K-2 English research toolkits

Implement professional dialogue about English K-2 in your school or professional learning network using text-based protocols and core thinking routines for leaders.

The English K-2 syllabus includes:

  • a new structure that highlights foundational literacy skills and reciprocity across outcomes, making clear the essential knowledge, skills and understandings for English
  • new outcomes and content that are informed by evidence and identify skills needed by all students to develop competence in oral language, reading and writing
  • content structured to highlight the connections across oral language, reading fluency, comprehension, and writing, underpinned by the latest research
  • text requirements
  • complementary content for oral language and communication as an alternative means to demonstrate aspects of the outcome for students who use other forms of communication to supplement or replace speech
  • complementary content for handwriting as an alternative means to demonstrate aspects of the outcomes for students who are unable to produce handwriting
  • examples that have been separated from the content. This makes it clearer what is syllabus content and what is provided as support.
  • access content points for students with significant intellectual disability
  • teaching advice to support understanding of the content of the syllabus and to make informed pedagogical decision
  • suggested instructional sequences that provide advice on the sequence to systematically teach phonic and spelling skills.

The syllabus for English K-2 is based on evidence highlighting that:

  • language is represented in spoken, written, nonverbal, symbol, gestural forms and is a tool for communication that differs according to audience and purpose
  • oral language competence provides a solid foundation for communication
  • students may use non-symbolic and/or symbolic forms of communication. Non-symbolic forms include sounds, gestures and eye movements. Symbolic forms include objects, symbols, signs and speech. The use of a range of forms becomes a communication system
  • vocabulary knowledge influences the development of reading, writing and oral language skills
  • phonological awareness and phonic knowledge are essential foundational skills for early literacy
  • transcription skills of handwriting and spelling are important components of writing fluency and impact cognitive load when writing
  • component skills of writing are used to create written texts that are informative, persuasive and imaginative, for different audiences
  • reading fluency refers to accurate and automatic word recognition and prosodic reading and impacts reading comprehension
  • listening to and using literature can build background knowledge and knowledge of text structures to support reading comprehension, expand vocabulary and expose students to new concepts and ideas.

English K-2 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, (2021).

Research tools

Each section includes a research article, a snapshot of the research and an 'Unpacking the research evidence base' slide show that complement each other.

The following titles could be added to the school’s professional reading library to support the implementation of the English K-2 syllabus.

  • Derewianka B and Jones P (2016) Teaching Language in Context, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Mackenzie N and Scull J (2017). Understanding and Supporting Young Writers from Birth to 8, 1st edn, Routledge, London.
  • Beukelman D and Mirenda P (2005) Augmentative and alternative communication: Supporting children and adults with complex communication needs, 3rd edn, Brookes Publishing, United Kingdom.
  • MacArthur C, Graham S and Fitzgerald J (2016) Handbook of writing research, 2nd edn, Guilford Press, New York.
  • Graham S, MacArthur C and Fitzgerald J (2014) Best practices in writing instruction, The Guilford Press, United States.
  • Knapp P and Watkins M (2005) Genre, text, grammar: Technologies for teaching and assessing writing, University of New South Wales Press Ltd, Sydney.
  • Kamil M, Mosenthal P, Pearson P and Barr R (2000) Handbook of reading research, Mahwah, NJ.
  • Beck IL, McKeown MG and Kucan L (2002) Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction, The Guilford Press, New York, NY.
  • Oakhill J, Cain K and Elbro C (2014) Understanding and teaching reading comprehension: A handbook, Routledge, London.
  • Neuman S and Dickinson D (2001) Handbook for research in early literacy, Guilford Press, New York, NY.
  • Bull G and Anstey M (2019) Elaborating multiliteracies through multimodal texts, Routledge, London.
  • Arfe B, Dockrell J and V Berninger (2014) Writing development in children with hearing loss, dyslexia, or oral language problems: Implications for assessment and instruction, Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Exley B and Woods A (2019) Literacies in early childhood: Foundations for equity and quality, Oxford University Press, Australia.
  • McLeod S and McCormack J (2015) Introduction to speech, language and literacy, Oxford University Press, Australia.

Research base

The evidence base for this resource is:

Alignment to system priorities and/or needs – School Excellence Policy, School Excellence Procedure

Alignment to School Excellence Framework – ‘Instructional leadership’ and ‘High expectations culture’ elements in the Leading domain as well as the ‘Learning and development’ and ‘Collaborative practices and feedback’ elements of the Teaching domain.

Alignment with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers – 6.2.4 and 6.3.4

Consulted with – Literacy and Numeracy team and Principal School Leadership representatives

Reviewed by – CEYPL Director and CSL Director

Created or last updated – 28 February 2022

To be reviewed – December 2022


Email questions, comments and feedback about this resource to contactcurriculumreform@det.nsw.edu.au using the subject line ‘Re K-2 research toolkits’.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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