Frequently Asked Questions
- How does Sound Waves align with the Australian Curriculum?
- I’m a Queensland teacher. How does Sound Waves align with the C2C?
- Is Sound Waves a synthetic phonics spelling program?
- I’m new to teaching synthetic phonics. What’s it about?
- What do I need to teach Sound Waves in my school?
- What do I need to teach Sound Waves to my homeschool student?
- I have ESL students. Will Sound Waves suit their needs?
- I’m new to Sound Waves. Where should I start?
- What’s included in Sound Waves Online? Do I need it to use Sound Waves?
- Is there someone I can talk to about how to use the program?
- I teach a composite class. How will Sound Waves work in my classroom?
- Do I have to use all the teaching ideas in the Teacher Book?
- I have students who are struggling. How can I help them keep up?
- How can I accommodate my better spellers with Sound Waves?
- How were the Sound Waves List Words chosen?
- Why are the Sound Units in Foundation in a different order to Years 1–6?
- Why does Sound Waves have only 43 sounds?
- Why are the phonemes in that order on the charts?
- What is the ‘schwa’?
- Can one grapheme represent more than one sound?
- What is a split digraph?
- What is a blend?
- Why are ‘old’ and ‘cold’ in Unit 19?
- How do I segment words into sounds?
- Is the scoring on the Content Tests correct?
- How do I access Sound Waves Online?
- Where do I find the access code for my students?
- Where can I find Student Book answers online?
- Why isn’t the Spelling Diagnostic Results Template calculating a Comparison Range for me?
- How do I save Sound Waves Kids to my student’s iPad home screen?
- How can I get parents to support their child’s spelling?
- Is the Sound Waves program supported by professional development for teachers?
- I teach Foundation, is there an Alternative Yearly Plan that introduces graphemes in Term 1?
How does Sound Waves align with the Australian Curriculum?
Sound Waves National Edition is written specifically for the Australian Curriculum and caters to schools Australia-wide. For more information, take a look at our Scope and Sequence documents below.
I’m a Queensland teacher. How does Sound Waves align with the C2C?
Feedback from Queensland teachers currently using the Sound Waves program indicates that its content comprehensively covers everything included in the C2C, plus much more.
Is Sound Waves a synthetic phonics spelling program?
Yes! Sound Waves is a whole-school synthetic phonics and word study program. It uses a sound-to-letter strategy which acknowledges that sounds can be represented in more than one way in written form. This approach focuses on the basic units of sound (phonemes). It then explores the single letters or letter combinations (graphemes) that can represent these sounds and how they can be put together to form written words.
And there’s more to Sound Waves … As students progress though each year level of the program, they learn about meaningful parts of words such as prefixes, suffixes and Greek and Latin Roots. The program also covers language concepts such as homophones and homographs.
I’m new to teaching synthetic phonics. What’s it about?
Synthetic phonics is widely regarded as one of the most effective ways to teach spelling and reading skills. It focuses on the process of synthesising (i.e. taking small parts and putting them together to form a whole). When it comes to spelling, this involves teaching students how to segment words into phonemes and assign a grapheme to each phoneme to form written words. In reading, this involves saying a phoneme for each grapheme and blending the phonemes to form spoken words. The beauty of this part-to-whole approach is that children are able to transfer this understanding of how phonemes and graphemes are related to situations where they are attempting unknown words.
You can learn more about synthetic phonics in our Professional Reading articles.
What do I need to teach Sound Waves in my school?
We recommend a whole-school approach to spelling and reading. Get started with a Teacher Book and access to Sound Waves Online. Ensure each student has a Student Book (either hard copy or digital), then supplement with Teaching Charts, Student Charts and resources as required. We also offer a great range of support tools for Foundation teachers. Check out our product range or chat to your education consultant for advice on which resources will best suit your class or school. To purchase the Sound Waves series, contact your educational bookseller or visit our online store.
What do I need to teach Sound Waves to my homeschool student?
You’ll need to purchase a Teacher Book, Student Book, and Student Chart or Extended Student Chart to get started. We also recommend you purchase an Individual Licence to Sound Waves Online for a range of interactive teaching and learning tools.
I have ESL students. Will Sound Waves suit their needs?
Sound Waves teaches students the sounds of Australian English before moving on to discovering the graphemes that can represent these sounds in words. This is a great way for ESL students to hear and practise the sounds of English. The Sound Waves Student Chart, Extended Student Chart, Teaching Charts (Wall Charts) and various Sound Cards provide visual cues and easy identification of phonemes to support ESL students learning the sounds of Australian English. The Sound Waves Let’s Sing the Sounds CD also gives ESL students of any age the opportunity to hear and chant the sounds.
I’m new to Sound Waves. Where should I start?
You can start by reading the preliminary pages of your Teacher Book (pages 4 to 14). These pages explain what Sound Waves is all about, and give step-by-step instructions on how to implement the program. Our Getting Started video is also a great place to start.
At Sound Waves Online, you’ll also find documents in the Preparation, Planning & Assessment section to help you and your students throughout the program.
What’s included in Sound Waves Online? Do I need it to use Sound Waves?
The Sound Waves program is most effective when used in conjunction with Sound Waves Online, which has a wide range of support materials including:
- Weekly Lesson Plans
- Brainstorm Kickstarters
- Warm Up and other teaching slideshows
- Projectable Student Book pages – and answers
- Segmenting Tools – and answers
- Interactive spelling games
- 200+ downloadable BLMs per year and more …
Sound Waves Online is designed for use in and outside the classroom, and can be used on electronic whiteboards or personal devices. View the complete resource list at Sound Waves Online Options, or watch our Online Virtual Tour for a step-by-step guide to Sound Waves Online.
Is there someone I can talk to about how to use the program?
Of course! Our team of education consultants have a wealth of teaching experience and are here to answer any questions you have about our programs.
I teach a composite class. How will Sound Waves work in my classroom?
Sound Waves Student Books are designed to make teaching multi-age classes easy. Each Student Book follows the same structure, with every Sound Unit appearing on the same page number across Years 1 to 6. The layout of the pages is also consistent throughout the series, making it easier to highlight different activities to your class. You can read more about using Sound Waves in a multi-age classroom in our Professional Reading article.
Do I have to use all the teaching ideas in the Teacher Book?
No. We’ve given you a selection of activities to choose from. Use the Weekly Overview to help you select the activities you want to use in your classroom.
I have students who are struggling. How can I help them keep up?
The Sound Waves program has been written to support students of varying abilities from Foundation to Year 6. The combination of graded List Words and activities provides plenty of material for a range of student abilities.
How can I accommodate my better spellers with Sound Waves?
Extra activities and ideas for fast finishers are included with every Sound Unit in the Teacher Book. Extension Word Lists are also included in the back of every Student Book for keen spellers. If you still want more, Super Challenge BLMs are available for purchase.
How were the Sound Waves List Words chosen?
The Sound Waves authors combined their classroom experience with comprehensive research to choose the List Words for Sound Waves. They chose words that were age appropriate and contained the focus sound represented by a range of graphemes. But that’s not all. Here are some List Word features you may not know about:
- Words are graded within each list from simple to complex.
- Tricky and important words are repeated within a year level and across year levels.
- Words with several graphemes representing the same sound (including uncommon graphemes) are used.
- High frequency words and sight words are included.
- Words with similar patterns are chosen for consolidation purposes.
- Words include prefixes/suffixes/Greek or Latin roots to align with what is being taught (from Year 3 upwards).
Why are the Sound Units in Foundation in a different order to Years 1–6?
The sequence of the Foundation Program is deliberately constructed to suit the age and learning ability of Foundation students. The program is divided into two phases.
The first phase (Exploring Sounds) is an oral and kinaesthetic phase where students learn to hear and shape the 43 individual sounds and link them to the associated icons. Consonant sounds are introduced first, followed by vowel sounds. This is the same order as in the Chants and Actions, an integral learning tool for students.
The second phase (Discovering Graphemes) introduces students to single graphemes first (m, a, t, s, i, d down to z). This is followed by the introduction of common but more complex consonant and vowel graphemes, and finally er for the schwa sound. This order of introduction enables students to read and spell multiple words within the first few weeks of the teaching process. This is very satisfying for students and encourages them to become good encoders and decoders very quickly. For more information, view our Foundation Scope and Sequence document.
Why does Sound Waves have only 43 sounds?
The reason Sound Waves has 43 sounds while some other phonics programs have 44 is simple: the 44th sound is rarely spoken in standard Australian English. It’s far more common in British English.
In other words, we don’t include the 44th sound because Australian children hardly ever say it.
So what is the ‘missing’ sound? In the International Phonetic Alphabet it’s shown as
/ʊə/. This vowel sound is best described as the blend of oo in and er in . In England, you’ll hear it in words such as tour and cure.
So how do Aussies pronounce the vowel sound in tour? According to the Macquarie dictionary, we say the sound three different ways. Most of us pronounce the vowel sound as a blend of and . Others simply pronounce it as or as in . And a few of us pronounce it like the English do.
So there you have it – other phonics programs might have 44 sounds, but Sound Waves prides itself on reflecting what Australian children say and hear.
Why are the phonemes in that order on the charts?
The order of the consonant phonemes on the Sound Waves charts is essentially alphabetical. As most students learn alphabetical order early in life, the phoneme order on the charts enables students to find grapheme examples for phonemes quickly and easily when spelling and reading.
Consonant phonemes such as , , , and are at the end of the charts where it is felt students will best remember where to find them at a glance.
The first vowel phonemes introduced to students are: , , , and . These vowel phonemes and their graphemes, combined with most common consonant phonemes and their graphemes, allow students to decode and encode simple words easily as they begin reading and writing.
The order of the remaining vowel phonemes is based on how often students are likely to hear the phonemes and see their corresponding graphemes as they read and write.
The Sound Units in Foundation are in a different order to Years 1–6.
What is the ‘schwa’?
The schwa is the most common vowel sound in Australian English and is represented by the most letter combinations (graphemes). Although the schwa is formally taught in Unit 36, it’s important to talk with students about this sound when they come across it in earlier units as it is often difficult to hear.
For example, in the word bucket, the schwa is represented by the letter e. However some students will hear 5 sounds while others will only hear 4.
5 sounds: b/u/ck/e/t
4 sounds: b/u/ck/et
Students should know that, regardless of how many sounds they hear, the spelling of bucket doesn’t change. Students can use the pronunciation key in their dictionary to help them identify the schwa sound in words. For example, bucket is shown as /bʌkət/ with the schwa sound represented by ‘ə’. Remember, even dictionaries sometimes have more than one pronunciation of a word.
Can one grapheme represent more than one sound?
Yes. The grapheme x can represent the blend of two sounds, as in fox – . It is included in both and Sound Units.
The letters u, u_e, ue, eau, ew are sometimes classed as single graphemes that can all represent the blend of two sounds, , for example music .
This blend is studied in both the and Sound Units. If you are not sure if a blend is present in a word, say the word aloud with the sound only, for example music .
What is a split digraph?
The split digraphs are: a_e as in cake, e_e as in these, i_e as in ice-cream, o_e as in rose and u_e as in cube. Sound Waves classes words with split digraphs when one sound only splits the a, e, i, o or u and the final e, for example stage but not change.
What is a blend?
Blends, also known as consonant clusters, are sequences of two or three consonant sounds. The words snap, clip and split begin with blends. The words jump, desk and milk end in blends.
When orally segmenting words with blends, separate the sounds within the blend. Snap is segmented as /s/n/a/p/, not /sn/a/p/. Split is segmented as /s/p/l/i//t/, not /spl/i/t/. When segmenting blends in writing, place each grapheme in its own box to show that it represents an individual sound.
Blends shouldn’t be confused with digraphs and trigraphs. Digraphs are two letters representing a single sound, such as sh in ship. Trigraphs are three letters representing a single sound, such as tch in patch.
Why are ‘old’ and ‘cold’ in Unit 19?
The letter o in old and cold is altered slightly by the letter l, but is classified as a ‘boat’ sound or , as it is in most dictionaries. You can read more about this topic in the Professional Reading article The vowel in ‘old’ – a good example of allophony.
How do I segment words into sounds?
In Sound Waves, words need to be segmented into sounds. To make segmenting easy we recommend these three simple steps:
- Say the word out loud, slowly.
- Encourage students to count the sounds on their fingers, for example, mouse – /m/ou/se/ – has three sounds so students should hold up three fingers.
- Once they have identified there are three sounds in mouse, look for the graphemes that represent each sound.
The more students practice segmenting sounds, the easier it will be. For more in-depth instructions on how to segment words read page 5 of the Teacher Book or check our online video tutorial.
Is the scoring on the Content Tests correct?
You may come across some activities in the Content Tests which ask you to score students out of a higher number than seems necessary: the higher number is correct.
For example, in activity 1 of the Year 2 Content Test we present students with six images and ask them to ‘Colour the picture if you hear in the picture name.’
Even though only four of the pictures contain , we score the activity out of six because it’s important that students can recognise whether the sound is present or not. Therefore, if students colour four correctly and leave two uncoloured, they achieve a score of six.
How do I access Sound Waves Online?
There are several ways you can access Sound Waves Online. We recommend either of the following:
Sound Waves Online School Licence
First, we suggest you check with your HOC to see if they’ve arranged a Sound Waves Online School Licence. If they have, the nominated Class Builder Administrator for your school will be able to grant you access to the programs available in your School Licence.
If your school hasn’t arranged their School Licence yet, download the School Licence Order Form and pass it to your HOC.
Sound Waves Online Individual Licence
If you want to use Sound Waves Online just in your classroom, you can sign up or log in to your account and purchase instant access to an Individual Licence.
Compare your Sound Waves Online options or chat to your education consultant.
Where do I find the access code for my students?
Once you are logged in to your Firefly Online account, you can find the Student Access Code for your class on the program home page of the relevant Sound Waves Online year level.
Students use the Access Code to log in to www.soundwaveskids.com.au and access the Sound Info Kit, segmenting tool, interactive games, downloadable BLMs and more for each Sound Unit.
Where can I find Student Book answers online?
Projectable Student Book answers are available at Sound Waves Online. Log in to Sound Waves Online, navigate to the relevant Sound Unit and select Student Activity Pages. At the projectable Student Book Page, select the Answers button to toggle the answers on and off.
Why isn’t the Spelling Diagnostic Results Template calculating a Comparison Range for me?
If the Comparison Range is not automatically being calculated, it may be due to one of the following:
American date format
Your version of Excel is set to the American format for date notation (MM/DD/YYYY) instead of the Australian format (DD/MM/YYYY). Either adjust your settings or enter your date data (i.e. students’ birthdates and date of test) in the American format.
Age group out of range
You’re trying to calculate a Comparison Range for an age group that is outside the ranges of our sample sets. For the Lower Years test you can obtain a Comparison Range for students aged from 5yrs and 6mths to 9yrs and 5mths. For the Upper Years test you can obtain a Comparison Range for students aged from 8yrs and 6mths to 12yrs and 5mths.
If neither of these reasons apply to you, please contact us.
How do I save Sound Waves Kids to my student’s iPad home screen?
You can save any website to an iPad Home Screen to give students the same one-click convenience of an app.
To do this for the student login page of Sound Waves Kids:
- Open www.soundwaveskids.com.au in the Safari browser on a student’s iPad.
- Tap the ‘Share’ option and select ‘Add to Home Screen’.
- Assign a name for the saved web page, e.g. Sound Waves.
- Select ‘Add’ in the top-right corner.
Don’t forget to also give your students their access code. Log in to your own account and find the Student Access Code on the home page of the selected Sound Waves Online year level.
How can I get parents to support their child’s spelling?
We’ve created a Parent Information Workshop Package which teachers can present to parents to educate them about the Sound Waves synthetic phonics and word study program. This is a great way to inform parents how they can best support their child with homework as well as other reading, spelling and writing opportunities.
Your school can purchase the package, which comes complete with all the tools you need to lead an educational and engaging workshop.
If you’re teaching Sound Waves to Foundation students, you can also log in to Sound Waves Online to find information letters you can send home to parents advising them how they can help with spelling and reading.
Is the Sound Waves program supported by professional development for teachers?
We offer a comprehensive range of professional development and support options for Sound Waves. To see if there there is a workshop near you, or to request a PD session in your school, please visit our Professional Development and Support page. You’ll also find useful professional articles and video tutorials here.
I teach Foundation, is there an Alternative Yearly Plan that introduces graphemes in Term 1?
Yes! The Alternative Yearly Plan condenses the Exploring Sounds phase into only five weeks, which brings the start of Discovering Graphemes forward to Week 6 of Term 1.
This plan has been created to accommodate students who have participated in formal phonological awareness instruction as part of a pre-school program, and schools that mandate graphemes be introduced in Term 1.
For more information about this plan, read the Alternative Yearly Plan and Implementation Guide.