Primary Literacy Teaching Toolkit explained

​Toolkit backg​round

The Literacy Teaching Toolkit provides practical advice and high impact teaching practices that improve outcomes in reading, writing and speaking and listening.

Content for the primary Toolkit is structured around each of the three modes for English (reading and viewing, speaking and listening and writing).

It includes sections on:

  • effective instruction
  • the literacy focus for each of the modes
  • teaching practices
  • approaches to teaching
  • in practice examples including lesson plans for a range of teaching practices.

The Literacy Teaching Toolkit also contains advice and strategies that support teachers to differentiate for EAL/D learners. It includes advice for teachers of EAL/D and English first language students learning together, and for low literacy EAL/D students and students in the early, mid and late immersion stages of EAL development.

There are three parallel approaches to the EAL advice in the Literacy Teaching Toolkit:

  • explicit teaching of concepts, vocabulary, language structures, text types, and language and literacy skills
  • scaffolding to reduce the cognitive load on students so that their attention is directed to key content and language learning (CESE, 2017), for example through:
    • making abstract concepts more concrete through experiences, examples, illustrations
    • making ephemeral communication (such as spoken instructions) more permanent by repeating, recasting, and writing it down
  • connecting with the lives of EAL/D learners by engaging their life experience, prior knowledge, plurilingual repertoires (knowledge and use of multiple languages) and identities in curriculum planning and classroom teaching.

Teachers build a positive climate for learning within their classrooms and empower their EAL/D students to use their home languages alongside English for learning at school. Teachers highlight why and how students’ home languages are useful for learning purposes, and scaffold students to use their entire meaning making resources to learn.

For more information on how EAL/D students’ linguistic and cultural capital can support language and literacy development, see: English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) learners .

Using the toolkit

The toolkit supports teachers to understand what excellence looks like for language and literacy, and to:

  • activate their knowledge
  • understand what excellence in practice looks like for the teaching of language and literacy
  • understand the manageable steps that teachers can take in the teaching of language and literacy in each domain of practice
  • understand the learning continuum for literacy as it relates to the Victorian Curriculum, to locate a student’s progress and a teacher’s next steps.

It is designed to provide access to evidence informed understandings about effective language and literacy teaching and learning through:

  • detailed accounts of essential elements of what needs to be taught
  • descriptions of key language and literacy teaching practices and their role in scaffolding learning
  • linking theory and practice
  • detailed instructional guides and sequences of lessons which illustrate practical examples of language and literacy teaching
  • video vignettes which demonstrate literacy teaching practices
  • video vignettes of experts discussing various dimensions of literacy for use in professional learning or discussions within schools.

Teachers can use the toolkit to:

  • strengthen classroom literacy teaching and learning programs
  • support professional learning meetings
  • develop school-wide literacy plans
  • plan for teaching and learning to build success in literacy
  • personalise student learning experiences
  • support self-reflection
  • develop a scaffolded approach to building their language and literacy knowledge and practices.
  • develop subject matter knowledge across curriculum.

Guide to the Literacy Teaching Toolkit

A guide has been designed to support school leaders and teachers to understand and use the toolkit:

Literacy Teaching Toolkit map: Foundation to Level 6

Literacy and the curriculum​

The Victorian Curriculum, the English as an Additional Language (EAL) Curriculum and the VEYLDF set out what students are expected to learn about literacy in primary and secondary schools. Both require teachers to have sophisticated knowledge about language and literacy content. Teachers also require an appreciation of effective teaching practices that allow them to incorporate informed content and pedagogical knowledge into their practice. The toolkit supports teachers by providing detailed evidence-based guidance on effective literacy instruction. The current version of the toolkit contains guidance on reading and viewing for primary and secondary schools (for students working up to Level 6).

School leadership teams use the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) to drive strategic and annual planning for excellence in literacy teaching and learning at the whole school level. The toolkit supports schools and teachers in the FISO priority area of Excellence in teaching and learning.

Recent research has shown that when school and early childhood educational leaders develop their specific knowledge about literacy teaching and learning for all learners, their educators and teachers feel supported and engaged in raising achievement in literacy for the different cohorts of students.

The role of professional learning in literacy has taken ‘centre stage’ in leaders’ planning across the whole school setting.

Development of the toolkit has drawn on extensive research that shows to be an effective reader requires skills and understandings in decoding, text use and text analysis. Teachers should employ a range of evidence based literacy approaches to tailor teaching and learning to the needs of their students. Teachers are expected to teach phonics explicitly, for example, alongside supporting students’ literal, inferential and evaluative comprehension. It is important to support students’ interest, engagement and enjoyment with books and other texts that they read and view. The toolkit is a web-based resource that supports teachers to implement the Victorian Curriculum, the EAL Curriculum and the VEYLDF.

Literacy background

Literacy education is fundamental to children’s success at all levels of education from early childhood to tertiary (Freebody, Barton & Chan, 2014). Literacy teaching is a central component of every school’s business. Effective literacy programs enable students to see connections between, especially, reading and writing and allow them to engage in extended dialogues about their learning. In acknowledgment of  the theoretical links between language and literacy, Snow (1991) proposed a four domain model: conversational language skills, decontextualized oral language skills, print skills, and emergent literacy skills.

Snow described the variety of language purposes in each domain and how specific domain skills related to literacy, for example the connections between decontextualized oral language and reading comprehension in the middle primary years.

Each subject or discipline, such as science or history, has its own distinctive literacy demands (Christie & Derewianka, 2008). The toolkit promotes an informed understanding of texts common to various disciplines, including English, which contributes to teachers’ capacity to support children’s interpretation and composition of a variety of print based and multimodal texts (Myhill, Jones & Watson, 2013).


Christie, F. & Derewianka, B. (2008). School Discourse: Learning to write across the years of schooling. London: Continuum.

Freebody, P., Chan, E. & Barton, G. (2014). Literacy education: “About being in the World”. In B. Street & C. Leung (Eds). The Routledge Companion to English Studies (pp. 910 –942). Florence: Taylor and Francis.

Myhill, D., Jones, S. & Watson, A. (2013). Grammar matters: How teachers' grammatical knowledge impacts on the teaching of writing. Teaching and Teacher Education, 36, 77-91.

Snow, C.E. (1991). The theoretical basis for relationships between language and literacy in development. Journal of Research in Childhood Education,6(1), 5 –10.


Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE). (2017). Cognitive load theory: Research that teachers really need to understand.