Sunday, March 20, 2022

Word mapping is a concept that you have most likely come across over the past few months. It has been popularized by the Science of Reading but is definitely not a new concept. Word mapping, also known as phoneme-grapheme mapping, is an instructional activity where students link the 'sound' part of a word to the 'letter' part of a word.

Word mapping ties in with a reading theory known as 'orthographic mapping'. In a nutshell, orthographic mapping is 'the mental process we use to permanently store words for immediate, effortless retrieval. It is the process we use to take an unfamiliar printed word and turn it into an immediately recognizable word' (Kilpatrick, 2015). There are many wonderful, free resources out there that describe the theory behind orthographic mapping, so I won't bore you with facts, diagrams or lengthy explanations. Instead, I'll use this space to show you how word mapping works, and how you can implement it in your classroom. If you would like to learn more about orthographic mapping, I highly suggest researching David Kilpatrick and his associated texts.

What is word mapping?

Each word has 3 components - its sounds (phonemes), its letters (graphemes) and its meaning. Word mapping is an instructional tactic that you can use to help your students connect the sounds (phonemes) to the letters (graphemes) in a word.

To simplify the process of word mapping, here are the steps:

1. The student says the name of the word/picture aloud and meaning is ascertained.

2. The student orally breaks down the sounds in a word into phonemes by tapping or using manipulatives.

3. The student represents the phonemes with letters or letter combinations (graphemes).

4. The student reads the entire word aloud.

The word mapping process is different to decoding because students begin with a whole word that they break up, rather than a combination of letters that they must combine to form a word. It is the process of breaking words up and focusing on the phonemes/graphemes that helps to improve word recognition and store it into long term memory.

Which parts of a word stay together as one phoneme/grapheme?

Since releasing my Science of Reading Bundle, the most common question I've been asked is which parts of a word stay together and which are split into separate phonemes/graphemes. Many teachers are used to splitting words into letters or rimes. For example, c/at or f/e/e/t. The word mapping approach has students split letters into individual phonemes or sounds. This means that cat would be split into c/a/t and feet would be split into f/ee/t. The 'ee' in feet makes one sound so it's a separate phoneme/grapheme. I also wanted to note that blends are separate letters and not treated as a single sound as you can still hear the individual sounds in blends. For example, the word crab would be split into c/r/a/b. I've created a cheat sheet below which details the phonemes/graphemes that are separate, single sounds.