New to SP and working on open curriculum project

This forum has been created to provide a non-challenging environment for teachers and parents new to using synthetic phonics.

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Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Oct 18, 2009 8:49 am
Location: WA state, USA

New to SP and working on open curriculum project

Post by Kyther » Sun Oct 18, 2009 7:21 pm

(Before I begin, I want to say that I hope this isn't considered politics--if I should have posted this in another forum/section, please let me know.)

I guess the first thing I should do is introduce myself. I'm Destiny, and I hail from the West coast of the US (Washington State). Before the first of September, I actually had never heard of synthetic phonics in my life. I had just graduated with a diploma in elementary education, and my training was a bit haphazard. They kind of taught us a mix of analytic phonics and whole language, all jumbled up together. My textbook disapproved of pure phonics and pure whole language, plus "balanced reading", and rather seemed to encourage an eclectic mix of both, a "whatever works" type of scheme. (Nowhere in there was anything resembling synthetic phonics even mentioned.) I didn't feel like I really knew how to teach children to read, and I didn't have certification yet nor a teaching job (I graduated in a different state than I wanted to teach in, and those particular ones didn't reciprocate certification, plus I graduated in August, a bad time to graduate if I wanted a job for September).

So I went to the library and looked for some books that I could read to learn more/keep up with things in education. One of the books I found happened to be by Diane McGuinness--Why Our Children Can't Read. I couldn't put it down. For the first time in my life, I could see HOW I read (I had figured out how to read at about 4 from my parents reading to me, and could decode just about anything, but I didn't know how to explain how I read because I did it as such an instinctive level). It was like all my intuition about how I read was enumerated in such precision. Immediately I wanted to teach that particular method. I found several Channel 4 programs that mentioned SP online and watched them, trying to pick up everything I can. Mainly I've followed link to link, and that's how I stumbled across this site.

At about the same time, I got involved in a separate project. I'm a big supporter of open source programs and the FOSS movement (Free and Open Source Software). I had looked around the 'net and couldn't find a single site for education that was free of copyright, or involved some sort of copyright license that preserved more rights for users rather than taking them away. I got talking to some people on IRC, and now three of us have started a project that is a bit small for now, but should grow considerably over time. We hope to make it the Sourceforge of education (Sourceforge, if you haven't heard of it, is a site for open source programs only, where they host thousands of such projects, for everything from office suites to Internet browsers to font managers to games and more). We're calling it Frog and Owl, Frog for the open tools side (programs, fonts, and other such things that can be used in education), and Owl for the open content side (textbooks, workbooks, and all other sorts of educational materials). The website is, though we don't have much there yet (project description is about all, though we're hoping to get our bios up soon and then work on functionality for hosting/linking to material with the right sorts of licenses). The benefit of material under Creative Commons licenses like this is that it allows other people to freely copy, share, and even change and re-release (under the right licenses), and this allows material to travel much further and reach far more people than it would if everyone had to pay certain amounts for it.

This crossed with the SP that I discovered (I didn't even know what it was called until I tried to look up Diane McGuinness to find out more, and her Wikipedia entry named the method). My goal now is to create (probably with a good deal of help, since I'm only beginning to learn all I can about SP) an open curriculum for synthetic phonics, with all the materials and everything. I feel that with a method this crucial to learning to read properly, and reading being such a foundation, there needs to be a program that is accessible to anyone with an Internet connection and the ability to print materials. The real problem is that I don't know SP well enough myself. I've got the gist of the outline of the program, but purchasing a program or two to look through is out of the question--I don't have the money. I also don't want to replicate an existing program and violate some copyright somewhere. The whole point of this is to create something that won't be tied up in someone else's copyright. To this end, I'm asking if anyone would be willing to help me figure out how to structure this. I think I can eventually purchase publishing rights to a very good set of fonts that might allow me to publish under one of the Creative Commons licenses that we're using in the project (probably ShareAlike-NoDerivatives), so I'll be able to use a good handwriting font. The handwriting style I'm leaning towards is Getty-Dubay Italic, because an italic style is easier for children to learn to write (yet without the trickiness of pure cursive, which most children aren't ready for at 5/6 years old), and GDI has only one big change in capital and lowercase each from manuscript to cursive. But still I'm stumped in things like how to introduce each sound--actions and alliteration or rhymes to remember what they are, or pictures with the graphemes seem to be common, but I'm afraid of poking too much into another curriculum for fear of borrowing too much and getting into trouble for violating copyright. What do you suggest I do to learn more about SP, and to put together things for this program? Although Frog and Owl is being put together internationally (one member is in Germany), I'm definitely an American and the accent and pronunciation I'll be using for all this is a general US variety.

Also, I may be in a position to do a bit of teaching of SP starting next Friday. I work part-time (one day a week) at a Christian school (they have preschool through 8th grade). In the mornings, I help out with the preschool, which has children 3-5 years old. Some of the five-year-olds are quite ready to do a little learning academically, and kindergarten seems to focus a lot on sight words (I assisted there a couple days and was horrified at how little true phonics they were getting--and I could see the results in some students who were already dreading reading). The least I could do is give them a bit of the right foundation in the approach to reading before they pass on to that classroom (and maybe in the process get some people to pay attention if they really learn), and the head teacher in preschool is quite in favor of me trying it. So I'll have two or three children one day a week for probably a half hour, 45 minutes or so then. I'm not sure I'll be able to teach them all that much with so little time and so much time in between lessons, but if they can get a few basic GPCs down and do a bit of basic blending and segmenting by the end of the year, I'd be happy. I'm trying to figure out what exactly I'll do with them, so ideas there too would be helpful.

If you've got suggestions, you may need to e-mail me at The rules on this board state that everything you say here is copyrighted here and I don't want to violate something by using it. I just want to create a curriculum that can be used anywhere and purchased for just about the cost of printing it all out, or downloaded and printed out individually by teachers or institutions. (I can see this being of real benefit in 3rd World countries where it costs an immense amount to import curriculum from the US yet the Internet and printers are accessible.) I don't see it as replacing anyone else's curriculum, necessarily--many schools would rather just buy one pre-packaged professionally, and with these sorts of things, it depends a lot on accents how it's taught and done. But I think there's a niche for an open curriculum that hasn't been filled yet, and I hope I can help fill it.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Oct 18, 2009 10:20 pm

Welcome to the UK RRF message forum, Destiny. I am really pleased that you have recognised the value of Diane McGuinness's book and the value of synthetic phonics. We are very pleased to have you join us with our work of promoting the synthetic phonics teaching principles!

I'm very sympathetic with your ideas and have gone a little distance myself in promoting this method online.

You will find a free information book, free start-up Alphabetic Code Overview Charts and some free start-up resources in 'unit 1' via the homepage of .

You will also find there some video clips focusing a little bit on the teaching principles which I, too, hope will help people across the world.

I have been working cooperatively with a teacher-trainer in Canada and one of our RRFers in America to make some small changes to my Alphabetic Code Overview Charts so that they are suitable for the North American and Canadian accents. They will be uploaded shortly onto the free unit 1 webpage. Also, I am hoping Jennie will be able to provide us with her 'saying the sounds' in her American accent to provide a video clip on the website.

In addition, you will find a message forum and some free email tutorials on the website which might help you to gain an even greater understanding of this type of teaching and the various related issues - for example, re the pros and cons of various mnemonic systems and how to deal with the various accents generally.

All the best,


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Location: Australia

Post by Katrina » Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:12 pm

Have you tried and They are American and all the resources are free.

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Location: USA

Post by cartwheel » Mon Oct 26, 2009 4:11 pm


Welcome from a fellow American. Diane McGuinness' book has been eye-opening for many. I will try to contact you via a private message. The U.S. can use as many teachers as possible who are knowledgeable about synthetic phonics. And I too think that the Internet will likely prove to be the best way to disseminate accurate information about the alphabetic code and reading instruction. Please keep us informed of your progress.


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