The eight What works best themes below offer helpful ways of thinking about aspects of teaching practice. They are not discrete but overlap and connect with one another in complex ways. Use the guided journey to see what the eight themes look like for reading instruction K-6.

What works best: Reading K-6

How do teachers' expectations of students affect teaching practice?

High expectations

The eight themes of what works best with the High expectations theme highlighted

Teachers’ beliefs about their students influence how they teach and interact with them. High expectations are linked with higher performance for all students. The reverse can also be true. Students may achieve less than their full potential if expectations of their ability are low.

The NSW syllabuses set the expectation for student learning at a point in time. They are the focus for planning, programming, teaching, learning and assessment. The National Literacy and Numeracy Progressions describe common literacy and numeracy learning pathways. The learning progressions allow teachers to more accurately locate a student's current literacy and numeracy knowledge, understanding and skills to support planning for teaching and learning.

To ensure high expectations for all students when learning to read in the early years, reading guides have been developed to support conversations about reading and numeracy improvement in the context of school strategic planning. The Effective reading Kindergarten to Year 2 : A guide to support conversations about evidence-based practice in reading, informs conversations about evidence-based reading instruction in all key learning areas across the K-2 school context. It is critical in the first three years of schooling that students develop the foundational skills in reading. The Improving reading comprehension Years 3 to 8: A guide to support conversations about evidence-based practice in reading, informs conversations about evidence-based reading instruction in all key learning areas across both primary and secondary school contexts.

Introduction to the reading and numeracy guides

High expectations resources:

What learning gains can be made through explicit teaching?

Explicit teaching

The eight themes of what works best with the Explicit teaching theme highlighted

Explicit teaching practices involve teachers clearly showing students what to do and how to do it, rather than having students discover that information themselves. Students who experience explicit teaching practices make greater learning gains than students who do not experience these practices.

Classroom resources are available to support the explicit teaching of reading K-6.

The Effective reading in the early years suite includes resources that highlight the role of phonics, phonological awareness, fluency and vocabulary in effective reading instruction as well as classroom-ready teaching strategies.

Explicit teaching strategies are available for teaching reading in Stages 2-5. They target specific skills and suggest a learning sequence for skill development.

Listen to this conversation with Professor Anne Castles about the systematic and explicit teaching of phonics. Anne explains how explicit phonics instruction can support early reading acquisition, as an essential skill that helps students learn to read.

The Learning Resources Hub (staff only) contains a suite of evidence-based reading resources for Stage 1-Stage 5 teachers across all key learning areas. The comprehensive reading strategies are easily adapted and contextualised to classroom needs and include suggestions for tailored and differentiated learning to build and extend reading skills.

How does effective feedback support student learning?

Effective feedback

The eight themes of what works best with the Effective feedback theme highlighted

Effective feedback provides students with relevant, explicit, ongoing, constructive and actionable information about their performance against learning outcomes from the syllabus.

The National Literacy and Numeracy Learning Progressions support teachers to provide feedback to students on their literacy and numeracy development.

Assessment analysis available for literacy and numeracy assessments support feedback to students and parents as well as advice for teachers on next steps for learning.

The student assessment analysis provided to teachers as part of the Phonological awareness diagnostic assessment and the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check gives detailed feedback to teachers on what the student knows and can do, and also provides lesson ideas and advice on the explicit teaching that may be required to support the student's learning.

The analysis includes an observation summary and diagnosis indicating what skills have been observed, which align with Literacy Learning Progression indicators. It also includes information about why these skills are important for reading and some teaching strategies that could be used in the classroom for targeted teaching.

The Best Start Kindergarten Assessment includes a Parent Feedback Summary, which schools can choose to share with families to provide feedback specific to this assessments and the skills observed. Resources have been created for parents, carers and families of children in the early years of school with activities to support the important learning that happens at home. They are designed for families to help young learners have a great start at school.

Helping your child with literacy at home

How can teachers use data to understand and monitor student progress?

Use of data to inform practice

The eight themes of what works best with the Use of data to inform practice theme highlighted

Teachers use data to check and understand where their students are in their learning and to plan what to do next. Effective analysis of student data helps teachers identify areas where students’ learning needs may require additional attention and development.

PLAN2 is designed to help record observations of students' literacy capabilities. It can be used to analyse student needs and teaching priorities by using progression information to identify where to target the teaching to support student’s reading development. It allows teachers to monitor student growth and to help identify patterns to evaluate what works best and strengthen practice in response.

Scout is the department's data and analysis platform, developed to provide better information about our schools, easily accessed in one central place. It brings vast amounts of data into one location, allowing users to view all information that is relevant to them at one time. It gathers data for faster answers, simplifying data analysis.

The Student assessment analysis information provided in the Phonological awareness diagnostic assessment and the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check help teachers to use data to inform teaching by identifying where a student is at in their reading development and providing advice on where to next.

Feedback from the following literacy and numeracy assessments is available in PLAN2 and Scout:

Teachers can use this data to make decisions about next steps in learning for their class, a group or individual students. They can also use the feedback to create an Area of focus in PLAN2 to support monitoring of reading development in the context of NSW syllabus outcomes.

PLAN2 Areas of focus: An Overview

How can assessment be used to know that learning is taking place and inform next steps?


The eight themes of what works best with the Assessment theme highlighted

High quality student assessment helps us know that learning is taking place. Assessment is most effective when it is an integral part of teaching and learning programs.

Literacy assessments are available for students K-6. These assessments are aligned with the National Literacy Learning Progression and NSW syllabus outcomes. Feedback is available in PLAN2 and can be used to create Areas of focus for monitoring of student reading development.

The Phonological awareness diagnostic assessment is a short on-demand assessment that tells teachers how students are progressing in phonological awareness.

Phonological awareness diagnostic assessment

The Phonics diagnostic assessment is an on-demand assessment for all students that can support teachers in knowing how students are progressing in phonics.

About the Phonics diagnostic assessment

The Year 1 Phonics Screening Check is a short, assessment that tells teachers how Year 1 students are progressing in phonics. This assessment is mandatory for all Year 1 students in NSW schools from 2021.

Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

The Check-in assessment is an optional online reading and numeracy assessment for students in Years 3-9. The Check-in assessment can supplement existing school practices to identify how students are performing in literacy and numeracy and to help teachers tailor their teaching more specifically to student needs.

How can the right conditions for learning set students up for success?

Classroom management

The eight themes of what works best with the Classroom management theme highlighted

Classroom management is important for creating the conditions for learning. Effective classroom management minimises and addresses all levels of disengagement and disruptive behaviours.

Effective classroom management is important for student’s achievement in reading because it creates an environment that minimises disruptions, maximises instruction time, and encourages students to engage in their learning.

The CESE literature review, Classroom management: Creating and maintaining positive learning environments defines classroom management and provides a brief overview of classroom management research. It also describes the characteristics of effective classroom management strategies and how schools can best support teachers when implementing them.

Listen to Eddie Woo discuss the importance of student engagement, and define what this means, explaining the research and giving some practical advice.

How can we create a safe environment for students?


The eight themes of what works best with the Wellbeing theme highlighted

At school, the practices that support student wellbeing involve creating a safe environment; ensuring connectedness; engaging students in their learning; and promoting social and emotional skills.

Tell Them From Me is a suite of surveys for measuring student engagement and wellbeing. The surveys can be used to capture student, parent and teacher voices, providing reliable evidence for schools to use in identifying strengths and areas for improvement.

The CESE publication Cognitive load theory: Research that teachers really need to understand is a publication which supports teachers to understand the science behind learning and intellectual engagement, and why it matters.

Teachers can listen to Eddie Woo discuss the importance of student engagement to gain more insight about the connection between student interest, educational outcomes and wellbeing.

Reading creates opportunities for students to develop key skills and engage with information about their world. Teachers should consider opportunities where students can explore ideas related to social and emotional wellbeing through texts.

Supporting teaching practice through professional collaboration and further learning.


The eight themes of what works best with the Collaboration theme highlighted

Professional collaboration allows best practice to be identified and shared across classrooms. Effective collaboration explicitly aims to improve teacher practices and student outcomes.

A range of professional learning is available that focuses on evidence-based approaches to explicit teaching and effective assessment of literacy and numeracy. These opportunities encourage professional collaboration within schools and with other schools.

The Effective reading in the early years suite comprising professional learning in phonics, phonological awareness, vocabulary and fluency explore the practical application of evidence based teaching of reading.

Focus on vocabulary is available for teachers of Years 3-8 and is the first of the Focus of Understanding Texts suite to be released.

Professional learning is supported by classroom resources that assist teachers to translate their learning into action.

CESE’s publication How schools can improve literacy and numeracy performance and why it (still) matters provides an evaluation of evidence based practices that can improve student literacy outcomes. It supports a whole school collaborative approach to literacy, with a focus on early intervention and targeted teaching of foundational skills such as reading.

The Statewide staffrooms provide an opportunity to connect with colleagues across the state, share resources, and get the latest news and advice on supporting students with their reading development. There are a range of staffrooms to join including Literacy NSW.

The School Support Contacts (staff only) page allows teachers to search for a school to find contact information for non-school based staff, including the contact details for their local Literacy & Numeracy Strategy Advisor. Additional support can also be found in the Literacy and numeracy support (staff only) section of the departments Service navigator.

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