What is See the Sound / Visual Phonics?

See the Sound/Visual Phonics (STS/VP) is a system of unique hand movements and symbols that represent the sounds of a language without the ambiguity of orthography. Included are the sounds commonly referred to as vowels, consonants, diphthongs, and digraphs. It is a somewhat simplified, visual, and kinesthetic version of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

In English, for example, there is not a consistent one-to-one correspondence between the letters in a word and the sounds those letters are supposed to represent. Consider the words dough, through, thought, tough. In each case the ough stands for a completely different sound and in STS/VP are represented by a different symbol.

Many beginning readers have no real problem with these ambiguities, but for others the “untrustworthiness” of spelling becomes a life-long handicap. It’s so confusing for them that they never learn to decode well. They spend years learning to read without ever discovering the joy of reading. Many get frustrated, bored and end up giving up on reading entirely.

See the Sound/Visual Phonics is a way to break this cycle. Students are taught a unique hand movement for each sound. The hand movement is associated in some way with the production of the sound. For example, the hand movement for the sound that t represents in the word cat is made by flicking the forefinger off the thumb at the same time the tongue “flicks” off the top of the mouth. The written symbol is a simplified picture of the hand movement. Most students remember the hand movement and then look at their hand to write the symbol. This is the written symbol for the sound that t represents in the word cat.

Click on the video clips below to see the sounds in the word cat.

Once beginning readers have learned some of the symbols and hand movements, they can begin to decode words using the symbols as a crutch. As they read a word, they make the hand movements to help them blend the individual sounds into the word.

All the symbols can be used at first and then reduced to only those letter combinations that are confusing, and finally dropped altogether as they learn to recognize the word. Consider the four words we mentioned in the beginning.

The Visual Phonics symbols make it very easy to teach the differences in sound and spelling. Because the sounds and written symbols are perfectly consistent, many readers internalize the standard spelling rules without being taught them directly. This consistency speeds up their reading and improves their comprehension.

Who can benefit from using See the Sound / Visual Phonics?

  • Students who read below grade level in regular education settings, or in special service programs.
  • Children in early education programs, also “at risk readers.”
  • Special education students and students with disabilities.
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing students (DHH), students with hearing loss at all levels.
  • English Language Learners (ELL), students learning English as a second language.
  • Adults who are not literate or read below an 8th grade level.

How does See the Sound / Visual Phonics help?

  • See the Sound/Visual Phonics can be the first step to reading; sound (not the alphabet) is the root of language. All languages are based on sound and their written forms should, but often do not, reflect those sounds. Languages can be very confusing; many people struggle when trying to learn them. See the Sound/Visual Phonics is a good crutch for those that struggle.
  • See the Sound/Visual Phonics is easy to use. Once a student has learned it, he has a powerful tool to help him learn basic literacy and communication skills. Most beginning readers learn it more quickly than other methods. Many “remedial” readers can learn it in a few weeks.
  • See the Sound/Visual Phonics helps students pronounce and understand words so quickly that comprehension, not decoding, becomes the natural focus of reading. With
    Visual Phonics symbols underneath the words, a student can quickly read materials that match his spoken vocabulary and not his “decoding skills.” For example dough is not any harder to read than go but potentially much more interesting
  • See the Sound/Visual Phonics is very cost effective because it can be used in conjunction with almost any other good language. It can also stand alone, with an excellent, creative teacher.
  • See the Sound/Visual Phonics is like a light going on that shows how spoken language relates to written language. It is an approach to language that opens the door of sound for all those who need a little extra help.