Eight New Resources Available on The Literacy Bug

In this entry, we are proud to present a range of resources that have been in development for quite some time.

These include:

Please note that the “Elements” Checklist includes information on each of the above (phonemes, graphemes, morphemes, etc), as well as additional notes on reading multisyllabic words and vocabulary development.

All together, the resources are designed to provide reference materials that help one better understand the elements that contribute to word and sentence construction in English. They do NOT describe the activities that a learner can engage in to master these elements, though. As a result, these resources are not particularly helpful on their own, but they can be helpful when planning and reflecting upon the linguistic features that leaners need to master over time.

So ... please explore and enjoy! And remember, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Even if a learner is making progress with mastering the structural aspects of literacy - such as learning to decode words, spell words and write grammatical sentences - there is still a lot of work involved in making meaning from and with the printed word.

Keeping the eye on the prize

Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

There is a niggling concern that I always have when I become too preoccupied with "the basics" of literacy, including components like phonemic awareness and phonics. Sure, these skills are essential, and it’s relatively simple to measure progress in such areas, but I can't help but think, "this isn't the hardest part about literacy, though. We still need to integrate this knowledge into more complex and more ambiguous acts of communication."

I have witnessed many learners who develop such basics, but who still go on to struggle with reading and writing. At the risk of sounding unfair, they often struggle with the patience, stamina, concentration, guidance or even time to become a strong(er) reader/writer - all of which comes through opportunities to manipulate the script.

It reminds me of this little picture that Wittgenstein once painted of someone who had learned to deliberate over a task, “every now and then there is the problem 'Should I use this bit?' — The bit is rejected, another is tried. Bits are tentatively put together, then dismantled; he looks for one that fits etc.. So I sometimes make him say 'No, that bit is too long, perhaps another one fits better.' — Or 'What am I to do now?' — 'Got it!' — Or 'That’s not bad”' etc. ..." In particular, the act of writing resembles this inner dialogue. It's not a straightforward linear task.

At the culmination of this passage, Wittgenstein rightly states, "thinking gives [the learner] the possibility of perfecting his methods." Learning to read and write effectively is a bit like this inner dialogue. Actual reading and writing involves quite intricate acts of problem solving. The learner needs plenty of practice chewing over texts and creating them, particularly after they have gained momentum with the basics.

Wittgenstein presents us with an similar image of teaching that seems to suggest how one initiates another into ways of working, “if a person has not yet got the concepts, I shall teach him … by means of examples and by practice. -- And when I do this I do not communicate less to him than I know myself. In the course of this teaching I shall show him … get him to continue an ornamental pattern uniformly when told to do so. -- And also to continue progressions. And so, for example: I do it, he does it after me; and I influence him by expressions of agreement, rejection, expectation, encouragement. I let him go his way, or hold him back; and so on. Imagine witnessing such teaching. None of the words would be explained by means of themselves; [they makes sense in the context of the practice ... of apprenticeship].” (Philosophical Investigations, #280)

Consequently, this places experience at the forefront of learning. In other words, the learner requires the practical experience to integrate component skills into meaningful, literate act(ivitie)s. In doing so, the learner becomes adept at manipulating the script, and the mentor teacher provides the learner with opportunities to exert this knowledge in engaging ways. Therefore, “the teacher’s role is to help the child by arranging tasks and activities in such a way that [advanced tasks] are more easily accessible.” (Verhoeven and Snow, 2001, pg 4-5)

This gradual initiation relates to something I mention in the recent grammar/sentence presentation. That is, the rules of grammar do not tell me why one sentence should precede or follow another, nor do they tell me anything about what should be the content of my ideas. They may help me formulate and re-formulate a sentence with greater ease - and this is of value - but this in itself does not dictate the logic or content of my communication. Often the sequence of my sentences is guided by convention, and convention is shaped by the expectations of my audience. And I must have had enough experience with this audience to have a sensible understanding of my idea and how to express this idea.

As Ray Monk (1999) would say, “the reason computers have no understanding of the sentences they process is not that they lack sufficient neuronal complexity, but that they are not, and cannot be, participants in the culture to which the sentences belong. A sentence does not acquire meaning through the correlation, one to one, of its words with objects in the world; it acquires meaning through the use that is made of it in the communal life of human beings."

A similar sentiment led Newton Garver (1996) to express the following comment.

“If Wittgenstein and Saussure agree in using ‘grammar’ descriptively, they disagree about ... other matters. One is that Wittgenstein’s grammar has to do with uses of language (discourse conditions and discourse continuation) rather than forms and their combinations (morphology and syntax) ...

"Considering uses rather than forms is a deep rather than a superficial departure from classical linguistic methodology ... Studying uses of language makes context prominent, whereas the study of forms lends itself naturally to analysis.” (Garver, 1996, pg 151)

Maybe I am stating the obvious. Perhaps, I am not making a strong point here. But I write this against the backdrop of the proposal to introduce the Year 1 Phonics Check here in Australia. Whilst I have no objection of teachers getting good data on what their students can and cannot decode, we should always keep our eyes on the prize, which involves the integration of this knowledge into meaningful acts of reading and writing. I often ask, “how can I create opportunities for learners to integrate their skills into meaning making? How do I support and motivate them to take risks and challenge themselves?” We should always offer students opportunities to “use their expanding knowledge of language and their growing powers of influence to figure out [how to read and write] texts.” (Wolf, pp 131)

There you go. I’ve had my say. It’s not a critique of anything. Just an observation.



Garver, N. (1996). Philosophy as grammar. In H. Sluga & D. Stern (Eds.), The Cambridge companion to Wittgenstein (pp. 139–170). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Monk, R. (1999, July 29). Wittgenstein’s Forgotten Lesson. Propsect Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/ray-monk-wittgenstein/#.Uo_n_pHqvGY

Verhoeven, L. and Snow, C. (2001). Literacy and motivation: bridging cognitive and sociocultural viewpoints. In Verhoeven, L. and Snow, C. (Eds.), Literacy and motivation: reading engagement in individuals and groups (pp. 1- 22). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers

Wittgenstein, L. (2001). Philosophical Investigations (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

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

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: https://youtu.be/D7vUhqVXLWg.

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!

Protecting Indigenous languages as vibrant, literate cultures

Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that:

Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalise, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures.”

Often there is a strong focus on preserving the oral nature of traditional, Indigenous languages, and - yet - there is a tendency to overlook the equivalent urgency to protect, capture and foster literacy and literature in the languages of some of the world's oldest cultures.

Today, I am writing with a call to action from The Literacy Bug community. The organisation for which I work - the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation - is one of ten finalists in the Google Impact Challenge. Whilst all ten finalists receive much-needed funding to carry forward their projects, four of the finalist are awarded a grand prize of $750,000 each. One of the grand prize winners is selected via a public vote, which is where you can assist.

I am asking like-minded individuals to vote for the ALNF's Living First Language project. It doesn't matter where you are in the world. If you share a passion for linguistic diversity, literacy and social justice, then please cast your vote in the Google Impact Challenge. Visit the following link to vote:  https://impactchallenge.withgoogle.com/australia2016/charity/alnf. I also ask you to circulate the link to relevant friends and colleagues, whether via email, Facebook, Twitter or other social media.

I have been fortunate to have had significant experience working in and with Indigenous communities in Australia in the areas of Indigenous language and literacy. I regularly hear elders speak of the profound significance that Indigenous languages play in culture, identity, well-being and spirituality. Equally, elders want their children and grandchildren to be literate in their traditional language(s) and English.  As an organisation, the ALNF is committed to Twin Language literacy learning when working in remote Australian communities, and we feel that the Google Impact Challenge grant will provide the means to complete development of a flexible, digital platform that Speaker Groups can use to record, collate, develop, teach and share their languages.

Unfortunately, Australian Indigenous languages are in peril. The 2014 National Indigenous Languages Survey reports that all Australian traditional languages are at risk of declining or in a state of decline. National Geographic notes that traditional languages in Australia are declining at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world. The impact is not merely around language, though. There are known positive impacts on educational, employment, health, and mental health outcomes in communities where language status is strong. In addition, the ALNF is well aware that strong early language and literacy learning in one’s Mother Tongue provides a pivotal bridge for formal (English) literacy in school, which is why the ALNF has developed paper-based and digital resources in collaboration with Speaker Groups, which they use to teach their children to read and write in local Indigenous language(s). 

The Google Impact Challenge grand prize will enable the ALNF to find accessible ways to incorporate emerging technologies - such as natural language processing and machine learning - to enhance the resources that have already been developed as well as the tools that we can only dream of. Ultimately, Speaker Group communities deserve access to innovative, accessible tools, which allow them to read, write, record, develop, teach and share their languages as living, literate languages within local communities and beyond. It is a challenge that the ALNF is willing to accept.

I hope you don't mind this direct call to action. It is rare for me to allow my personal/professional self to show itself in The Literacy Bug. That said, I think it is important to do so in this case. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like further information, have any questions or have great ideas to support the campaign.

And ... please don't forget to vote: https://impactchallenge.withgoogle.com/australia2016/charity/alnf

Podcast #5: A Response to "Encoding, Decoding and Understanding (Print) Language"

Welcome to another episode of The Literacy Bug Podcast! This week I respond to the recent blog entry called “Encoding, Decoding and Understanding (Print) Language”. In the mentioned blog entry, I casually glossed over the importance of oral language comprehension in the role of literacy development. In glossing over oral comprehension, I did not neglect or undermine its significance. In fact, I acknowledge the complexity and significance of language comprehension in propelling the need to encode and decode anything in the first place. In this podcast, I explore that which was left unexplored: the intricate relationship between print processing, language development and cognitive processing. Please listen, explore and enjoy! We aim to bring many more episodes in the coming weeks. (theliteracybug.com)

Encoding, Decoding and Understanding (Print) Language



Please permit me to be abrupt ... at the start, at least. Isn't literacy merely the encoding, decoding and understanding of language? Simplistic though it may sound, print is the younger cousin of the much older member of the family. 

The above schematic addresses this rough relationship between language and literacy. If one is developing the components of language - e.g. phonological, lexical, morphological, grammatical, textual and pragmatic skills - then the learning of “the code” serves to facilitate the transference of the learner’s speech into print, which itself can serve as a platform upon which further literate language can be built. In this case, the code is the interface between language and literacy, and this code requires that learners develop additional skills in order to coordinate and manipulate language-in-print. 

From an early age, a child is learning language, but this child will only slowly develop an awareness of print. By age 6, a child will know thousands of words in oral language, but only know a few - if any - when read (Chall, 1996). This rich oral language provides ample stimulus for learners to begin exploring known (oral) words in print. In the coming years, the child’s oral language will continue to be stronger than what he/she can express on the written page. It is only at 13 years of age that your skilled readers are as competent in oral language as they are in literacy. By 15 to 17 years of age, print (finally) overtakes oral language. At this stage, a learner is apt to be better equipped to explore complex ideas on the page than verbally, particularly if the learner has a strong corpus of academic language. Across this prolonged developmental period, learners become increasingly more adepts and fluid in navigating and representing ideas in literate language.

The remainder of this entry will sketch some thoughts that may come to impact how we approach the encoding, decoding and understanding of literate language. I enter into the discussion with a profound appreciation of print’s older cousin, even though we will not discuss the specific uses of language here.

Part One: Encoding


Isn't it logical to analyse known words, and harness a learner's phonemic awareness to become adept at anticipating how to spell such-and-such a word which is already familiar to the learner? And - then - provide scaffolded opportunities for learners to monitor their own speech to use this skill in their emerging writing? Can't we leverage oral language and visual prompts as vehicles through which the learners become curious about words, the sounds in words and how these sounds and words are represented in print?

These are my queries in relation to the following possible lesson sequence, which could be considered an analytical approach to language-in-print:

  • A known word is uttered orally;
  • That word is segmented into syllables and phonemes (evidenced by phonemic awareness);
  • The learner identifies the matching phoneme cards (pictured below);
  • The learner has a go at spelling the word based on emerging sound-to-letter knowledge (invented spelling);
  • That spelling is tested against the word's conventional spelling, which opens up a platform for discussion of common patterns;
  • We return to the meaning of the word, and of using the word in context.

If a child can recognise all the letters of the alphabet (26 items), what's stopping him or her from memorising all possible English phonemes (45 items, give or take one or two)? And then using this knowledge to "phonemically spell" words that are part of the learner's oral language vocabulary? Sounds logical to me.

We ask kids to memorise the alphabet. Why don't we ask children to remember and apply all possible phonemes in English?

This is effective up to a point. The learner becomes adept at monitoring external and internal speech, and the learner develops a process to more rapidly represent this speech in print. Over time, the learner will process this information more rapidly as he/she recognises certain words and word patterns as whole units. For the time being, the learner is discovering the language-to-print connection, which is a step toward the writing-to-reading connection.

Part Two: Decoding

Eventually, the tables are turned, though. It is no longer enough to be able spell words by relying upon the stimulation of internal and external speech. The learner will need to decode words that are presented first in print. The learner will need to derive oral language from print, which will require that he or she recognises regular patterns, such as phonics patterns, syllable constructions, sight words, word families, morphological regularities and more.

By 6 - 7 years of age, a child is experiencing direct instruction in letter-sound relations (phonics) as well as practice in their use. He or she is reading simple stories using words with these phonic elements as well as high frequency words. By ages 7 - 8, direct instruction extends to include advanced decoding skills along with wide reading of familiar, interesting materials that help promote fluency. Meanwhile, the child is being read to at levels above their own independent reading level to develop language, vocabulary and concepts (Chall, 1996). The child should be motivated to extend themselves in relation to both expressiveness and comprehension.


The sequence when reading words in isolation as well as those in connected text is:

  • Do I see the word(s) and attend to the word(s)?
  • Do I recognise it/them as one(s) I know?  Do I recognise it/them immediately or do I need to decode it/them? Can I begin to guess it/them based on context and other cues? Do I simply recognise it/them or can I also sound it/them out?
  • Can I "chunk it/them"? (e.g. identify syllables, onset-rime and graphemes)
  • Can I allocate sound(s) to individual letters or letter combinations (e.g. graphemes)?
  • Can I refine how the word  or words are read in syllables and use my knowledge of patterns to read more proficiently and meaningfully?
  • Can I recognise the word or words along with words around it/them (if applicable)?
  • Can I re-read the word or words and the sentence (if applicable) with expression and confidence?
  • Do I consider the meaning of the word, the current utterance and other potential utterances?
  • Can the learner begin to develop a more systematic understanding of how English words work?

As learners firmly grasp the concepts of words, phonemes, graphemes and morphemes, then it becomes more feasible to systematically study graphemes in what would be called a synthetic manner. This would extend to involve further exercises which refine the learner's knowledge of spelling rules, stress patterns and more. For the moment, consider the following order of phonics to be taught in a synthetic manner (source: Bear, et al., 2015):

Letter Name-Alphabetic (Semi-Phonetic) Stage [typically between 4 - 7 yrs old]: CVC word patterns with the following sequence of graphemes and blends: short a, m, t, s, short i, f, d, r, short o, g, l, h, short u, c, b, n, k, v, short e, w, j, p, y, x, q, z, sh, ch, th, wh, st-, pl-, bl-, gl-, sl-, sp-, cr, cl, fl, fr, sk, qu, nk, ng, mp, ck

Within Word (Transitional) Stage [typically between 7 - 9 yrs old]: CVCe word patterns leading into more complex CVVC vowel patterns and common multisyllabic words: a-e, ai, ay, ei, ey, ee, ea, ie, e-e, i-e, igh, y, o-e, oa, ow, u-e, oo, ew, vowel+r, oi, oy, ou, au, ow, kn, wr, gn, shr, thr, squ, spl, tch, dge, ge, homophones

Syllables & Affixes (Independent) Stage [typically between 9 - 11 yrs old]: multisyllabic words, adding inflectional endings, homographs & homophones

Derivation (Advanced) Stage [typically between 11 - 14 yrs old]: focusing on advanced prefixes, suffixes, roots as well as word families (e.g. exclaim, exclamation, exclamatory) 

In this model, learners become familiar with letter-sounds after they are supported to navigate sounds-to-letters. Furthermore, one is exploring language well before this or - at least - alongside this study. Upon recognising words from a string of letters and/or sounds, and pictures/intentions from a string of words, then there is hope that learners can process that which has been portrayed within the coded text as well as in the spoken stream. There is hope that one is informing and being informed; is entertaining and being entertained; is greeting and being greeted; etc.

Grapheme / Phoneme Charts

Part Three: Understanding

At this point, it is no longer enough to merely encode, decode and understand basic texts. One needs to encode, decode and understand diverse texts rapidly and accurately in order to read with enough fluency so as to make way for deep comprehension. This requires the learner to coordinate a range of skills, including attention, perception, language knowledge, background/contextual knowledge, phonemic awareness, phonics knowledge, word/morphological pattern recognition, sight word memory, grammatical knowledge, knowledge of text types and the ability to anticipate/select language based on this prior experience.

In this case, there is a text (perhaps spoken, maybe written). I recognise language/words in it (at least most of them). I know the context and the purpose of the text. I know what to look for. There are words that I may need to define in context or have explained to me. I can follow the logic/context, though. I can piece it together to make some logical whole. There are certain occasions where I may get stuck. For instance, I might need to clarify unfamiliar language. I might get stumped by a turn of phrase or two. I might lack some background knowledge or experience. I may just miss the point altogether. I may need the meanings of things explained to me. (What should I be thinking when I read this? What is meant/intended here?) Or I might need help sounding out more complex or unfamiliar terms. What I need most is daily practice which can lead to discoveries about the world, about language and about literacy.

When we process literate language, we process surface features for recognition AND we process deeper features to extract meaning. This is portrayed in the above Iceberg Metaphor.

A significant amount of experience is required to read and write in this meaningful manner. Without this, reading is like looking through a muddy window; you need to strain too hard to see clearly; you can only see things in bits, if at all. However, even if the window is clear (e.g. decodable) you still need to know what you are looking at and what you are looking for.

This reminds me of two parallel experiences of "learning to read". This first involved my stuttering attempts to read in a foreign language, albeit Spanish which shares many common features to English. My lack of vocabulary and insufficient grammatical knowledge meant that I regularly lost my train of thought when reading even the most basic of paragraphs, which - if presented in English - would have been easily comprehended, leaving much space to interpret and apply the information. However, in Spanish, I could not confidently interpret what I was reading, because I lacked confidence and clarity in exactly what I was decoding. I lacked adequate language knowledge. 

A much different experience involved the poetry of e.e. cummings, a poet I adore but who I needed to learn to read ... or - rather - make sense of. In the case of e.e. cummings, I could easily recognise the language, yet it took time to make sense of cummings' innovations with linguistic and poetic forms. It took time to realise the intent behind his innovations, and to come to appreciate how he wanted me - his audience - to feel, think and envision. In order to better understand this latter experience, please explore the essay "To understand, you need to part of the conversation". In practice, reading requires limited background knowledge in the earlier years and substantial background knowledge and concepts as one progress through adolescence into adulthood.


What's the story, then? Our expectations change across time. That much is obvious.

"Word reading is the best predictor of reading comprehension level in the early years (Juel, Griffith & Gough, 1986); but others skills (e.g. background knowledge, inferring, summarising, etc) become more important predictors of comprehension level as word reading ability develops through experience (Curtis, 1980; Saarnio, et al., 1990). Thus, the relative importance of different skills may change during the course of development." (Cain, Oakhill & Bryant, 2004, p. 32) 

There is a time when we are happy that a learner is exploring new words, is using language, is curious about letters and print, and is aware of sounds within words. There comes a time when we expect more, though. We expect learners to spell and read and write and talk more confidently and proficiently. Nothing more, nothing less. And - then - even this is no longer adequate. There comes a time when learners need to process information, organise  and communicate thoughts, discuss with peers and synthesise one’s knowledge. We expect more because ...

“... literacy isn’t a single skill that simply gets better with age ... Being literate is very different for the skilled first grader, fourth grader, high school student, and adult, and the effects of school experiences can be quite different at different points in a child’s development.” (Catherine Snow, et al, 1991, pg 9) 

Diligence, scaffolding, practice and challenging experiences are required. Nothing more, nothing less.


Bear, S., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2014). Words their way: word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction (5th edition). Essex: Pearson.

Cain, K. E., Bryant, P. E., & Oakhill, J. (2004). Children’s reading comprehension ability: Concurrent prediction by working memory, verbal ability, and component skills. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.96.1.31

Chall, J. S. (1996). Stages of reading development (2nd ed.). Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovic College Publishers.

Curtis, M. E. (1980). Development of components of reading skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 72, 656–669

Juel, C., Griffith, P. L., & Gough, P. B. (1986). Acquisition of literacy: A longitudinal study of children in first and second grade. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 243–255

Saarnio, D. A., Oka, E. R.,& Paris, S. G. (1990). Developmental predictors of children’s reading comprehension. In T. H. Carr & B. A. Levy (Eds.), Reading and its development: Component skills approaches (pp. 57–79). New York: Academic Press.

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

A Mantra For All (Literacy) Teachers

"[Engaged reading] is a merger of motivation and thoughtfulness. Engaged readers seek to understand … [They] are mastery oriented and teachers create contexts for engagement when they provide prominent knowledge goals; real-world connections to reading; and meaningful choices about what, when and how to read.” (Guthrie, 2001)

As literacy teachers, we know that literacy development requires the strengthening of word recognition skills, building of vocabulary; guided reading; guided writing; the shaping of discourse (or oral language); the development of knowledge; the establishment of practices and the fostering of literate identities. This occurs in multiple contexts with others for various purposes across time through coherent and developmental instruction, passionate and visionary teachers, quality materials and resources, and a deep respect for the learners’ cultures, contexts and experiences. We want students to learn, be and become through teaching that is developmentally sensitive, culturally appropriate and aspirational in environments which are safe, secure and free from discrimination and inequity.

We must ensure that there is quality instruction at all levels using quality resources in quality environments through quality relationships with quality opportunities that are carried out in a supportive form of life in that complex stream of living.

In relation to the practicalities of language and literacy development, we encourage instructors, tutors and parents to use simple language to describe best practice. In the end, the best teacher should:

  1. talk regularly with learners about things for both their oral language development and their knowledge development; 
  2. read to learners, read with learners, and help learners read on their own;
  3. write for learners (shared & interactive writing), write with learners (joint construction), and help learners write on their own
  4. help learners understand phonics, letters, words, and grammar;
  5. help them learn about the world and about themselves; and
  6. help learners be active in ways that the use language and literacy as tools for understanding, expression and action (Pinnell & Fountas, 1997).


  • Guthrie, J. T. (2001). Contexts for Engagement and Motivation in Reading. Reading Online, 4(8). Retrieved from http://www.readingonline.org/articles/handbook/guthrie/
  • Pinnell, G. S., & Fountas, I. C. (1997). Help America Read: A Handbook for Volunteers. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

Some Rough Notes on Certain Elements Contributing to Literacy Learning


The following are types of focal learning areas:

  1. Word study (including early language and beginning vocabulary development)
  2. Vocabulary development
  3. Early composition (creating sentences, usually based on some stimulus)
  4. Reading practice (for fluency with some comprehension)
  5. Reading practice to deploy strategies
  6. Close comprehensive reading (and responding)
  7. Reading to respond (focus on text type)
  8. Writing workshops (with portfolio development and mini-lessons)
  9. Writing for a purpose (to real audiences)
  10. Facilitating oral language
  11. Emphasising oral language in learning
  12. Developing skills in specific spoken discourses, genres, contexts and/or registers
  13. Academic/disciplinary literacies
  14. Anchored learning (instruction)
  15. Functional literacy


There following skills areas are developed within and across the above sequences:

  • language skills;
  • literacy skills;
  • knowledge development;
  • learning skills (how do I learn? how/why do I remember something? how do I defer gratification?, how do I maintain focus?);
  • social and emotional qualities (including trust, confidence and self-concept);
  • schemas, routines, habits and practices;
  • independence and resilience;
  • interests, identities, expertise and careers;
  • acumen and awareness of talents/specialisation
  • deliberation, familiarity and situated cognition (how to attack and solve problems in context? how do I deploy this strategy in context? and to what effect?);
  • critical thinking; and
  • cultural and political awareness


We must be mindful of:

  • time allocated to learning;
  • the richness of the learning spaces/resources;
  • the organisation of learning; 
  • the appropriateness and challenging nature of the content;
  • the available of material conditions and opportunities to practice; and
  • issue affecting trust, power and access.

What Have I Been Reading Lately?

Once again, for those who may be curious about the things I have been reading as of late, the following is a list of articles and books that I have scoured in the past few weeks. Regular visitors might notice that there has been a significant focus on all-things-literacy-related, which is another indication of the impending launch of The Literacy Bug website.

  • Allington, R. L. (2002). What I’ve Learned about Effective Reading Instruction from a Decade of Studying Exemplary Elementary Classroom Teachers. The Phi Delta Kappan, 83(10), 740–747. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20440246
  • Allington, R. L. (2006). Fluency: Still waiting after all these years. What research has to say about fluency instruction, 94-105.
  • Bear, S., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2014). Words their way: word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction (5th edition). Essex: Pearson.
  • Blackwell-Bullock, R., Invernizzi, M., Drake, E. A., & Howell, J. L. (2009). Concept of Word in text: an integral literacy skill. Reading In Virginia, 31, 30–35.
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  • Christ, T., Wang, X. C., & Chiu, M. M. (2011). Using story dictation to support young children’s vocabulary development: Outcomes and process. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 26(1), 30–41.
  • Coyne, M. D., Capozzoli-Oldham, A. & Simmons, D. C. (2012). Vocabulary instruction for young children at risk of reading difficulties: teaching word meanings during shared storybook readings. In E. J. Kame’enui & J. F. Baumann, Vocabulary instruction: research to practice (2nd edition). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Fisher, D., Frey, N. & Lapp, N. (2011). What the research says about intentional instruction. In S. J. Samuels & A. E. Farstrup (Eds), What research has to say about reading instruction(4th edition). (pp. 359 - 378). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
  • Flanigan, K. (2007). A concept of word in text: A pivotal event in early reading acquisition. Journal of Literacy Research, 39(1), 37–70. doi:10.1080/10862960709336757
  • Flanigan, K., Hayes, L., Templeton, S., Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., & Johnston, F. (2011). Words their way with struggling readers: word study for reading, vocabulary, and spelling instruction, grades 4 - 12. Boston: Pearsons.
  • Goldman, S. R., & Lee, C. D. (2014). Text complexity: state of the art and the conundrums it raises. The Elementary School Journal, 115(2), 290–300. doi:10.1163/_afco_asc_2291
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  • Kuhl, P. K. (2004). Early language acquisition: cracking the speech code. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 5(11), 831–43. doi:10.1038/nrn1533
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  • McGee, L. M, & Dail, A. R. (2010). Phonemic awareness instruction in preschool: research implications and lessons learned from Early Reading First. In M.C. McKenna, S. Walpole, & K. Conradi (Eds) Promoting early reading: research, resources and best practices. New York: Guilford Press.
  • McGinty, A. S. & Justice, L. M. (2010). Language facilitation in the preschool classroom: rationale, goals and strategies. In M.C. McKenna, S. Walpole, & K. Conradi (Eds) Promoting early reading: research, resources and best practices. New York: Guilford Press.
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  • McIntyre, E., Hulan, N., & Layne, V. (2011). Reading Instruction for Diverse Classrooms: Research-Based, Culturally Responsive Practice. New York: Guilford Press.
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A collection of observations regarding the fostering of literacy practice

On the subject of the value of reading, I can sum up the importance of language and literacy in three words: independence, control, and participation. A person who speaks on his or her own behalf and who is a skilled reader and writer can independently advocate for him- or herself and navigate his or her own learning. And since literacy is a constructive skill (as Wittgenstein's picture theory suggests), the individual learns ways to control and critically reflect on experience.  And the development of language and literacy skills amongst a community of practice allows one to participate in that group, to contribute to that group and to find a valued identity therein.

Language, literacy and knowledge allows one to shape the world around one and they allow for one's perception of the world to be shaped by others. Literacy allows one to access information; construct and organise knowledge; participate in a community of practitioners; adopt the many ways of being readers and writers; and persuade (and be persuaded), inform (and be informed), entertain (and be entertained) … ponder, explore, speculate upon, confirm and represent experience.  

“Learning to read is a developmental process that takes place over time, involves qualitatively different (but perhaps overlapping) phases, and may break down at different points due to the failure to acquire the core skills that underlie the development of literacy (Ehri, 2005; Pressley, 2006; Snow & Juel, 2005; Tunmer & Nicolson, 2011). 

Read More

Major Updates Made to the Literacy Glossary and Reading Lists

Some may downplay this announcement as merely routine site maintenance. In actual fact, an update to the site's glossaries and reading lists is news that significant progress has been made to the very foundations of the online resource. 

Firstly, progress is finally being made to the Literacy Glossary. This resource is a work-in-progress. A core list of 70 terms/concepts will be part of the initial list. These terms/concepts will be added over the coming weeks. A further announcement will be made once the Literacy Glossary is fully drafted.

Secondly, there is a range of additions that have been made to the Literacy-Related Reading Lists. In the Contexts of Literacy Instruction section, I have added readings related to the Language Experience Approach (LEA). LEA is an pedagogy whereby shared experiences (e.g. gardening, going out bush, cooking, etc) become the basis for interactive writing exercises which - in turn - produce texts that serve as sources of further reading practice. Teachers and students can use digital photography and information scaffolds to document experiences, and this documentation can be used to recreate, recount and extend upon the shared experiences. Teachers are also encourage to focus on particular words for word study and vocabulary exercises. LEA is an effective teaching technique for younger students and beginning English language learners. More about the Language Experience Approach will be written in the near future. In the meantime, please explore the readings

Two reading lists have also been added to the Elements of Instruction section of the readings: Supporting Fluency and Assessment Tools. This rounds out the Elements section. The lists mirror the five pillars of effective reading instruction (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000), whilst also including an emphasis on writing and oral language development. Effective instruction must foster the development of phonemic awareness, letter-sound correspondence (including spelling), vocabulary, oral language, reading fluency, reading comprehension and writing/composing. The Supporting Fluency reading list provides a brief yet comprehensive list of references, whilst the Assessment Tools reading list will grow over time.

Last but not least, word clouds have been added to each of the reading lists in the Elements of Instruction section. The logic of the word clouds will be revealed in a future resource. In the meantime, the following is a gallery of the collected clouds. Please enjoy and explore!


  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.


Coming Soon ... The Literacy Bug

In a recent Journal Entry, I mentioned that Changes Were Afoot. The change mentioned at the time was quite minor. It involved the mere change of one word. Wittgenstein on Learning became Wittgenstein on Literacy. That was all in preparation for another change, which is being announced today and which will take effect over the coming weeks. 

Today, I can announce that the site will have a new name, but not necessarily a new direction. Please welcome The Literacy Bug (http://theliteracybug.com). The change acknowledges that the site has been moving toward a particular focus on literacy. The new name allows us to simultaneously break from an explicit link to the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, whilst also celebrating this link. 

For the general visitor, the new name has a certain attraction. We want people to Catch the Literacy Bug. We want learners to be infected with the desire to gain meaning from print and to codify ideas in the written word. In the interests of free-flowing information, we want to celebrate the proliferation of oral, print and visual literacies. 

For the nuanced visitor, the name alludes to Wittgenstein’s famous Beetle in the Box thought experiment. If you permit us to recap the experiment, it goes as follows … There are a certain number of people - perhaps around a table. Each one has a box before him or her. They are told that each one has a beetle in his/her box. The group is - then - asked, “do you know what is in each other’s box?” The group’s response is obvious, “of course, you just told us. We each have a beetle.” What is the point here? Well … because the group share a common language and certain common experiences, then they can understand what has been said without looking inside the “box”, which can metaphorically be taken as either “the mind” or “empirical verification”. Isn’t this the magic of language and - thereby - literacy? We can share ideas, mental pictures, concepts, etc. through the common language that we share. 

Sure … we may need to interpret others’ minds to get the point.  We may even need to share certain values, concepts and practices. And there will be certain texts that will elude the most literate person if the content lies too far outside one’s experience. And there will be cases where a text will richly provide its reader with new experiences and new ways of perceiving events that will leave an indelible impact on their world picture. Isn’t that magical?

Please welcome to The Literacy Bug. You can visit http://theliteracybug.com and you will be swept back to this site. The site's previous addresses will continue to work (wittgenstein-on-literacy.com and wittgenstein-on-learning.com), and the final version of the new logo is still under development. Enjoy and explore!