The importance of literacy in Prep–Year 2

Junior School Thursday, 01 Sept 2022

Our Prep teacher Bec Walker outlines the importance of literacy in Prep–Year 2, and how literacy is taught at Shelford.

Literacy development is a vital part of a child’s overall development. It is the foundation for reading, writing, communicating, problem-solving, socialising, decision-making and more.

Reading in Prep–Year 2

Our reading lessons are designed to incorporate the development of phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency.

Phonemic awareness

The journey to reading begins with phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to understand that spoken words are made up of individual sounds called phonemes, and it’s one of the best early predictors for reading success. Prior to the understanding of letter/sound correspondence knowledge (phonics), it is important students have short, sharp lessons in phonemic awareness. This is when students work with individual speech sounds and identify, produce, blend, segment and manipulate these sounds in words.

For example:

  • ‘What sound does think begin with?’ th (Onset fluency)
  • ‘Chop /ship/ into its beginning, middle and end sounds.’ sh-i-p (Blending phonemes)
  • ‘Say -ed. Add sh.’ shed (adding phonemes)
  • ‘Say ship. Change sh to ch.’ chip (Substituting initial phonemes)


Following on from phonemic awareness, the explicit teaching of phonics is the basis of an effective early reading instruction. Around one third of children will have difficulty learning to read without systematic teaching in how to ‘crack the code’ of written English, and another third will not learn to read at all without it.

A specific form of explicit instruction has been found to be most effective for the teaching of phonics – a systematic synthetic phonics approach, in which letter–sound correspondences are taught in a clearly defined sequence, and the skills of blending and segmenting phonemes are practiced.

Phonics instruction is most effective when integrated into a comprehensive literacy program that includes practice with decodable text as well as exposure to literature with rich vocabulary.

Decades of evidence shows that all children benefit from explicit and early teaching of the correspondences between letters and speech sounds.

At Shelford we use the Jolly Phonics scope and sequence, to deliver a thoughtful and carefully planned program from Prep to Year 6. We also utilise, where appropriate, programs that are backed by science such as Spalding Education Australia, Little Learners Love Literacy and Decodable Readers Australia.

An example of this is when students begin Prep, they are explicitly taught the first phonemes in a sound set. The first sound set is made up of the phonemes: S A T P I N. I explicitly teach blending, segmenting and manipulating using these phonemes so students can read the words: sat, pat, Nat, sit, pit, nit, sip, tip, sap, etc., and can begin to read whole decodable books! Beginning Prep students are beyond excited when they can take home books to read with their families.


Vocabulary refers to the words children need to know to comprehend and communicate. Oral vocabulary is the words children recognise or use in listening and speaking. Reading vocabulary is the words children recognise or use in reading and writing. Vocabulary is the most powerful predictor of reading comprehension.

At Shelford each Monday the teacher reads aloud from a mentor text for the first time. Where new vocabulary appears, students will be encouraged to ask, ‘What does that mean?’ Either the teacher or another student will clarify the meaning before moving on. This clarification builds students’ bank of vocabulary and background knowledge.


Reading comprehension is extracting and constructing meaning from written text using knowledge of words, concepts, facts, and ideas. Comprehension is the process by which students gain meaning from what they read. The major determining factor in comprehension success is a student’s basic reading skills. If they cannot read the text, they cannot comprehend it.

Each Tuesday at Shelford we revisit the mentor text and check for reading comprehension. Students are asked to turn and talk to a partner about it. For example, ‘How do snails clean up forests? Turn and talk.’ (Literal comprehension), or, ‘What new facts did you learn about snails? Turn and talk.’ (Evaluative comprehension).


Text or passage reading fluency is generally defined as having three components: accuracy, rate, and prosody (or expression). Children have poor text reading fluency if they read many words of a passage incorrectly, if they read text slowly and with obvious effort, or if they read in a stilted or robotic way.

On Thursdays our students read with a fluency partner. They have appropriate and decodable ‘speed words’ from the Little Learners Love Literacy decodable books that they take turns to read with fluency, that is, with a smooth voice.

Fiction and non-fiction decodable readers

An important part in the successful instruction of teaching reading is providing reading material that matches the instructional approach. Decodable readers provide the important practice of introduced letters and sounds. Students require practice to become fluent readers.

At Shelford, we provide an assortment of decodable fiction and non-fiction books with a mixture of scientific facts and recounts about real world events, procedures and other informative information. These books build knowledge and prompt rich discussions.


We regularly assess students’ phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency throughout the year to inform our teaching. We use Little Learners Assessment of Reading Skills and Decodable Readers Australia: Systematic Phonics and Reading Knowledge Levelled Evaluation (SPARKLE kit).

Consistency from school to home

Home reading is valuable as long as it matches the instruction taught in the classroom. We send home nightly reading from Jolly Phonics, Little Learner’s Love Literacy and Decodable Readers Australia. Students also have access to the Decodable Readers Australia online library. Students are asked to read each book three times to help improve their reading fluency and confidence.

Writing in Prep–Year 2

Writing lessons follow on from reading lessons and are designed to incorporate the development of oral language, vocabulary, use of connectives and openers with the correct use of grammar and punctuation. It is based on the ideology of, ‘if they can’t say it, they can’t write it.’ Through games, activities, writing tasks, conversations and discussions, students learn about writing in a fun and engaging way, and they learn the steps they need to take to continue to improve their writing.

Oral language

We scaffold the learning to allow children to become articulate thinkers and speakers, who will then become articulate writers. We use the ‘I do, we do, you do’ methodology whereby we model writing on the whiteboard. We then ask students to turn and talk to a partner about what they are going to write. Some partners might share their plans with the whole class. After supporting student’s thinking, they go back to their tables to write independently or with the teacher’s assistance. They are encouraged to ‘sound out’ or encode out loud as they go, applying their knowledge of sounds and their associated graphemes.

At times, students will be asked to do ‘talk homework’ with their families the day before a ‘warm write’ or a ‘big write’.


Research findings demonstrate handwriting is important for successful reading and spelling. This is focused on during phonics lessons, and encouraged during writing lessons, along with good writing posture.

Text types taught in Prep–Year 2

We teach the following text types at Shelford:

  • Recount writing to retell a series of events.
  • Response writing to respond to an artistic work or written piece, such as a letter or email.
  • Narrative writing to entertain, amuse or instruct.
  • Procedure writing to instruct someone on how to do something.
  • Poetry to entertain.
  • Explanation writing to explain how or why something occurs.
  • Exposition writing to persuade by arguing one side of an issue.


We regularly assess students’ writing using ‘warm writes’ and ‘big writes’. Big Write comes with a comprehensive, evidence-based assessment tool (linked to the Australian National Curriculum), that develops consistency and accuracy of writing assessment right across the school. The Student Friendly Criterion Scale empowers students by allowing them to analyse their writing, and what steps they need to take in order to move forward. For example, the goal for a Prep student might be to put a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence, and a full stop at the end.

The importance of literacy in Prep–Year 2 at Shelford

We hope this detailed overview of literacy and how it is taught at Shelford gives you insights into the importance of literacy in Prep–Year 2 and the various components of teaching it in the early years of primary school.

To discuss enrolling your daughter at Shelford, you can contact our Registrar Marie De Sousa:

  • Telephone: 9524 7413
  • Email:

Bec Walker
Prep teacher