What is Orthographic Mapping and how is it used to teach children how to read?
Orthographic mapping is an effective and widely-used technique for teaching children how to read. This powerful method helps students recognize and remember the written representation of spoken words, which is essential for reading fluency. It is the mental process that all readers use to become fluent readers and is a core component of the Science of Reading. By understanding the orthographic mapping process, teachers can help their students become successful readers. In this blog post, we will explore what orthographic mapping is and how it can be used in the classroom to support literacy instruction.
What is Orthographic Mapping?
Orthographic mapping is the mental process used to move printed words into long-term memory, allowing for more effective and faster retrieval of the words when reading. It is the most efficient strategy for moving phonics patterns from short-term memory into long-term memory.
Moving words to long-term memory has a significant advantage: when a student sees the same word or one that looks similar, they can apply their prior knowledge to swiftly recognize and decode it. This method is faster than sounding out every letter of an unfamiliar word.
Through orthographic mapping, students employ the oral language processing portion of their brain to link known sounds (phonemes) with a word’s visual letters (spellings). In short, students map the sounds to letters. By connecting these elements together and understanding the meaning behind each association, these words become sight words.
Sight words are any words that can be easily recognized by sight without sounding out a word (not to be confused with high-frequency words). Adult readers have tens of thousands of words that they have orthographically mapped into long-term memory over their lifetime. They can quickly recognize these words just by looking at them. Elementary readers are in the process of mapping words into long-term memory.
What are the three forms of a word used in Orthographic Mapping?
Orthographic mapping connects three forms of words to help readers remember the word. Early readers can connect with the word in three different ways, which aids in committing the word to long-term memory.
- sounds or phonemes
- orthography or spelling, and
Students start with the sounds of a known word, then work on attaching those sounds to letters, and at the same time, match the meaning of a word with the known sounds and learned letters. All three word forms work in concert to help a child map a new word into long-term memory.
How is Orthographic Mapping Used in the Classroom?
Orthographic mapping is a mental process that develops over time. In the classroom, orthographic mapping can be used to support literacy instruction by helping students store words in long-term memory for quicker retrieval.
By understanding this process and using it as part of their instructional strategies, teachers can help their students become successful readers.
Pre-requisite Skills Students need to be successful with Orthographic Mapping
For orthographic mapping to take place, students need these three skills:
- Phonemic awareness. Students need to know how to recognize, think about and change the sounds in words. They need to be able to play with sounds. Click here to read more about phonemic awareness.
- Letter-sound correspondence. Students need to know what letters make which sounds. They need to be able to hear a sound and know what letters or letters make that sound and they need to be able to see a letter and produce the sound that is made by that letter.
- Decoding. Students should be able to recognize each letter’s sound combining them all together to read a word.
Some students learn these skills with very little instruction. Most students need some explicit instruction and practice in phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling instruction. Other students need more systematic routines and much more repetitive practice. Weak readers do not naturally acquire orthographic mapping, generally because of their weak phonemic awareness skills.
Orthographic mapping can help students at any level, but students who have already mapped a word into long-term memory do not need repeated practice.
Here is a Direct Instruction example of how Orthographic Mapping Can be used Used in the Elementary Classroom
Orthographic mapping is a mental process. Teachers can guide students through the process of orthographic mapping, but ultimately students need to take ownership of the process and internalize it.
While the following steps may vary slightly, some core components include oral production, visual representations, sound-spelling manipulations and recognition of word features, and attachment of word meaning.
Here is a simple sequence for orthographically mapping new words:
- Say the word. Have students say the word.
- Define the word.
- Repeat the word. Have students repeat the word.
- Pull apart the word into its individual phonemes. Finger tap the sounds.
- Use manipulatives, Elkonian boxes, or draw dots to map each sound.
- Align the phonemes to the printed letters. Ask students what letter(s) make each sound. Write the letters above the manipulative (box or dot).
- Point out specific phonetic and orthographic features of the word: Notice the sound in each place of the word (beginning, middle, end). Notice any irregular spelling patterns. Talk about word origins, rules, or patterns. Draw a heart above tricky letters.
- Saying each sound slowly with the visual representation and letters.
- Read the word quickly.
- Write the word.
This process leads students to map the pronunciation of a spoken word into its printed spelling.
More information about Orthographic Mapping
We have discussed how orthographic mapping is a very useful tool in helping us understand the cognitive development of children. To dive deeper into this subject, explore the following posts about orthographic mapping.
These blog posts will discuss the different aspects of this topic, from the theoretical perspective to the practical applications of the knowledge we gain from exploring it. They will look at different research studies and their implications for teaching children to read, as well as some tips and tricks for parents who are looking to help their children develop better reading skills.
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