds are in Landscape format, to help children understand the difference.

These embedded picture mnemonics can be used to build Sound Walls, which are more useful for teaching children the logic of our writing system than alphabet friezes/charts or Word Walls. They explicitly show that English has many more speech sounds than letters, that many sounds are spelt with letter combinations, and that one spelling can represent more than one sound e.g. the spelling ‘oo’ can represent two different vowels in words like ‘food’ and ‘look’.

Sound Walls are gradually co-constructed with children, refreshing words as new vocabulary is learnt. Working from sound to print helps you to give simple, clear, truthful explanations about how English spelling works, and allows you to adjust your teaching to your learners’ accent(s).

Once children are aware of a sound and know one of its spellings, other ways it can be spelt can be added to the relevant mnemonic in groups, like this:


These mnemonics were devised with a talented, tolerant, patient, Melbourne illustrator called Cat MacInnes (www.catmacinnes.com). As of April 2021, there are two sets – one for speakers of Australian and British (non-rhotic) English and one for speakers of American (rhotic) English. If you have another accent, download both sets and use the mnemonics that work best for you.

Please save the file(s) you need to your computer (you have more than one chance to do this, in case of computer crashes, power outages etc), and then colour print what you need for your students. The price of the mnemonics assumes that they will be bought by a teacher or therapist for use with their class/students. If you’d like to use them in several classrooms, or several people want to use them, please buy one copy for each classroom/full-timer. Artists should be paid properly for their work, and their sales help keep the Spelfabet website going.

If you’ve already bought the original version of these cards, go to My Account and log back into the website using your email address and the password you created, and you’ll be able to upgrade to the new mnemonics at no extra cost.

Last updated 14 April 2021.

1 review for Embedded picture mnemonics – flashcard size

  1. Alicia Burchell (verified owner)

    I love these!! I am only giving four stars though because I’m disappointed that so many vowel teams are missing. I wish there was one for igh, aw, ai, ay, oi, oy, au, etc. ow, ou, ey, ew, ei, and ui might be nice too.

    I also don’t understand the ae/ape one. I feel like I’m missing something. Shouldn’t it be a_e so that students understand that there is a consonant in between the two vowels?

    • alison (verified owner)

      Hi Alicia, these Embedded Picture Mnemonics are meant to represent PHONEMES not graphemes. The idea is to teach one spelling for each phoneme, and then use these as the headings for a Sound Wall, and write lists of words with other spellings under each. There are additional mnemonics for the extra letters c, q and x which are already represented by k and s, but I’m not trying to represent every grapheme. I had ‘ai’ as in rain representing /ae/ as in ‘ape’ but since it’s not the most common spelling and I wanted a picture that had this sound at the start of a word, ‘ape’ ended up being the best option, and yes it’s a little tricky because it’s a split spelling, but it’s taught as such in approaches like Sounds Write and Phonographix, so I don’t think it’s a big problem. You don’t need a mnemonic for every grapheme, once kids are recognising the letters they can cope with the alternate spellings just represented by the letters. Extra mnemonics to me would seem to just be extra cognitive load. All the best, Alison.

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