What is Orthographic mapping?



Science tells us the most powerful mechanism for eventually accessing words by sight is use of the graphophonemic structure, a process that amalgamates the word’s units into memory (Ehri, 1978).

Orthographic Mapping can be considered the final 'phase' of reading, that takes place without conscious thought. In literacy, orthography refers to writing words with the proper letters in the correct order according to accepted usage. 

Fluent reading requires you to have orthographic recognition; accurate spelling requires you to have orthographic recall. 

Orthographic mapping is the process competent readers use to store written words so that in future encounters with that word or similar letter strings they are able to automatically recall that word or letter string without needing to go through the decoding process again. In this sense, a 'sight word' is one that is instantly recognised. When a word is (phonics) decoded, which can only occur with good phonemic awareness (awareness of the smallest units of spoken sounds in the word) and well-developed 'code knowledge' the student can link to this to other similar word patterns already stored in long-term memory.


Orthographic mapping (OM) involves the formation of letter-sound connections to bond the spellings, pronunciations, and meanings of specific words in memory. It explains how children learn to read words by sight, to spell words from memory, and to acquire vocabulary words from print. This development is portrayed by Ehri (2005a) as a sequence of overlapping phases, each characterised by the predominant type of connection linking spellings of words to their pronunciations in memory. During development, the connections improve in quality and word-learning value, from visual nonalphabetic, to partial alphabetic, to full grapho-phonemic, to consolidated grapho-syllabic and grapho-morphemic. OM is enabled by phonemic awareness and grapheme-phoneme knowledge. Recent findings indicate that OM to support sight word reading is facilitated when beginners are taught about articulatory features of phonemes and when grapheme-phoneme relations are taught with letter-embedded picture mnemonics. Vocabulary learning is facilitated when spellings accompany pronunciations and meanings of new words to activate OM. Teaching students the strategy of pronouncing novel words aloud as they read text silently activates OM and helps them build their vocabularies. Because spelling-sound connections are retained in memory, they impact the processing of phonological constituents and phonological memory for words.

Orthographic Mapping in the Acquisition of Sight Word Reading, Spelling Memory, and Vocabulary Learning

Linnea C. Ehri 

Pages 5-21 | Published online: 26 Sep 2013


A growing body of research (see Kilpatrick, 2015) shows that once typically developing readers become reasonably proficient at phonic decoding they begin to ‘self-teach’.  This self-teaching hypothesis proposes that every time these readers encounter an unfamiliar word, they work out the 'Code Mapping' (an SSP term) by attending to the structure of the word. They then use this new knowledge to establish an orthographic representation of the word in their long-term memory.
In readers with good phonemic awareness the storing of the word in long-term memory occurs after one to four exposures to the word. Within the Speech Sound Pics Approach we take a 'speech to print' approach, and our attention to phonemic awareness can be seen especially well within Step 1 of our pre-school program (Steps to Reading) 

“All of these early studies suggested that phonological awareness training in kindergarten and/or first grade produces a substantial benefit for early reading acquisition” (p. 253).

We are determined to help PREVENT reading and spelling difficulties.

Teachers can use the most efficient instructional practices to not only close the gap for struggling readers but also between research and practice (Kilpatrick, 2015).

Kilpatrick, D.A. (2015).
Essentials of assessing, preventing, and overcoming reading difficulties. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Steps to Reading Program


The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach from Teacherless Teaching Ltd


© 2020  Copyright The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach