Concepts of print

​Concepts of print refers to the awareness of 'how print works'. This includes the knowledge of the concept of what books, print, and written language are, and how they function. It encompasses a number of understandings that allow the reading process to take place including:

    • understanding that print conveys a message
    • knowledge about book orientation and directionality of print
    • distinction between sentences, words and letters
    • knowledge of the alphabetic system and the difference between letters and words.

Understandings/elements of concepts of print in the English language

The main understandings or elements of Concepts of Print for English include the concept of text (how a text conveys a message), concept of book (how a book works, how different texts are organised), the idea of directionality (that English books are read from left to right, top to bottom), and other mechanical features (spacing, punctuation, the difference between letters, numerals, and other symbols).

Components of concepts of print

Concepts of print are important for emergent and early reading and writing (Clay, 2019).

Concepts of text

Understanding that print relays a message.

Concept of book

    • Book handling - holding the book the right way up
    • Front cover, back cover
    • Title, author, illustrator, blurb


    • Beginning at the front of the book, ending at the back
    • Turning pages right to left
    • Concept of top and bottom of a page - beginning at the top of the page and ending at the bottom of the page
    • Reading pages from left to right
    • Reading words from left to right
    • Return sweep - reading left to right then sweep back to the beginning of the following line of text
    • Concept of first, middle, last
    • Word-to-word matching


    • Knowledge that words are separated by spaces
    • Recognising the difference between symbols including, alphabetic letters vs numerals vs punctuation
    • The purpose of punctuation and capital letters
    • Understanding that most printed words are read the same way each time  (for example, w-o-u-l-d will always be 'would')

Through exposure to shared book reading in early childhood, and through modelled, shared, and guided reading in the early years, children develop concepts of print.

The Victorian English Online Interview (EOI) assesses Concepts of Print in modules 1 to 3.

Examples to support the development of Concepts of Print

Concepts of print should be taught through text within the literacy lesson, for example by:

    • reading a poem or a song that students are familiar with and highlighting features of the text – e.g. capital letters, full stops and discussing the purpose of these features
    • reading a storybook and modelling and/or identifying features of text while reading, for example differences between words and letters, directionality, return sweep, front and back cover of book etc.
    • reading books with different font types/sizes, bold, exclamation mark, question mark and capital letters

      Building a print rich classroom environment – using labels, alphabet posters, word walls, reading corners also contributes to the development of concepts of print.

For examples, visit:

Alphabet knowledge

Alphabet knowledge is also considered a Concepts of Print component. This includes knowledge of the names of each letter, the order of the alphabet, recognition of each upper and lower case letter, and knowing the difference between letters and words.

Alphabet Knowledge includes recognising all the letters of the alphabet by name. This includes recognising upper and lower case letters. The metalinguistic awareness of knowing the difference between a 'word' and a 'letter' is also important for alphabet knowledge.

Relationship with phonics

While alphabet knowledge is the ability to recognise and name upper and lower case letters, phonics is the knowledge of sound-letter patterns, that is the sounds that letters make.

The 44 Sounds of English 

There are 44 sounds (phonemes), but only 26 letters. Many letters make more than one sound. Also, letters are used to form graphemes, which could consist of one letter (graph), two letters (digraph), three letters (trigraph) or four letters (quadgraph).

It is important to note that the 44 sounds have multiple spellings (graphemes) and only the most common ones have been provided in this summary. See the attachment linked below.

A first step to learn the relationships between sounds is to have a well developed Alphabet Knowledge. Alphabet Knowledge is the knowledge of what each letter is called, and the ability to recognise these letters quickly and reliably.

Once students have strong alphabet knowledge they are able to apply this knowledge to learn about the sounds that letters and letter patterns (graphemes) make, and how phonemes map onto graphemes, i.e. phonics.

For more information, visit:

Relationship with phonological awareness

While alphabet knowledge is the ability to recognise and name upper and lower case letters, Phonological awareness refers to the awareness of sounds, rhymes, and syllables within words. Phonemic awareness (a critical subset of phonological awareness) refers to the ability to identify, segment, blend, delete and manipulate individual sounds. Alphabet knowledge is related to phonological awareness as children need to understand that words are made up of syllables, onset/rime, and individual sounds, and that letters of the alphabet are used to represent these sounds, as graphemes.

For more information, visit: Phonological Awareness

Examples of alphabet knowledge activities

Contextualised teaching of alphabetic knowledge can occur through reading a fiction or non-fiction text to, for example:

    • introduce the sound and the letter in focus, writing the letter before reading the text
    • highlight particular letter/letters within the text
    • identify initial sounds of words and distinguish upper and lower case letters
    • recognise consonant digraphs/trigraphs
    • discuss the different sounds that a letter can make from examples in a text
    • find words that contain different consonant diagraphs e.g. /sh/, /ch/, /th/ – lunchbox, shoes, should, the, that
    • compile words or letters from a text into lists to make games that will promote multiple exposure and repetition of alphabetic knowledge such as  bingo, snap, memory, tic tac toe, letter sort.

For examples, visit:

How concepts of print relates to phonological awareness and phonics

Phonological awareness allows students to hear the differences between words and sounds. Concepts of Print includes the recognition of symbols as letter shapes. Once this understanding is established, the letter shapes can be associated with sounds, connecting the visual, auditory and oral systems.

Links to the Victorian Curriculum - English



  • Understand concepts about print and screen, including how books, film and simple digital texts work, and know some features of print, including directionality ((VCELA142)
  • Recognise that sentences are key units for expressing ideas (VCELA143)
  • Recognise that texts are made up of words and groups of words that make meaning (VCELA144)

Level 1


  • Understand concepts about print and screen, including how books, film and simple digital texts work, and know some features of print, including directionality (VCELA142)
  • Recognise that sentences are key units for expressing ideas (VCELA143)
  • Recognise that texts are made up of words and groups of words that make meaning (VCELA144)

Links to the Victorian Curriculum - English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Pathway A

Reading and viewing

Level A1                 

  • Understand the direction of English text (VCEALA034)
  • Understand that texts are meaningful (VCEALA035)
  • Distinguish Roman script from non-Roman script (VCEALA039)
  • Understand and explore the basic features of different texts (VCEALL043)
  • Understand and explore the basic features of different texts (VCEALL043)
  • Identify some sounds in words (VCEALL050)
  • Recognise capital letters, spaces and full stops (VCEALL052)
  • Follow text with finger while reading (VCEALL053)

Level A2                 

  • Understand how different types of images in texts contribute to meaning (VCEALA116
  • Understand and use a small range of metalanguage for elements of text (VCEALL125)
  • Relate most letters of the alphabet to sounds (VCEALL131)
  • Understand and use simple metalanguage for books and reading (VCEALL044)
  • Recognise that full stops and question marks separate text (VCEALL133)


Level A1                 

  • Respond to the terms 'writing' and 'drawing' appropriately (VCEALA059)
  • Illustrate a simple text (VCEALC058)
  • Write a simple text that fulfils a function (VCEALC057)
  • Recognise the importance of accurate reproduction of letters and words (VCEALA060)
  •  Use some conventions for printed English (VCEALL081)
  • Experiment with some familiar punctuation (VCEALL079)
  • Understand some terminology of writing in English and/or home language (VCEALA068)

Level A2                 

  • Illustrate texts purposefully (VCEALC139)
  • Use some punctuation consistently
  • Adjust size of writing, colour, layout and choice of media to support meaning (VCEALL160)
  • Understand a small range of terminology of writing (VCEALA148)

Pathway B

Reading and viewing

Level BL              

  • Show awareness that texts convey meaning (VCEALA191)
  • Distinguish Roman script from non-Roman script (VCEALA195)
  • Recognise and explore texts in different media and modes (VCEALL199)
  • Understand and explore the basic layout and conventions of simple texts (VCEALL200)
  • Use basic terminology of reading (VCEALL202)
  • Recognise the letters of the alphabet (VCEALL208)
  • Understand the function of spaces, capital letters and full stops (VCEALL209)
  • Demonstrate reading-like behaviour (VCEALL210)
  • Attempt to self-correct (VCEALL211)


Level BL                 

  • Copy words, phrases or sentences accurately and carefully (VCEALC216)
  • Understand the difference between writing and drawing, and that writing changes according to context and purpose (VCEALA219)
  • Apply common conventions when copying or writing texts (VCEALL236)
  • Copy basic punctuation as part of writing work (VCEALL238)


Clay, M.M. (2019). An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement. 4th Ed. The Marie Clay Literacy Trust: Heinemann.