The Magic Ladder Learning Flow

       “Pcues,” or “PQs,” stand for “pronunciation cues.”

This interactive, online document is designed to demonstrate the order in which we introduce, to our youngest readers, the various PQ Groups (these uncover all of the confusing, often illogical representations of sounds that letters and spellings present in written English). The below random excerpts from Herman Melville’s iconic classic, Moby Dick, are of course, adult-centric in their reading complexity. This specific content isn’t for the kids. But we wanted to use superb, recognized literature that is copyright-free, to demonstrate this free software to educators.


This document has been created for “Learning Stewards” (teachers, parents, tutors), so that they may quickly and easily experience the concepts behind the Magic Ladder. The “HINT SYSTEM” in this document is set up in identical fashion to how Pre-K through Grade-4 content is designed. All PQ Groups are represented in this single document, as demonstrated with these excerpts. For the youngest readers, these PQ Groups will be broken into separate chapters / episodes, rather than in one single document. They will be exposed, however, in this same order.


Hover over the yellow-PQ-light-bulbs (the Hint System), and you will hear hints about specific words that are being highlighted in each section. Click on the green speaker button at the beginning of each paragraph, and when the speaking stops, and a red word blinks, click on that word. These red “stop words” are examples of the PQ Groups that we are focusing on in a given passage. We stop the word so that the student will click through all of the hints that Pcues provides. 

So click again and again inside that word’s pop-up box, to witness the process with which sound clues are provided, both audibly and visibly. Your final click inside the blue box will launch a “sound-out” of the word, and then the word will be spoken in its entirety.

Note: click on the speaker at the end of the paragraph, and there are no “stop” words, as it is read to you. This ending speaker button is provided just for a final confirmation of what was read, with no break in fluency. And it shows each word, as it is spoken, in its Pcued format (rather than with the beginning speaker’s green highlight), for more visual reinforcement about what each letter is doing. (The HELP (?) icon at the very top right of the page allows you to slow down the reading speed, and to change the speaking voice.) 

With the Magic Ladder, students receive instant word recognition help, to respond to their immediate learning needs. Simultaneously, they are subtly learning phonemic and decoding skills, in a way that does not sabotage their critical reading flow (“fluency,” or “accurate-words-per-minute”).

The Magic Ladder leapfrogs traditional “offline” reading practices, and it teaches imperative decoding skills WITHIN THE LIVE, ACTUAL FLOW OF READING. It speaks better to “today’s child,” by creating a multi-sensory experience that involves touch, sound, and sight. Further, it is truly individualized for each student, depending on which particular words each child needs help with, thus freeing teachers to spend more time observing, assessing, triaging, and finding reading content that each child is individually interested in. Finally, the student’s “reach for word help” is now private for them. No more public embarrassment, which can lead to debilitating “mind-shame” — and to all-out learning avoidance — for the huge proportion of kids in our society who struggle with the process of learning to read English. 

The order in which you see the various PQ Groups unfold, in these below excerpts, is the same order in which we expose them to any reading learner. Explore this complete document yourself, and you will “learn into” exactly how this will flow with new readers. Also, click on the images (and listen) to see how we can enliven the content with some additional playful multi-sensory image-and-audio elements.

Before you begin, let’s make one thing clear. For you as an educator, there is virtually no work here for you. There’s no class to go to. There’s no “certification.” There’s no book to read. There’s no training session. There’s nothing for you to memorize. There’s no test. Remember, your youngest readers’ minds are ready to “absorb” their learning experiences at lightning speed. Repeated exposure to reading online, while using these Magic Ladder clues, will render the clues to be highly intuitive, over time, without any need for traditional, non-engaging “kill-and-drill” exercises. Finally, recognize that the Magic Ladder is NOT a “curriculum.” It is a supplementary online technology tool to SUPPORT ANY CURRICULUM that you may be using. 


Welcome to the Magic Ladder — a far more neurologically efficient way to learn how to read the very challenging WRITTEN English language.


PQ Group 1: Letters that make their alphabet letter-name sounds, their most frequent “common” sounds, and letters that are silent. Letter-name sounds are bolded; the most frequent “common” sounds are not altered in any way; silent letters are light gray — ignore them.

There seemed no sign of common bodily illness about him, nor of the recovery from any. He looked like a man cut away from the stake, when the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs, without consuming them, or taking away one particle from their compacted, aged robustness

His whole, high, broad form, seemed made of solid bronze, and shaped in an unalterable mould, like Cellini’s cast Perseus. Threading its way out from among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his tawny scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing, you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish. 

It resembled that perpendicular seam, sometimes made in the straight, lofty trunk of a great tree, when the upper lightning tearingly darts down it, and without wrenching a single twig, peels and grooves out the bark from top to bottom, ere running off into the soil, leaving the tree still greenly alive, but branded. Whether that mark was born with him, or whether it was the scar left by some desperate wound, no one could certainly say. By some tacit consent, throughout the voyage, little or no allusion was made to it, especially by the mates


PQ Group 2: Letters that make the “uh” and “er” sounds. The fast “uh” sound is represented by a shrunken letter (A/E/I/O/Y). Example words: elephant, oxygen. The “er” sound (ex. words: her, bird, courage) is represented by rotating the letter-R, and by graying the vowel(s) that precede(s) it.

But we are all in the hands of the Gods; and Pip jumped again. It was under very similar circumstances to the first performance; but this time he did not breast out the line; and hence, when the whale started to run, Pip was left behind on the sea, like a hurried traveller’s trunk.

Alas! Stubb was but too true to his word. It was a beautiful, bounteous, blue day; the spangled sea, calm and cool, and flatly stretching away, all round, to the horizon, like gold-beater’s skin hammered out to the extremest. Bobbing up and down in that sea, Pip’s ebon head showed like a head of cloves.

No boat-knife was lifted when he fell so rapidly astern. Stubb’s inexorable back was turned upon him; and the whale was winged. In three minutes, a whole mile of shoreless ocean was between Pip and Stubb. Out from the centre of the sea, poor Pip turned his crisp, curling, black head to the sun, another lonely castaway, though the loftiest and the brightest.


PQ Group 3: Stretched letters: for single letter “exceptions” that make a drawn-out sound, these letters are stretched (A, O, U, Y; saw, dog, quick, yard). Blends: for “partnered” letters that, together, make a blended sound that includes some audible recognition of each of their common sounds, these letter-partners are dotted-underlined (many of these: care, there, mirror, furious, singing, as examples).

Nor did wild rumors of all sorts fail to exaggerate, and still the more horrify the true histories of these deadly encounters. For not only do fabulous rumors naturally grow out of the very body of all surprising terrible events, as the smitten tree gives birth to its fungi; but, in maritime life, far more than in that of terra firma, wild rumors abound, wherever there is any adequate reality for them to cling to.


And as the sea surpasses the land in this matter, so the whale fishery surpasses every other sort of maritime life, in the wonderfulness and fearfulness of the rumors which sometimes circulate there. For not only are whalemen, as a body, unexempt from that ignorance and superstitiousness hereditary to all sailors; but of all sailors, they are by all odds the most directly brought into contact with whatever is appallingly astonishing in the sea; face to face they not only eye its greatest marvels, but, hand to jaw, give battle to them.

Alone, in such remotest waters, that though you sailed a thousand miles, and passed a thousand shores, you would not come to any chiseled hearth-stone, or aught hospitable beneath that part of the sun; in such latitudes and longitudes, pursuing too such a calling as he does, the whaleman is wrapped by influences all tending to make his fancy, pregnant with many a mighty birth.



PQ Group 4: Letters often substitute for sounds that you would expect other more obvious letters to be in place to represent. Letter E can make an Alpha-A sound: “they.” Letter I can make a Letter-Y “yuh” (“yard”) sound, as in the word: “onion.” Letter G can make a Common-J sound: “George.” There are many of these oddities, and PQs identifies them by raising letters above the line (higher pitches), or dropping letters below the line (lower pitches).

Nor was Ahab unmindful of another thing. In times of strong emotion, mankind disdain all base considerations; but such times are evanescent. The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness. Granting that the White Whale fully incites the hearts of this my savage crew, and playing round their savageness even breeds a certain generous “knight errantism” in them, still, while for the love of it, they give chase to Moby Dick, they must also have food for their more common, daily appetites.  

For even the high lifted and chivalric Crusaders of old times, were not content to traverse two thousand miles of land to fight for their holy sepulchre, without committing burglaries, picking pockets, and gaining other pious perquisites by the way. Had they been strictly held to their one final and romantic object, that final and romantic object, too many would have turned from, in disgust.  

I will not strip these men, thought Ahab, of all hopes of cash. Aye, cash. They may scorn cash now; but let some months go by, and no perspective promise of it to them, and then this same quiescent cash, all at once mutinying in them, this same cash would soon cashier Ahab.



PQ Group 5: Letters that come in “groups” to make completely different sounds than either of their most likely Letter-Name or Common sounds. These groups are fully-underlined.  Ex: the TH in “this”; the PH in “phone”; the EAU in “plateau.”

Like most old fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one, and since a regular stairs to such a height would, by its long angle with the floor, seriously contract the already small area of the chapel, the architect, it seemed, had acted upon the hint of Father Mapple, and finished the pulpit without a stairs, substituting a perpendicular side ladder, like those used in mounting a ship from a boat at sea.