Literacy at Wanguri Primary School 


At Wanguri Primary School, we are deeply committed to ensuring our students learn to read-and read well! Reading is not only an essential skill for children to find success in school but to thrive in society as they grow up in our world. We are learning more about what research says about how children learn to read, how to make sure every student learns to read, and what to do when a child encounters difficulty with reading. This body of knowledge we are learning about, and implementing is called ‘The Science of Reading’. 

Phonics and the Science of Reading

Five essential skills for reading:  

  1. Phonemic Awareness: The ability to identify and manipulate the distinct individual sounds in spoken words 
  2. Phonics: The ability to decode words using knowledge of letter-sound relationships 
  3. Fluency: Reading with accuracy, speed and expression. 
  4. Vocabulary: Knowing the meaning of a wide variety of words and the structure of written language 
  5. Comprehension: Understanding the meaning and intent of the text 
When We Know Better, We Do Better! (Maya Angelou) 


At Wanguri Primary School, we teach phonics using a linguistic phonics program called Sounds-Write, an evidence-based program developed in the United Kingdom. 

Sounds-Write is a very highly structured, multi-sensory, incremental and code-oriented, instructional approach to teaching children to read and spell. The Sounds-Write program is implemented in the classroom and provides very fast and effective teaching for children at all levels. 

“This program is successful in teaching children to read and spell because it starts with what all children know from a very young age – the sounds of our spoken language. Then, using a very systematic approach, it teaches them how these sounds are coded within our writing system.” 

Sounds-Write promotes the use of multi-sensory engagement with the materials appropriate to the level and abilities of the children being taught. Visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activities are at all times combined simultaneously to promote learning.  

Sounds-Write also enables teachers to differentiate the challenges placed before the learner in order to meet their individual needs. 

The four key concepts children are taught are: 

1.                Letters are symbols that represent sounds 

2.                Sounds can be spelled using 1, 2, 3 or 4 letters 

3.                The same sound can be spelled in different ways 

4.                The same spelling can represent different sounds 

The three key skills children need to master reading and spelling are: 

1.                Blending 

2.                Segmenting 

3.                Phoneme manipulation 

Children in Transition begin with the Initial Code where they practice all 3 key skills whilst learning the 1:1 sound-spelling correspondences and securing their understanding of key concept 1. This builds up confidence and phonic knowledge in a truly reversible system, enabling them to decode and encode a wide range of words and sentences. At first, children learn to read and write simple one syllable words with a CVC structure. Complexity of word structure systematically builds up so that children apply their code knowledge to multiple syllable words with up to 6 sounds. 

At the beginning of Year 1 through to Year 2 and beyond, children continue to practice all 3 key skills whilst learning Extended Code which explores key concepts 2, 3 and 4. Learning of the Extended Code is a lifelong process – we all continue to develop our understanding of this code whenever we encounter new words. Which is why Sounds-Write can be applied across all grades in our school. Whilst learning the Extended Code, children read and write polysyllabic words at an age-appropriate level. 

The following resources provide additional information for our parents and carers about the Sounds-Write program: 

Code Emphasis in Primary Grades 

This means that grades T-2 especially will focus on acquiring the skills to crack the code of our alphabet to the speech sounds in English, (There are 44 speech sounds in English and 150 ways to read and spell them!). Children must first learn to decode/sound-out words before they can understand the meaning of a text, therefore, we will emphasize instruction in ‘cracking the code’ in grades T-2.  


Explicit and systematic phonics instruction

We will have an order or continuum of phonics skills, progressing from simple to complex, which will be followed throughout the early grades. Students will progress through the continuum as they master skills. In grades 3-6, word study will continue with more grammar, morphology (parts of words which hold meaning) and etymology (word origins) focusses.

Early intervention

Prevention is better than intervention! If we see any signs that your child may be struggling with the foundational skills of reading, we will not take a ‘wait and see’ approach; we will immediately implement interventions and monitor their progress. The best solution to the problem of reading failure is early identification and intervention and we believe that together, teachers and families will be a united team in supporting children. Our Year 1 to 6 learning and support program focusses on small group support for children who require additional consolidation of the classroom program so that all learners can reach their reading and spelling potential.

Phonemic awareness

This is the ability to identify and manipulate the individual sounds in words orally. While this skill will be emphasised in grades F-2, we will make sure all students at our school have this necessary foundation. Students in the middle and senior grades may need to practice these skills until they have firmed up this foundation of reading. It is possible that your grade 3-6 student could be working on phonemic awareness. This is an area that the research has indicated is hugely important!

Decodable Readers

Our early readers will be working with decodable readers. These are books or passages that only include words that the students can ‘decode’ (sound-out) according to the skills they have been taught so far. Children need practice with the phonics skills they are learning, and these books and passages provide that practice. We are working throughout the year to add to our resources in this area, so you will see more and more decodables in the early years as the year progresses.

High Frequency words

The reason tricky words are included in the program, is because children are sometimes repeatedly exposed to high frequency words, such as ‘in and it’ when they have not yet learnt the sounds well enough to sound them out. Some of these words also contain alternative sounds, such as ‘is’ (the ‘s’ makes the ‘z’ sound), ‘the’ (the ‘e’ makes an ‘uh’ sound) and ‘y’ in by or my. This can cause difficulty in children accessing a basic decodable reader if they are stuck on these words. Whilst we strongly encourage children practise tricky words they are given, please continually practise the sounds as these will lead to greater success.


Wanguri Primary School uses a range of assessments including FELA (Foundations of Early Literacy Assessment) in Transition and DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy) to assess key areas such as identifying phonemic awareness, phonics knowledge, fluency and comprehension. These assessments give teachers a good indication of how easy or difficult reading is for your child. Teachers use these assessments to identify gaps and to track student progress.

Reading Fluency

Fluency refers to how a student becomes increasingly faster, smoother, more accurate and expressive in their reading aloud of progressively complex print texts. At higher levels of the progression, students demonstrate comprehension of a text through confident use of intonation, pausing, accuracy and pace” (Australian Curriculum & Assessment Reporting Authority).

Text or passage reading fluency is defined by having three components:

  • Accuracy
  • Rate/speed
  • Expression (or prosody)

Prosody is not targeted in beginning readers, until they have sufficient accuracy and rate. Sounding out and ‘robotic reading’ are signs that students are practicing their decoding skills, which will in turn result in more fluently executed reading. Children who read very slowly are devoting most of their cognitive attention to the subskills of decoding and word recognition. This places such a load on their working memory, that they have no cognitive capacity remaining to attend to what the text actually means (Konza, 2010).

The Daily Fluency Routine forms part of the Literacy Block for 10 minutes per day and incorporates:

  • Echo Reading

Regular opportunities for teacher modelling of appropriate prosody – phrasing, tone, volume. Following the teacher modelling, students can echo each sentence by repeating the way you are speaking. Providing opportunities for some students to follow along with the passage visually with phrase markers and indicators (e.g. an arrow for questions marks to indicate that we lift our voice).

  • Choral Reading

Intentional opportunities to read aloud as a class in unison.

  • Fluency Pairs

Intentional opportunities for students to practice rate/speed, accuracy and prosody with a partner.

Knowledge Building and Vocabulary.

Research has indicated that reading comprehension is closely connected to the background knowledge we have on a topic and by understanding the vocabulary contained in the text. Our students will have the opportunity to build a broad knowledge base of history, science, and the arts through the selection of rich texts connected to the curriculum.

It is also recommended that students are exposed to a variety of texts including ‘archaic’ texts which may be 50 to 100 years old and expose students to vocabulary, grammar and cultural contexts which are more complex that those written today (for example texts written by Enid Blyton, Where the Wild Things Are and Treasure Island). ‘Non-linear’ texts, which include flashbacks or forwards in time. ‘Narratively Complex’ texts which are narrated by an ‘unreliable narrator’ which may be a young child who may not comprehend the situation they are in such as Wonder or The Witches, or an animal such as in Black Beauty or Fantastic Mr Fox.

Students will have access to complex texts, often read aloud by their teacher, and in the process, gain more complex vocabulary. The research tells us that building knowledge and vocabulary contributes significantly to reading comprehension and should be taught beginning in the earliest grades. Teachers target Tier 2 words (see image below) to explicitly teach each week or fortnight depending on their year level.


The ultimate goal of all reading instruction is for students to understand what they read. The model of ‘The Simple View of Reading’ demonstrates that reading comprehension occurs only when students have both Decoding/Word Recognition Skills and Language Comprehension skills. Children need the essential skills to get the words off the page as well as knowledge, vocabulary, and a good understanding of how our language works in order to comprehend what they read. We must provide instruction that will help students achieve these goals.