Evidence based reading intervention

August 31, 2023
Evidence based reading intervention

Evidence based reading intervention

Research shows that Structured Synthetic Phonics programs provide the most effective approach to teaching phonics (decoding) skills. This approach is best practice for all students in the classroom, not just those with learning difficulties.

Many high quality Structured Synthetic Phonics programs are available. Dr Skye McLennan, Clinical Psychologist at SPELD SA explains that they all share the following characteristics:

  1. Explicit: They explicitly teach the links between printed letters and the sounds that they represent (children are not expected to guess or work this out themselves).
  2. Structured: They introduce a small number (2-6) of new letter+sound combinations at a time and introduce them according to a predetermined sequence.
  3. Appropriate pace: They do not introduce the next set of 2-6 letter+sound correspondences until the student has had ample opportunity to practice and consolidate the sets already introduced.
  4. Gradual introduction of words with irregular spelling: They introduce a small number of ‘tricky’ words that have unusual spellings (e.g. ‘once’; ‘two’) at each stage. These ‘tricky’ words are also introduced in a predetermined sequence. 
  5. Practice using decodable text: They direct students to practice reading passages/books/readers that are made up exclusively of words that contain the letter+sound correspondences (and ‘tricky’ words) that have already been taught. This allows students to practice what they have been taught, which helps the new skills to become well-learned. Carefully matched decodable books ensure that children never encounter words that they are unable to decode or recognise (thereby allowing them to experience success at each stage). 



Some examples of structured and systematic evidence-based programs for use by trained teachers, tutors, or parents who have undergone training courses are:

  • Sounds-Write – a comprehensive program covering reading and spelling from beginner to Grade 3 level that can be used with a whole class or in a one-on-one format. 
  • MultiLit Suite of Programs – a set of related programs developed by Macquarie University, which aim to teach at the whole-class to Year 2 level (InitiaLit), as well as specific programs for those needing literacy intervention (MiniLit, Maqlit, and MultiLit).
  • PLD Literacy and Learning – designed as a whole school approach from Kindergarten or Reception/Foundation to Year 3, but can be implemented within individual classrooms and for small group intervention.
  • Little Learners Love Literacy – an early literacy program for children in Junior Primary.
  • Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar – a whole-class program, which includes activities and games for reading and spelling in addition to the main teaching content.
  • UFLI Foundations – an explicit and systematic phonics program that introduces students to the foundational reading skills necessary for proficient reading. It follows a carefully developed scope and sequence and is designed to be used for core instruction in the primary grades or for intervention with struggling students in any grade.

To view more examples please download this PDF

SPELD SA provides training in many of these programs.  For training dates visit our workshops page.