Structured Literacy

At Tauraroa Area School we teach literacy using the structured literacy approach. Structured literacy is an approach to reading where students are explicitly taught word identification and decoding strategies in a systematic way. With structured literacy there’s a high level of student-teacher interaction and prompt, corrective feedback which helps to build strong foundations so students become confident, proficient readers and writers.


Who does structured literacy benefit?

Structured literacy is based on the science of how the brain learns to read. In any given classroom, around 10-15% of students will have some difficulties such as dyslexia with another 40-50% struggling to read for other reasons. Structured literacy aims to make sure every student is given the best tools possible to learn to read and write effectively.


How does it work?

Structured literacy works by explicitly teaching literacy, rather than expecting the student to ‘pick up on it’. It means that concepts are taught when a student is ready to learn them, and the student learns at a very individualised pace. The approach focuses on starting from the basics of phonological awareness, letter sounds and then starts to teach children how to decode and encode words (breaking down sounds and syllables and putting them back together again). Students learn language comprehension such as the structure of language – vocabulary, verbal reasoning (metaphors, alliteration, inference), the meaning behind words, phonology including suffixes and prefixes.


How does this work for students with dyslexia or other learning differences?

For students with dyslexia, this is one of the only ways they’ll learn to read. The approach is geared towards students who have learning differences such as dyslexia but also ensures that those who don’t have these issues also benefit. As students learn at their own pace, some students will learn faster than others, but everyone is celebrated when they reach key milestones, regardless of the time taken to meet the goal.

Traditional approaches to reading don’t teach the skills needed for students to become good writers – which is important at their senior years at school and beyond. Structured literacy teaches both reading AND writing, and ensures that students are given strong foundations to become confident and proficient readers and writers.


What does the approach look like from a parent’s perspective?

Your child will learn at their own pace – this means they move to the next stage when they’re ready, not when everyone in their group is ready.

It’s also likely your child won’t be sent home with a book to ‘read’ for at least 3 months. It doesn’t mean they’re not learning to read; they’re learning pre-reading skills such as letter sounds and decoding. The process is learning 8 letters, then your child will be sent home with a book with only those letters in it, then they’ll learn another 8 letters, come home with another book and so on. We’re constantly, informally and formally, assessing your child to ensure error-free learning as much as possible and so we know when they’re ready to graduate to the next stage.


What if my child has already learnt to read/has some literacy skills?

If your child has already learnt some reading skills using other methods and are now really good readers, there are still things that they can learn from structured literacy. One of the main skills s learning to be good writers which involves learning about decoding and encoding, which is taking words off the page and putting them back on the page. They won’t be made to ‘re-learn’ how to read, rather the skills they already have will be built upon to ensure they have strong foundations without gaps.


The key benefits of structured literacy

  1. Structured literacy ensures that every child has the opportunity to become a confident, proficient reader and writer.
  2. Structured literacy gives a very strong foundation in phonemic awareness and spellings – which is a strong foundation for literacy success.
  3. Structured literacy is more inclusive of those who are neuro-diverse or have other challenges, so that we can ensure nobody misses out, even those with high learning needs.
  4. Structured literacy is more individualised as learning can be tailored to meet the needs of each student, rather than the group as a whole.
  5. As structured literacy is explicit and systematic, it enables continuity and progression. There’s a seamless progression of skills and they continually build on their skills as they move through the school.
  6. Structured literacy isn’t just about reading, it’s both reading AND writing, which is all of literacy and enables our students to become great readers and writers.