The Kalianna Reading Strategy


What is Reading?


Reading is defined as a cognitive process that involves decoding symbols to arrive at meaning (comprehension). [1] Appendix 1, explains the complex process of the reading task.

Our Journey

Over the past two years the leadership team have investigated an appropriate reading strategy for our students. This has involved working with Department of Education (Karen Underwood), Latrobe University (Prof Pamela Snow) and our school improvement team.


Throughout our journey we have discovered many conflicting articles. Many people have described this as the “Reading Wars’. On one side of this ‘war’ are those who believe in phonics instruction and on the other are those who believe in the whole-language approach.

Our Aim


To articulate what we do at Kalianna to teach reading and to have a consistent approach across the whole school based on research.


The Research


Research in psychological science over many years has assisted Speech Pathologists, school leaders and teachers to determine what are the essential elements to assist students to learn to read.[2]   Alongside these developments, governments in the US (eg., The National Review panel, 2000), England ( e.g., the Rose Review, Rose 2006) and Australia (e.g., the Department of Education, Science and Training, Rowe, 2005) have conducted extensive reviews on reading research to inform our school in what are the key ingredients to an effective reading strategy.




The reviews have concluded that delivering systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students compared to a whole-language approach. The US and English reviews conducted a meta-analysis evaluating the impact of a systematic phonics instruction compared to no phonics instruction. The analysis determined an effect size of 0.41. John Hattie in ‘Visible Learning’, stated intervention programs with an effect size greater than .40 is worthy of implementation.


At its core, a student is not able to learn to read with fluency until they can break the code of our alphabet. They need to be taught how letters represent speech sounds. The Alphabet has 26 characters (graphemes) that combine to make 44 phonemes (sounds). These are the essential building blocks to any student learning to read. Phonics instruction improves a student’s ability to decode, spell and comprehend texts.


Another significant fact from decades of scientific research is that, while we use our eyes to read, the starting point for reading is sound.


The 5 Components of Reading [3]

  • Phonemic awareness - Phonemic awareness involves sounds in spoken words and most phonemic awareness tasks are oral.   Phonemic awareness includes onset-rime identification, initial and final sound segmenting, as well as blending, segmenting, and deleting/manipulating sounds.



  • Phonics - Phonics involves the relationship between sounds and written symbols. The focus of phonics instruction is on teaching sound-spelling relationships and is associated with print. Phonics builds upon a foundation of phonological awareness, specifically phonemic awareness. As students learn to read and spell, they fine-tune their knowledge of the relationships between phonemes and graphemes in written language. As reading and spelling skills develop, focussing on phonemic awareness improves phonics knowledge, and focussing on phonics also improve phonemic awareness.


  • Vocabulary development - Opportunities for purposeful talk in meaningful contexts, can promote vocabulary development. Vocabulary has been identified as a determinant of reading ability and academic success .   Teachers can promote vocabulary development by providing linguistically rich environments for students to learn new words and expressions. Adult role models who engage students in meaningful talk, using rich vocabulary are key.


  • Reading fluency, including oral reading skills - It is an important goal for children to become accurate, efficient, and therefore fluent readers. Facilitating repeated practice of reading aloud is key to developing fluency. The goal for all children is for decoding to become easy and automatic, so they can free up their attention to focus on the meaning of the text.

  • Reading comprehension strategies - Research provides evidence for the ways comprehension is embedded into daily literacy lessons. Firstly, a supportive classroom context to promote comprehension must be developed. It is recommend teachers:


  1. Ensure their students read engaging texts for significant amounts of time

  2. Select texts for students which support authentic learning (i.e. interest-based or topic-based texts)

  3. Provide a range of texts (multimodal, print-based, images, animations, graphic representations, video, audio, diagrams/charts, newspapers/magazines, fiction, non-fiction) for students to read in various genres (i.e. texts on different topics or different text types about the same topic)

  4. Identify and discuss vocabulary from rich texts with their students

  5. Provide time for students to talk to each other about the texts they read and have listened to

  6. Provide time for students to write and reflect on their reading



The Simple View of Reading


Reading Comprehension is the product of Decoding and Language Comprehension. Decoding and Language Comprehension are independent of each other. For instance,  it is quite possible to decode text, yet fail (completely) to read that text. Decoding is a necessary but insufficient condition for reading.   Conversely, a child can have perfectly good (age-appropriate) language comprehension skills yet have no decoding skill.   Language Comprehension is also a necessary but insufficient condition for reading.  Similar to a maths formula if one of the key components (decoding skills or language comprehension) is missing students will not be able to read.





















The Kalianna Reading Strategy


As a result of our investigations, our school will deliver systematic, synthetic phonics instruction as a Tier 1 Intervention to ensure all students are exposed to evidenced based reading instruction. In addition, based on the ‘simple view of reading’ model, Kalianna will continue to develop our reading strategy to ensure all of the elements for reading success (as below) are incorporated within the curriculum. [5]


“In general, we advocate approaches that emphasize early phonemic awareness and other aspects of phonological awareness, and endorse systematic synthetic phonics as a starting point, while simultaneously building on success by promoting vocabulary, comprehension and fluency.” [6]


The following table explains the building blocks to assist our students to read.




[1] Study/com/academy/lesson/

[2] Ending the reading wars: Reading acquisition from novice to expert; Castles.A, Rastle.K, Nation.K,et al. 2018

[3] DET Literacy Teaching Toolkit, accessed May 2019 from

[4] The Simple View of Reaading: The Snow Report accesssed 4 June 2019 from

[5] Using education assistants to help pave the road to literacy: Supporting oral language, letter-sound knowledge and phonemic awareness in the pre-primary year   Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties 16(2):85-110 · November 2011                                                      [6] Making Sense of Interventions for Children with Developmental Disorders, Bowen & Snow, 2017




Appendix 1:   What Is Reading?

The goal of reading is to understand what has been read, and thus the goal of reading development must be to develop a system that allows children to construct meaning from print. Our review takes a broad perspective on readings development, reflecting the fact that reading is complex. To set the scene, consider the challenges posed by this simple, two-sentence text:

Denise was stuck in a jam.

She was worried what her boss would say.

What needs to happen for us to understand this text? First and foremost, we need to identify the individual words. This in itself is hugely challenging, requiring us to distinguish a word such as jam from all the numerous similar looking words it could be, such as jar or ham. We must have a means of identifying words that may be unfamiliar, such as Denise, and of analysing words which appear in a complex form, such as worried. Words are the building blocks of comprehension, but it’s not just a matter of identifying words: Their meanings need to be activated, appropriate for the context. This means understanding jam with respect to traffic, not the fruit preserve. Casual connections need to be made within and across sentences to understand that she and her in the second sentence refer to Denise in the first sentence.

Despite its brevity, this text demands a good deal of background knowledge: that Denise was probably on her way to work but was running late because of heavy traffic. We can further infer, perhaps prompted by our knowledge of Denise her routines or her attitudes. Perhaps she is in a car or on a bus; we might wish to ponder her relationship with her boss. Perhaps she has been late several times recently and is thus especially worried about their reaction; maybe she is en route for a meeting that, if missed, will have important consequences. We might know her boss, and make inferences based on his or her reputation, prompting us to think about the extent or nature of Denise’s worry. We have no idea, but these are just some of the potential elaborations and inferences that are licensed by the text.

Other factors also add complexity. Making connections within a text and integrating information with background knowledge places demands on working memory. Dealing with an ambiguous word such as jam might engage executive skills if the contextually inappropriate meaning is activated and then needs to be ignored.

This brief analysis makes clear that reading is complex. Even a straightforward, two-sentence text has the potential to require a range of mental operations, ranging from word recognition through to an appreciation of theory of mind. The challenge facing the beginner reader is thus substantial.


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