Supporting students’ phonological awareness and phonics using the Response to Intervention (RTI) model

In the Response to Intervention (RTI) model, intervention is explained as a three-tier system. 

TIER 1 – Evidence based, whole class instruction

The first tier instructs students using the same core teaching and learning, usually in a whole-class setting. Instructional approaches such as Shared Reading, Modelled Writing or Language Experience are applied, with clear learning intentions, to ensure that all students are exposed to the systematic teaching of literacy curriculum content. Explicit and systematic Tier 1 instruction is important, and ongoing assessment helps to identify children at risk for literacy learning difficulties (Siegel, 2020).

TIER 2 – Targeted learning

The second tier supports a small group of students receiving more intensive literacy instruction. Students are grouped based on their understanding and competence of particular reading and writing-related skills, such as phonological awareness and phonics. For example, 3 groups within a class might include:

  • consolidation groups for students performing at the expected level
  • extension groups for students performing above the expected level
  • support groups for students who need additional focused teaching to meet the expected level.

TIER 3 – Intensive individual teaching and comprehensive evaluation

Students requiring Tier 3 literacy intervention may have received (or are in the process of receiving) a diagnosis of a learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyscalculia or dysgraphia, or may require intervention based on other reasons such as, support with engagement or trauma specific intervention. See Understanding types of learning difficulties. Students requiring Tier 3 intervention often have Individual Education Learning Plans designed to support their unique learning needs and goals so they can reach their full potential.

Students with reading difficulties may have more widespread language difficulties than processing phonological information (Miciak & Fletcher, 2020). For this reason, it is recommended that teachers consider a multi-faceted approach to their teaching of phonological awareness and phonics. This approach integrates listening, speaking, reading and writing, and emphasises systematic teaching and learning of phonological knowledge and phoneme (sound)/grapheme (letter) correspondence (phonics). The use of a range of text types (for example, stories, information texts, poetry and chants), especially when read aloud by a teacher, will support student vocabulary development, the learning of word meanings and the organisation of spoken and written language.

Useful links

Diverse Learners Hub

Learning difficulties in literacy

Assessment for students with literacy learning difficulties


Miciak, J., & Fletcher, J. M. (2020). The critical role of instructional response for identifying dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 53(5), 343-353.

Siegel, L. S. (2020). Early identification and intervention to prevent reading failure: A response to intervention (RTI) initiative. The Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 37(2), 140-146.