What is a “speech-to-print” approach?

A “speech-to-print” approach is about encoding words (Moats, 2000 and Moats, 2005). To turn a word children already know how to say into a word that they can construct with letters requires their brain’s speech center to separate each sound as they say the word and then link that sound to a letter. They are driving in the opposite direction on their neural highway. Decoding traffic (print-to-speech) is from the back to the front of the brain–linking a visual symbol to a speech sound. (Visual stimuli are processed in the back of the brain; speech production occurs in the front). By contrast, encoding traffic (speech-to-print) is from the front to the back—linking a speech sound to a visual symbol.

With lots of practice, this two-way traffic for decoding and encoding builds super neural highways that speed up processing for word recognition and skilled reading and writing. However, when children are told what a word is without decoding it themselves, or are told how to spell a word without “sounding it out” themselves, they are deprived of this necessary practice. Unless a word is truly “irregular”, early literacy instruction should forego “sight words” and spelling lists, and instead encourage both decoding and encoding in equal measure (Weiser & Mathes, 2011; Weiser, 2012).


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