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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).


Summer offers a chance for families and schools to introduce software that can make a significant difference for students trying to consolidate or enhance what they’ve learned about reading and writing through the long summer months. Many children are not getting adequate practice with phoneme awareness and phonics, and writing and spelling, and that is why students are having such difficulty with reading nationwide.  Our evidence-based software, READ, WRITE & TYPE is a good way to ENRICH and ENHANCE what children learn during the school year by putting it into their summer fun.  Watch out! You may not be able to pull them away once they get started.  And they are learning to type at the same time they are learning to sound-out and spell hundreds of words, phrases and sentences.


George Lakoff, cognitive linguist at UC Berkeley has written eloquently about the power of words to “frame” ideas. He says, “What has been learned from the brain and cognitive sciences is that words are defined by fixed frames we use in thinking……”
We are influenced by the language we use to “frame” ideas. Literacy is a topic that concerns us all, and as we search for better ways to introduce literacy to the young, and modify instruction to implement research findings, it might be interesting to consider how a word like “phoneme” frames our ideas about how to teach alphabet knowledge.
When the essential skill of phoneme awareness is discussed, the word “phoneme” leads one to conclude that a phoneme is a sound—a sound being
something that is heard. (“Phon” from the Greek means “sound” and the suffix “–eme” according to Webster, is a significantly distinctive unit of language structure). What if we used the word “dictemes” instead?
We know from brain, behavioral and cognitive research that awareness of the segments of words (usually referred to as phoneme awareness) is critical for skilled reading. Remembering and manipulating something received by the ears is difficult. That’s why we repeat a telephone number to ourselves (or aloud) as we look for the pencil to write it down. The motor system is helping us remember.
Identifying these word segments and keeping their sequence in mind is easier for the motor (speech) system than for the auditory system. Children can feel that their mouths are moving to make the sound units in words. But we mostly teach them to “listen” for the sounds in words, rather than also showing them how to “feel” themselves making those sounds. It is a lack of the ability to identify and manipulate the individual units in words that is consistently found in children who have difficulty reading. So, if current instruction is not successful in teaching this skill, how might we improve instruction?  more later…..