Applying Our Understanding to Real-World Case Studies

It is with the greatest of pleasures that we share our latest presentation - Applying Our Understanding to Real-World Case Studies.

This presentation is the culmination of recent work, and it is an important next step in putting one’s growing knowledge of literacy development to use. We may know certain things intellectually - such as the stages of literacy development or the components of literacy - but the true test lies in putting this knowledge into practice.

For the purposes of this presentation, viewers will be asked to reflect upon the needs and circumstances of individual learners, and to use this information as the basis of instructional planning.

We all know that literacy instruction cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. For best practice, we need to know where a learner is placed along the literacy journey, so we can provide those experiences that will help the learner continue along in his or her journey.

We must see the enormous potential for profound growth in each learner, and we must commit ourselves to providing learners with the right type and amount of sustained practice to make literacy acquisition a reality.

Ultimately, what is it that we want? We want learners to be able explore, learn and express - fluently and intelligently. We want learners to be able to take control of the script, so they are able use literacy actively and critically for a range of purposes.

Without further ado, we invite you to explore the presentation above. Within the presentation, you will meet Maria, Jonathan, Dakota and David. In the future, we plan to introduce you to a whole cast of others with a focus on providing further opportunities for you to critically reflect and respond to the needs and circumstances of a diverse range of learners.

Please explore the video and download the related slides, which can be found above and on YouTube at The presentation slides can be downloaded at We highly recommend that you download the slides, since they contain the case studies as well as suggested activities.

I wish I could be delivering this presentation in a face-to-face seminar to The Literacy Bug audience. I’d be very curious to know the personal perspectives that you’d bring to the content and the case studies. In the abscence of this opportunity, I encourage you to email your ideas to us at, or leave a comment below or on YouTube. Please explore and enjoy!

To recap, the following are links to the other presentations in the series:

An Overview of Literacy Development
YouTube Video:

Planning and Monitoring for Effective Instruction
YouTube Video:

Teaching According to the Stages of Development
YouTube Video:

Additional Resources for the Planning and Monitoring for Effective Instruction
YouTube Video:

Mastering the Alphabetic Principle
YouTube Video:

Analysing Spoken Words
YouTube Video:
Blog Entry

Words Sorts
YouTube Video:
Blog Entry

Sentence: Types, Features and Structures

Mastering the Alphabetic Code

Today, we share "Mastering the Alphabetic Code" which is available below as well as on YouTube at

This video is a presentation that outlines the key elements involved in learning to “master the alphabetic code”, such as phonemic awareness, phonemic knowledge, letter-sound correspondence, orthographic patterns, morphological patterns and automatic word recognition and construction skills.

It emphasises the need for teachers to develop scaffolded activities that provide learners with the skills to succeed.

The presentation slides can be downloaded at We highly recommend that you download the slides, since they contain many resources mentioned in the video. Please be patient during download. It's a large file, at least in PDF terms (20MB).

Please explore and enjoy! And send us a message if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

Resources for Planning and Monitoring for Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning

After the previous update, you'd be correct to believe that the last video presentation was the final in a series. Even I was convinced of this. Alas, there is one more ... I swear ... or believe.

Today, we share "Resources for Planning and Monitoring for Effective Literacy Teaching and Learning" which is available below as well as on YouTube at

The video is a presentation that summarises a range of resources that can help teachers better plan and monitor for effective literacy teaching and learning. In many ways, it's simply an extension of the previous presentations (listed below).

The presentation slides can be downloaded at We highly recommend that you download the slides, since they contain many resources mentioned in the video. Please be patient during download. It's a large file, at least in PDF terms (20MB).

To recap, the following are links to the other presentations in the series:

An Overview of Literacy Development

Planning and Monitoring for Effective Instruction

Teaching According to the Stages of Development

Last but not least, below is the podcast episode in which we talk about the latest presentation.

Please explore and enjoy! And send us a message if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy Development

Today, we have added yet another new presentation to The Literacy Bug's YouTube channel. The presentation is entitled Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy Developmentand it can be found below or at the following link:

Like its predecessors,  Teaching According to the Stages of Literacy Development clocks in at just about one hour long. So grab your popcorn, sit back, watch/listen and enjoy. The presentation slides are available, so download them here.

This presentation explores the changing nature of literacy across the various stages of literacy development. In so doing, we discuss how instruction must change as learners consolidate core skills and prepare for new skills and expectations. Teaching routines for the various stages of literacy development are also discussed. Please explore and enjoy!. 

To be exact, the presentation sets out to meet the following objectives:

  • to emphasise the developmental nature of literacy;

  • to emphasise how literacy instruction and learning changes across the lifespan, particularly as certain skills are consolidated and new skills and expectations arise;

  • to outline literacy as both a cognitive and social achievement that involves both the mastery of skills and the exploration of content; and

  • to outline the various texts and routines that are applicable to Chall’s Stages of Literacy Development.

(If you are new to The Literacy Bug, feel free to visit our popular page on the Stages of Literacy Development.)

Let us know what you think. It's another longer presentation. We hope to produce some shorter ones in the future.

Below is the audio from the presentation. Whilst it includes references to the visuals, the audio may well make sense on its own. If you would prefer to listen, feel free to play online or download for offline use. Also, it might help to download the slides, and you can follow along as you listen.

We hope the presentation is useful and thought-provoking. Please explore and enjoy!

The Utimate Goal Is Education

 We often ask, how is it that a Grade 3 student is unable to read? How can we allow this?

“Every child, scrawling his first letters on his slate and attempting to read for the first time, in so doing, enters an artificial and most complicated world.”  (Hermann Hesse, Quoted by Wolf, 2008, p 79)

The ultimate goal is education, and we should never underestimate the practical, emotional and deliberative factors which must all align for deep discovery to take place. We must continue to ask the following questions:

  • Is there effective teaching? Are there effective spaces for teaching and learning?
  • Is there a commitment of key stakeholders?
  • What are the opportunities and motivations for practice and application?
  • What presents themselves as barriers to education and how do we minimise these barriers?

For quality education to become a reality, there must be coherent & developmental instruction; passionate & visionary teachers, peers and/or caregivers; quality materials, resources & practices; and a respect for the learners' cultures, experiences and pathways. The learner must be "a biologically and socially adept human being ... susceptible to training ... [with] fundamental trust [in] the authority of the teacher ... [engaged in] socio-linguistic interaction ... transmissible ... through enculturation" (Moyal-Sharrock, 2010, pg 6 - 7). We must work to create joint attention in which all participants share a sense of mutual accomplishment within enabling structures.

As mentioned previously, equity in opportunity to learn requires that the learner has:

  1. Substantial amount of engaged time on task which is not disrupted by teacher and student absenteeism;
  2. Access to quality teaching, resources and environments;
  3. A coalition of support including teachers, parents, community members and peers;
  4. Safe and secure environments free from discrimination and abundant in high educational expectations;
  5. Respect for the funds of knowledge that the learners bring to the learning environments and their cultural way of knowing. This includes a respect for the cultural, social and economic space and the way of knowing particular to it and its occupants, even in an era of globalisation, nationalism and standardisation;
  6. Structuring structures that structure structure, which refers to the aggregate effect of supportive environments, financial capital, social relationships and the employment/educational marketplace;
  7. Resilience, grit, agency and purpose demonstrated by learners as well as from their teachers and their caregivers; and 
  8. Substantial opportunities to practice with key opportunities to turn such practice into sustained existence (e.g. jobs, clubs, etc).

However, we must also engage with the antithesis of this ideal. If we supposedly know the essentials for achieving equity in opportunity to learn, why is it that we allow the achievement gap to widen? Do we put this down to lingustic differences, cultural differences, discrimination, inadequate or negligent teaching, or disagreement over the rationales for schooling? (Au, 1998) Are “disadvantaged” learners in environments that encourages complacency, a lack of self-efficacy or a lack of rigour? Are there inadequate learning materials, limited learning opportunities, and ineffective feedback? Are learners in a world full of risks, harms and threats? Do we know the assets that students bring to the learning and are we prepared to provide the opportunities for transformative education?

Therefore, a FOCUS ON LEARNING involves the most deliberate activities, since we know that any learning is only fragile unless reinforced and integrated into further stages of learning. The child (or emerging learner) is not faced with the prospect of developing such complex skills from the get go. There is a progressive, temporal dimension to this learning where the child is supported by others to develop foundational skills which lead into competency which lead to mastery which lead to further disciplinary practice. Meanwhile, the learner is surrounded by others (family, a community, peers, a culture) who exerts their own practices, knowledge, values and ways of navigating the spoken and written word.

What I do encourage is diligence and vision, empathy and expertise, instruction and reflection because "the child's understanding is not achieved in an instance or a flash, but requires multifarious repetition in multifarious context." (Moyal-Sharrock, 2010, pg 6). Learning also requires closure (or reinforcements). "Wittgenstein means to call to mind ... the intimacy with which seeing [and learning] is bound up with our embodiment, expectations, natural reactions, forms of life, and facts about our natural and social worlds.” (Affeldt, 2010, p. 276) 

The teacher must be able to recognise this and take into account a range of factors when assessing the suitability of the goals for instruction, of the instructional materials, of the instructional methods, of classroom/instructional management, of community and parental engagement, of the role of home language and multilingualism, and of the forms of the assessment to be used (Au, 1998). A teacher's expertise should be both technical and socio-cultural. As Macedo (2001) suggests, “reading specialists ... who have made technical advancement in the field of reading ... [must] make linkages between their self-contained technical reading methods and the social and political realities that generate unacceptably high failure reading rates among certain groups of students.” (pg xiii)


Affeldt, S. G. (2010). On the difficulty of seeing aspects and the “therapeutic” reading of Wittgenstein. In W. Day & V. J. Krebs (Eds.), Seeing Wittgenstein anew (pp. 268 – 288). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Au, K. (1998). Social constructivism and the school literacy learning of students of diverse backgrounds. Journal of Literacy Research, 30(2), 297–319. doi:10.1080/10862969809548000

Macedo, D. (2001). Foreword. In P. Freire (Ed.), Pedagogy of freedom: ethics, democracy and civic courage (pp. xi – xxxii). Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Moyal-Sharrock, D. (2010). Coming to Language: Wittgenstein’s Social “Theory” of Language Acquisition. In SOL Conference 6-8 May 2010. Bucharest.

Wolf, M. (2008). Proust and the squid: the story and science of the reading brain. Cambridge: Icon Books.

A Comprehensive Literacy Pedagogy Would Account For ...

"In becoming literate, one must acquire skills that are only remotely related to print as well as those that are directly related." (Snow, et al, 1991, p. 5)

McKenna, M. C., & Stahl, K. A. D. (2012). Assessment for reading instruction. 2nd Edition. Guilford Press.

Catherine Snow's observation is particularly relevant to managing balanced literacy instruction. In addition to attending to comprehension skills, compositional skills and print-based skills (e.g. phonemic awareness, spelling skills, fluency, etc), such instruction must take into account the learning of the language itself; the situations in which we speak, listen, read and write; what we are actually trying to learn (e.g. cooking, gardening, football, etc); and the desires, needs, preferences, relationships, experiences and knowledge that we bring to the learning. The diagram to the right represents this parallel development of word recognition skills, strategic reading skills, and language and knowledge

A comprehensive literacy pedagogy would be one where developed a mastering of "the code" along with ample and diverse experiences of using language and literacy in everyday practices and in learning. Such a balanced literacy pedagogy  would include a focus on:

  • creating environments and experiences that foster learning, language & literacy;
  • scaffolding reading;
  • scaffolding writing;
  • developing word recognition skills;
  • expanding vocabulary and depth of word meanings;
  • encouraging the representation & retention of knowledge; and 
  • keeping a pulse on a learner's development, interests and motivation.

Such a pedagogy would recognise that:

  1. Human language is a practice and it involves practice.
  2. That practice involves attending to and mastering salient aspects of language.
  3. Whilst spoken language is arguable developed by all, literacy is the acquisition of a code that many take for granted.
  4. This development is incremental and moves through stages. Adults must be ever vigilant and sensitive to this development.
  5. At every stage it is important to emphasise and model that language and literacy should be meaningful, purposeful and about discovery.
  6. The teacher’s role is to help the child by arranging tasks and activities in such a way that they are more easily accessible. The teacher must also ensure that adequate time and space is made available (especially in the great hurly burly of contemporary life). It is important that learners achieves closure.
  7. This requires an introduction to the routines, habits and ways of using language and literacy as mediating tools.
  8. It is vital that the learner has adequate time and space for this engagement (a) to be modelled for them, (b) to participate in guided practice, and (c) to try out new strategies and skills on their own.
  9. We should not underestimate the important role that emotional commitment and attachment plays in the intake, uptake and embodiment of learning.
  10. We must acknowledge that all learning is conducted with others in context and is dependent on access to tools and resources.
  11. It is important to recognise that there are multiple ways of reading/writing and it is vital to create contexts where a range of literacies can be developed.
  12. An individual's reading and writing practices become more specialised as he or she grows into social, community and economic spheres.
  13. Teaching practitioners must be aware of the material and social factors that impinge upon an individual's successful development of a range of language, literacy and learning practices.
We must remember, in the words of Moyal-Sharrock (2010), how "acquiring language is like learning to walk: the child is stepped into language by an initiator and, after much hesitation and repeated faltering, with time and multifarious practice and exposure, it disengages itself from the teacher's hold and is able, as it were, to run with the language." (2010, pg 6)



Cavell, S. (1969). Must We Mean What We Say?. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Moyal-Sharrock, D. (2010). Coming to Language: Wittgenstein’s Social “Theory” of Language Acquisition. In SOL Conference 6-8 May 2010. Bucharest.

Snow, C., Barnes, W. S., Chandler, J., Goodman, I. F., & Hemphill, L. (1991). Unfulfilled expectations: home and school influences on literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Education For All

The following is a speech delivered by Alan Duncan - UK Minister of State at the UK launch of the Global Monitoring Report on 7 April 2014

"I am delighted to be here today to support the UK launch of this year’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report. Its theme, Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality For All fits well with DFID’s education priorities. The report also rightly reminds us why investing in education is so important for any economy as a whole but also (and more importantly) why it matters for every individual.

"Behind this report is 1 simple stark truth. If all girls completed primary school in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, the number of girls getting married by the age of 15 would fall significantly. Education does indeed transform lives.

"In these brief remarks, I want to reflect on what the GMR tells us about DFID’s 3 education priorities, and then outline where more effort is needed to make better and faster progress. ‘Leaving no one behind’ is 1 of DFID’s priorities and this report presents impressive progress over the last 20 years on access to school. Globally there are 51 million more children in primary school today than there were in 1999, and 6 out of 10 countries have now achieved an equal number of girls and boys enrolled in primary school.

"These are signs of real improvement which is the result of significant domestic and international investment and effort. Good progress can be made when the world gets behind a simple and compelling message as it has done with the MDG focus on access to primary school.

"While we should recognise and celebrate this progress, we know that schooling does not always lead to learning. I don’t think any of us here would be satisfied with a primary school in which our children do not even learn to read and to count after four years in school. It’s the quality of learning achieved for every girl and boy, and not just the length of schooling, which makes education such a valuable investment."

Read More

What does it mean to "gain an education"?

The learner must be "a biologically and socially adept human being ... susceptible to training ... [with] fundamental trust [in] the authority of the teacher ... [engaged in] socio-linguistic interaction ... transmissible ... through enculturation" (Moyal-Sharrock, 2010, pg 6 - 7)

I will contend that learning and being educated are givens in human experience. We do learn things and we are brought into learning by others. What we learn and whether or not the learning is successful is a different matter. And whether or not the learning is positive is also up to question (e.g. being raised in an environment of crime and learning certain tricks of the trade). So, I am asking people to provide their perspectives on the question, "what does it mean to gain an education?"  

What education entails for the nomadic, pastoral lifestyle of the Masai is different from that of other sectors of the world (Semali, 1994). Should the education in an elite grammar school in Paris be different from that of a school in a working class community in Manchester? Should the two schools and the students' home environments prepare learners for different forms of life? Is it fair that formal educational institutions celebrate certain forms of knowledge (e.g. of poetry or Shakespeare), whilst marginalising other knowledge (the art of car mechanics) at the same time?

How is the educational life of a young person in South Korea different than the education life of one in the surburbs of Sydney, Australia? What would be the ideal education to suit Indigenous children and young people in remote Australia?

Please use the comments field/link below to offer you own perspective on  what does it mean to gain an education?

Equity in Access to 'Quality' Education for Students in Remote Communities

One can regularly find glaring differences between the have's and have-not's, particularly when structural factors in society serve to perpetuate the differing outcomes for members of the community. I say this in reflection to a specific place and to specific people. It is a place to which I travel often, and the observations made here are observations which I have made previously. Yet I have never quite conceptualised it in writing in the way that I am attempting to do now. I am writing about a place in the centre of Australia. For those who are curious, it is not Alice Springs. It is a sizeable town for the Northern Territory. Many forms of life are lived. Some with material comforts. Many without. There is a deep Aboriginal history in the region as well as a more recent non-Aboriginal presence.

To be more specific, I find myself at the local primary school in the town. Like many schools, the yard at recess is a space of chaos, screams, chattering and climbing. The school population is diverse, which is reflected by the students of Anglo, Asian, and Aboriginal backgrounds. Buildings are colourful as are the classrooms. Inside a particular classroom, I see the divide between those who live in literacy and technology-rich environments and those whose access to books is severely limited outside of school. Those from literacy-rich homes benefit from experiences that are consistent with the content and ways of learning to be found in the typical Australian classroom. The types of investigations and the routines of learning are consistent between school and home contexts. Successful students learn the rules, acquire the knowledge, perform the tasks, and imagine future school success. And these students are able to do so with a fair amount of stability and support from family in the home, who often have a strong understanding of what is occurring in the classroom. The fact that some students come to school better placed to succeed is something well documented. The fact that the school curriculum can inadvertently benefit the culture and experiences of certain students over others is also demonstrated by the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron (1990).

Read More