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Print to Speech or Speech to Print?

​There has been a lot of debate about which approach is better for reading instruction: Print to Speech or Speech to Print. 

 

Orton Gillingham has long held rank as the gold standard of Print to Speech instruction because it is a very effective method, but Speech to Print has been showing a lot of success lately, too. So which is better, and how does that relate to spelling instruction?

First, what's the difference between the two?

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Print to Speech (Orton Gillingham)

The Print to Speech approach starts with graphemes (letters and letter combinations like b, g, sh, er, tch), and then associates sounds with those graphemes. The graphemes are introduced one at a time, in a very intentional order, to build the ability to produce the correct sound when we see that grapheme in text. This skill is called decoding and is the basis for successful reading, but if a grapheme can make more than one sound, like the letter "a" that can make five different sounds, they will be taught separately over time based on how commonly they are used in English. 

Strengths: Structured repetition and logical skill building order creates a solid language foundation and good growth.

Weaknesses: It takes a very long time to introduce all of the graphemes/sounds and has a lot of rules that can be overwhelming.

Speech to Print (Linguistic Phonics)

The Speech to Print approach starts with phonemes (sounds of language), and then associates graphemes with those sounds. The phonemes are introduced one at a time, in a very intentional order, to build the ability to produce the correct graphemes when we hear that sound. This skill is called encoding and is the basis for successful spelling. The logic is that teaching through this encoding lens (from the direction of how we would spell) allows students to generalize those same patterns into reading when they see the graphemes in text and that it naturally speeds up the instructional pace because there are far fewer phonemes than graphemes in English.

Strengths: Faster introduction pace because all potential spelling options for that sound are addressed at once or in close succession.

Weaknesses: Confusion due to multiple graphemes being associated with a sound at once, and its faster pace is not a good fit for all.

So which is better?

As with most education debates, the answer depends on the child being taught, the instructor, and the program being used because many of the widely-used OG (print to speech) programs already have heavy encoding components in them, so while the introduction of concepts is directed by grapheme, they are also asking the student to explicitly learn the encoding rules that give speech to print its power. Conversely, Speech to Print can be an excellent fit for students who are older or struggling with the pace and rules of OG.

Which approach does the Spelling Lab program align with?

These lessons naturally align with Speech to Print (Linguistic Phonics) because they are spelling specific, so they are focusing through that encoding lens, but to give students structure and much needed repetition, they include over 3,000 practice words and spelling patterns organized in a consistent reference chart rather than using long formulas.  They also move at a faster introduction pace, combine lessons of sounds that are typically easier to master, and mention spelling exceptions along the way that students will be familiar with in speech and print. By teaching only the coding, syllable division, and accent rules specifically needed to spell well, and focusing on patterns that impact many words in English, we simplify encoding. 

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