A recent Grattan Institute report has shared that one-third of Australian students are failing to learn to read proficiently, referring to the situation as a ‘preventable tragedy’. In addition, the report identifies evidence-based approaches utilising structured literacy programs with phonics and explicit instruction as the most effective methods of teaching literacy.

At Toowoomba Grammar School, we implement a structured synthetic phonics approach to teaching spelling and reading that focuses on developing children's phonological awareness and decoding skills from Prep through to Year 6, which aligns to the recommendations of the Grattan Reports. The program we promote from Prep through to Year 6 is called Promoting Literacy Development (PLD). This program is underpinned by the Science of Reading and supported by the SPELD Foundation.

The Science of Reading advocates that reading is a learned skill that must be explicitly taught. Developing reading proficiency is a complex process involving phonological awareness (the ability to recognise and manipulate the sounds in spoken language), decoding (the ability to sound out words based on their letter-sound relationships), fluency (the ability to read with speed and accuracy), vocabulary knowledge, and comprehension (the ability to understand what is being read).

Our PLD program is delivered through explicit teaching methods. Explicit teaching is a group of research-supported instructional behaviours that provide the necessary support for successful learning through clarity of language and purpose and the reduction of cognitive load. It promotes active student engagement by requiring frequent and varied responses followed by appropriate affirmative and corrective feedback. Moreover, it assists in long-term retention through using purposeful practice strategies (Hughes, Morris, Therrien and Benson, 2017). This approach contrasts with more exploratory or inquiry-based methods, focusing instead on providing students with foundational knowledge and skills in a methodical manner.

In the context of literacy and numeracy, explicit teaching entails deliberate teacher modelling and meticulously explanation of the rules, patterns and strategies underlying language and numbers. It goes beyond assuming that students will naturally grasp these fundamentals through exposure alone. Instead, it recognises the need for structured guidance to ensure mastery.

For students at Toowoomba Grammar School, explicit teaching offers distinct advantages. Research shows that students benefit from clear and ordered instruction, particularly in the early stages of literacy and numeracy. Explicit teaching can also lead to higher levels of engagement and achievement due to preventing cognitive overload. A review conducted by the Australian Education Research Organisation in 2023 found that explicit teaching positively impacts student achievement in mathematics, reading, spelling, problem-solving and science. The studies also found that it works for both primary and secondary students and benefits students with and without additional learning needs.

Through a systematic and structured phonics program (PLD), our students have been mastering the essential skills needed to decode words and understand their meaning. PLD’s Structured Synthetic Phonics (SSP) approach is based on international research and the resources are upgraded as new research becomes available. In addition, our programs are independently assessed by third-party researchers. This research has shown that when PLD programs are used, in conjunction with ongoing professional development and school-wide consistent screening and tracking, measurable differences occur.

In addition to phonics, we've placed a strong emphasis on building word knowledge. This includes expanding vocabulary, learning about word families and patterns, and exploring the origins of words. By understanding the building blocks of language, our students are better equipped to tackle even the most challenging words.

If you’d like further information about Toowoomba Grammar School’s approach to literacy in the Junior School, please contact the School at communications@twgs.qld.edu.au.

- by Chantelle Bauer, TGS Junior School Deputy Head (Teaching and Learning)

Prep teacher, Mrs Eloise O'Connell teaching students to read

Latest Blog

Sports & Activities
/
Thursday, 13 June 2024

NZ Rugby Tour success, more than winning matches across the Ditch

The teams were undefeated and it was a trip the players will never forget. This tour was years in the making and heralds a new era of touring and hosting different rugby schools to give our players opportunities for growth as athletes and as people. Head of Sport - Rugby, Mr Lincoln Clapham, explained they selected 46 students to take part in the ten-day tour and began training last year. From Term 1 onwards, the squad trained twice weekly on the oval plus two and sometimes three gym sessions…

Read More
Teaching & Learning
/
Thursday, 06 June 2024

Aussie Teen Reading Habits Revealed

I was recently sent an article, summarising some research from Deakin University around the reading habits of teens in 2024. Some of it was, as the title suggests, surprising. Some was not. However, all of it was built around the importance of reading, and supporting our teens to read, which is something that every one of us should do. While we tend to see our teens as digital natives, recent research from Deakin University suggests that the average Aussie teen reader would rather flick through…

Read More
Community Engagement
/
Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Now More Than Ever

The one-of-a-kind Indigenous artwork is emblazoned across the shirts for the First IV Tennis team, jerseys for the First XI Football team and First XV Rugby team and First V Basketball team's singlets. National Reconciliation Week is a significant date on the calendar for all Australians, running from Monday, 27 May to Monday, 3 June. The incorporation of this Indigenous design in our uniforms is a significant milestone for our School, especially for our 47 Aboriginal and Torres Strait…

Read More
Teaching & Learning
/
Friday, 17 May 2024

It's a numbers game, making mathematics mainstream

Term 2 has been a busy one in the Mathematics department; from multiple year levels having extended assessment tasks to competitions run inside and outside the School. Using mathematical equations to recreate artwork The Year 11 Mathematical Methods students got a chance to be very creative with their assessment - using numbers to reproduce artwork. The boys visited the 2024 Grammar Art Show in Term 1 and were given the task to reproduce a chosen work using their knowledge of mathematical…

Read More
Boarding
/
Thursday, 16 May 2024

Bucolic beginnings, boarding and becoming a bowel surgeon

Coming from a cattle property near Injune I was in awe of the School’s ovals with lush, green grass and immaculate facilities. I found being able to throw yourself around and not risk skin cuts and grazes quite novel. Sharing the same field where many Old Boys and past heroes trotted was inspirational. I found the comradery among the boarders my most overwhelming memory. It was like having 60 brothers with similar interests all living under the same roof. There was always someone around to kick…

Read More
Boarding
/
Wednesday, 08 May 2024

Our Other Mother

Meet Ms Janelle Fletcher, the House Mum of Corfe, whose journey at TGS began back in 1992 as an instrumental music teacher. Her story is one of deep connections, love for the arts and an unshakeable bond with the students of TGS. From the time that Janelle first stepped onto campus and shared her musical talents with young minds to now creating her own “mum moments” in Corfe — she has nurtured a profound sense of community and established connections that have lasted through generations. Her…

Read More
The Arts
/
Wednesday, 01 May 2024

Fostering a creative generation and getting exhibited at GoMA

2023 Visual Arts student Ben Rosenberg (TGS 2019-2023) had his film “Mitchell” selected and it's now on display as part of the 2024 Creative Generation Excellence Awards in Visual Art at GoMA. For 30 years the Awards have recognised and promoted excellence in senior visual art education throughout Queensland schools. Secondary schools typically enter the work of up to four Senior students. Previous winners from TGS include Sam McCosker (2013) and Austin Reed (2017). Ben is a filmmaker and…

Read More
Old Boys
/
Wednesday, 24 Apr 2024

In memory of Light Horse Field Ambulances

Toowoomba Grammar School would like to acknowledge our admiration for the loyalty, service and bravery exhibited by TGS Old Boys who so valiantly served. We are all the beneficiaries of their sacrifice, and their selfless actions continue to inspire a spirit of service amongst our current students. Today we focus on the contribution of one TGS Old Boy who made a significant contribution to World War I. Here is some of the incredible story of Major Avery, DSO and if you visit the School Museum…

Read More
Character & Wellbeing
/
Wednesday, 17 Apr 2024

New Caledonia, new horizons and travel through an educational lens

The opportunity to travel not only opens doors to new experiences but also fosters an increased intercultural understanding and empathy, both essential qualities for navigating and existing within our diverse world. For a group of language students travelling to New Caledonia, our recent French Language and Cultural Tour was a unique opportunity for such experiential learning, where language acquisition went beyond just learning vocabulary and grammar - and instead became a gateway to connect…

Read More