Phonic Faces were developed by me for my grandson when he was in kindergarten and was failing to learn the alphabetic principle. Like most children who struggle with reading, he had very poor phonemic awareness and was clueless when he was told "A is for apple" because to him, apples made no sound. By November of the school year we were nowhere despite tracing in the sand and other multisensory activities. But I kept watching him desperately look at the pictures associated with the letters as he tried to figure out what they had to do with sounds. So I used my speech pathology background to create new pictures that depicted a direct link between the letter and the sound (as opposed to the indirect "a" is for "apple" but not a real apple but the word "apple" in the abstract, and not the whole word but rather ignore everything about the word except the first sound that must be segmented from the word. Then the sound must be held in memory and associated with a completely arbitrary visual squiggle). For children with poor phonemic awareness, the alphabetic principle is a code nearly impossible to discover.

The new pictures showed "kid" faces with the letters drawn in the mouths of the faces producing the sounds. The association is one direct step: "m" really does look like the cupid's bow of the lips, "l" really does look like a tongue stretching to the top of the mouth, and "p" really does look like the top lip popping out a puff of air /p/ (while the bottom lip drawn as "b" bounces downward making a noisy /b/). It was fascinating how each letter actually LOOKS like the associated speech sound movement. Now all Austin had to do was put his mouth in the same position as the faces and he could see, feel, and hear the sound being produced. He and the other 3 children in my group now learned their letter sounds and began blending and had mastered the alphabet within a few weeks. We taught short vowels (the "babies" like "a" who cries "aaaaah") but by first grade we needed long vowels so the "adults" were born (Mrs. A who is happy and says "ay" as in good day, yea, A-ok.)" The stories and visuals grew as we had to master the phonics rules, like silencing Mr. E with a zipper.

We have conducted a series of studies and the faces work well for many populations of kids, from typical toddlers to preK and K classrooms, first graders learning phonics, and a wide range of kids with disabilities (dyslexia, autism, speech and language disorders, cerebral palsy and others who benefit from a concrete, visual way of learning abstract auditory concepts). They are equally effective as prompts for speech sound production when children have articulation errors. Search Phonic Faces on YouTube to see Phonic Faces and other EleMentory materials helping children discover principles of letters and sounds with almost immediate results. I am excited to share our materials that Mentor learning.

Jan Norris

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Phonic Rules, Common Core State StandardsPhonic Rules, Common Core State StandardsBecause Phonic Faces have different faces for long vowels, short vowels, vowel dipthongs, consonants, and consonant digraphs, it is easy to show how phonics rules work. Do you see 2 "baby vowels" (short vowels) together in a word? Bring in the grown-up (long vowel) to take care of both of them. Is "Mr. E" at the end of a word complaining about the noisy baby in his word? Silence him by trading the baby for the adult long vowel sound. Phonic Faces SHOW children how the vowel and consonant rules work using easy to remember explanations that make sense to children.

Phonic Faces Alphabet-StorybooksPhonic Faces Alphabet-Storybooks