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Phoneme Machine Proposes to Resolve Spelling Issues

The Phoneme Machine, a small but powerful Macromedia Flash application, is now available to help parents of children starting to read, children finding reading difficult (including those with speech difficulties, hearing difficulties or dyslexia) and those for whom English is not their first language.

It is designed to give them a good understanding of the 44 sounds (phonemes) and the 120 main spelling choices (graphemes) of English by using moving human lips to demonstrate the pronunciation of hundreds of words frequently found in childrens reading books.

Helping Learners

It has been designed by Alan Davies, British educational psychologist and pioneer of the widely used synthetic phonics programme THRASS (Teaching Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills) who says: “Despite having been a teacher, lecturer, teacher trainer and educational psychologist, I was not confident in helping my own children with the sounds and spelling choices of English. Schools simply dont have the time to explain the intricacies of phonics to parents.

“I therefore designed the Phoneme Machine,” he continued, “to give parents the knowledge and confidence to support the teaching of synthetic phonics, in partnership with their childrens schools. With help from their parents, children learn to read and spell much sooner.”

The THRASS Phoneme Machine is available to parents and schools and costs only £10.00 (plus VAT), which covers its use on any number of computers at the same address. It comes with a free DVD/CD DualDisc, containing over four hours of video of THRASS in action in the UK and Africa, including two one-hour presentations to parents. More information, including an online version and downloadable trial versions for both PC and Mac computers, can be found by clicking here.

Rose Review

The idea for the Phoneme Machine came about after the final report of the Rose Review was released on March 20th, 2006. It recommends that children should be taught using synthetic phonics, an approach that makes explicit the sounds and spelling choices of English, also known as the Alphabetic Principle. The THRASS Phoneme Machine software uses the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) pronunciation system, which are the symbols listed in the pronunciation guide at the front of many English dictionaries.

It is considered to be groundbreaking because hundreds of video clips are used within the one small Adobe Macromedia Flash application and the instant vector graphics and video still look good on large interactive screens. There are also serious discussions surrounding the notion of putting the Phoneme Machine onto the mobile phone.

Alan Davies recommends that children be taught synthetic phonics and analytic phonics, a message well received in thousands of schools worldwide, mostly in the UK, Europe, Australia and, in recent years, Africa. The Botswana Government is to pilot THRASS and, if successful, it will be implemented in all primary and secondary schools.

It will be interesting to see how users of this software perform; watch this space for more news.

Sudakshina Mukherjee

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