Embedded picture mnemonics

(5 customer reviews)


New, improved Embedded Picture Mnemonics in A4 poster size, with larger pictures and some new ones. Download the Australian/UK English version or the US English version (now with ‘e’ as in ‘echo’), 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. i, sh, ou, air) integrated into a picture representing a word containing that sound (e.g. insect, shells, cloud, hair). This helps children learn sound-letter relationships more easily than simply pairing letters with pictures.

These embedded picture mnemonics can be used for group 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, read relevant research for yourself here, here, here and here, or try this 2021 blog by US expert Timothy Shanahan.

You can use these posters in whole class/group word-building sequences/word chains of the type seen here using the smaller, flashcard size with one student:

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), to help make the relationship between ‘short’ and ‘long’ vowels clear (as seen in words like volcano-volcanic, athlete-athletic, child-children, episode-episodic, introduce-introduction).

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). There are two sets – one for speakers of Australian and British (non-rhotic) English and one for speakers of American (rhotic) English. The American English set now contains ‘e as in echo’ instead of ‘e as in egg’. If you/your learners 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 get three chances 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 also help keep the Spelfabet website going.

Last updated 3 January 2022.

5 reviews for Embedded picture mnemonics

  1. Laura Hancock (verified owner)

    A little disappointed, I have not been able to save the PDF on my computer and have a apparently used my ‘download limit’ … I was not aware or advised that it had a limit.
    I was really looking forward using this resource with intervention groups but now I am unable to use a product I paid for.

    • alison

      Hi Laura, I will just email you the file. Most electronic resources have a download limit as websites can’t afford to have people using their site as free file storage. Thanks for letting me know you had a problem, always happy to sort these things out. Alison

  2. Manuela Freeman (verified owner)

    This Embedded Picture Mnemonic is amazing! I have it right behind my teaching table to it’s easy to see and use. My tiniest students, on the day they started school, are able to look at our wall and figure out that ‘s is for snake’. My slightly older students regularly use it while learning the alphabet and trying to spell a word. My older students use it as a reminder for their vowel sounds and my oldest use it to learn their digraphs. This Mnemonics has been one of the most effective tools I’ve used this year. Thank you for creating it!

  3. Laura MacGrath (verified owner)

    These are excellent, thanks so much for making an affordable set of these.

    • alison

      Thanks for the nice feedback! Alison

  4. Nicola Phillips (verified owner)

    Thank you so much for creating this resource and making it so affordable (the same price as a glass of wine in a restaurant)! Such a valuable resource in the classroom.

    • alison

      Thanks for the lovely feedback! Alison

  5. Eldon Jenkin (verified owner)

    These are incredibly helpful embedded mnemonics and I use them in a variety of ways in my classroom. Thank you Alison! I give these as many stars as I can! I do have a quick question regarding the /ay/ grapheme which isn’t included. Was this just because there was no easy mnemonic for /ay/?

    • alison (verified owner)

      Hi Eldon, thanks for the lovely feedback, much appreciated. The spelling ‘ay’ as in ‘day’ is an alternative spelling for the a…e in ‘ape’, so when you’re making your Sound Wall you’d just add a list of ‘ay’ words under ‘a…e’ as in ‘ape’, along with some ai as in rain words and other words containing this sound. The mnemonics are just to help little kids learn the basic sound-letter relationships and then provide headings for a Sound Wall. You don’t need 160 or 180 or whatever embedded picture mnemonics, by the time kids recognise the alphabet and know there are more sounds than letters, they are starting to become obsolete. All the best, Alison

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