Phonic knowledge

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

Purpose of resource

The research snapshot and professional learning activity are part of the K-2 English toolkit. This supports leaders to unpack research with teachers, that underpins the new syllabus.

Target audience

This resource can be used by school leaders to support teachers with effective syllabus implementation.

When and how to use

The research snapshot and the professional learning activity, ‘Unpacking the evidence base’ slideshow, complement each other and are focused on the same research article. Schools might use these:

  • within whole-school professional learning sessions
  • in stage meetings
  • in professional learning groups.

These may take an hour to implement or can be modified as appropriate. The protocol used to help teachers unpack the evidence can be changed to suit the professional learning context.

Research base

The evidence base for this resource is:


Email questions, comments and feedback about this resource to using the subject line ‘Re English K-2 Research toolkits’.

Alignment to system priorities and/or needs – School Excellence Policy and 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/last updated: 28 February, 2022

To be reviewed: December 2022

Research article – Reading acquisition from novice to expert

Research article – Castles A, Rastle K, and Nation K (2018) ‘Ending the reading wars: Reading acquisition from novice to expert’ Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 19:5–51, doi:10.1177/1529100618772271.

Part 1 – Cracking the alphabetic code

“One virtue of learning to read in an alphabetic system is that each learning experience can facilitate future learning.” page 9

Overview of research

  • Foundational skills, such as phonemic awareness and letter knowledge, are key precursors to student understanding of the alphabetic code, and these interact reciprocally.
  • Systematic phonics instruction, where students are taught grapheme-phoneme correspondences in an ordered manner, has been demonstrated to be highly effective in the teaching of reading.
  • Evidence suggests that phonics teaching is more effective when students are given immediate opportunities to apply what they have learned to their reading.
  • Decodable readers can support students learning the alphabetic code in the early stages of reading instruction.
  • Learning to read requires the acquisition of the alphabetic principle – that the visual symbols of the writing system (graphemes) represent the sounds of the language (phonemes).

Professional discussion and reflection prompts

  • What was the most important observation you made from the research and why?
  • How does this research resonate with your own understanding of, and experience with, teaching students to read?
  • What questions does this research raise for you?

Professional learning activity

Cracking the alphabetic code (PPTX 2 MB)


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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