Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP)

Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) is built on the alphabetic principle. It is a structured, cumulative, multi sensory and evidence-based method of teaching reading whereby students are taught the link between letters and the speech sounds they represent. Our students learn sounds (phonemes) are represented by letters (graphemes). We teach children that phonemes can be blended or ‘synthesised’ to form words. Systematic Synthetic Phonics is a bottom-up approach in that instruction starts not with whole words but with the most basic sound unit, the phoneme. The reading process involves decoding or ‘breaking’ words into separate sounds that are blended together to read an unknown word. At Clayton South Primary School, children learn how blending and segmenting words is a reversible process; if you can read a word, you can spell it! 


"Explicit teaching of alphabetic decoding skills is helpful for all children, harmful for none, and crucial for some." C.Snow and C. Juel (2005) Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Clayton South Primary School introduced Little Learners Love Literacy (LLLL) systematic synthetic phonics in 2020. The teaching staff have completed a 5 day Orton Gillingham MSL course which will have a massive impact on the reading instruction for our students. We are a Science of Reading (SOR) primary school and use structured literacy. We aim to teach ALL our children to read, write and spell confidently. Our program is supported by evidence-based research and includes phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary knowledge, fluency and comprehension. Little Learners Love Literacy is sequenced into seven stages, allowing us to teach children the 44 sounds of the English alphabet in a sequential way.

Free downloads - Lifelong Literacy


At Clayton South Primary School, we introduce a small number of high-frequency words (HFW) that frequently appear in print. They may be regular or irregular, deviating from common phonics patterns (e.g. said, my, is, was, are). HFW are words that children need to 'learn by heart' initially as they cannot decode them just yet. As we move through the Little Learners Love Literacy systematic synthetic phonics program, many of these HFW (which we call heart words) will become decodable as our children learn more alphabetic code. Our early year's staff provide multi-sensory, explicit teaching instruction to assist students to automatically read a handful of tricky HFW (heart words). 


e.g. with the word - said - the tricky part is 'ai' in that we can hear the /s/ and the /d/ 

We would say in this word, the a and i are saying e. Students can sound the s and d part of the word.


Educators use the term “Orthographic Mapping” to describe how written words are etched into our brains long-term memory. Orthographic Mapping is a process competent readers use to store written words in our lexicon (our brain's storage system for letter spellings and patterns) for future use. Orthographic Mapping enables us to recall a word or letter automatically without decoding again. Once a word has been decoded, which requires a good awareness of the sounds in the word and well-developed phonics knowledge, the word or letter string is mapped and stored in long-term memory. Written words are not stored in visual memory, and learning to read is not a visual task. The storage of printed words in long term memory is the process that all successful readers use to become fluent readers.


We do not encourage children to guess the identity of an unknown word based on pictures, context, or the word’s first letter.

Nor do we have children memorise long lists of sight words. Not all phonics approaches are the same!


Why teach using synthetic phonics?

Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols to construct or derive meaning (reading comprehension). Our brains are not hard-wired to read, and it is not a straightforward process of lifting the words of the page or learning by exposure to rich text. Phonemic awareness and systematic synthetic phonics instruction help students use the alphabetic principle to learn relationships between written language letters and spoken language sounds. The English language has complicated spelling patterns or a deep orthography, and this means that many letters can have multiple sounds associated with them. English has 26 letters *but* 44 unique sounds. Our synthetic phonics approach at Clayton South Primary School will teach these 44 sounds from simple to complicated. Using synthetic phonics gives children the skills to crack the code!


Below are a couple of excellent clips by Alison Clarke, a well known Melbourne Speech Pathologist.


Preventing literacy failure and shifting the whole Bell Curve up


Shared by Alison Clarke,


Sound out words, don't memorise and guess!

Shared by Alison Clarke,


Is My Kid Learning How to Read? Part 1: Purple Challenge


Is My Kid Learning How to Read? Part 2: Our Friend “Ur”



1. Decodable Readers and 2. Sound Wall - Phoneme with Mouth Articulation Pictures