At St Mary's we provide a high quality English program which equips students with English knowledge and skills enabling them to become confident communicators, creative thinkers, problem solvers and informed citizens.


Every morning, during the 2 hour literacy block, all students from Prep-6 engage in purposeful activities that cover Reading and Viewing, Writing and Speaking and Listening. The content for these sessions is drawn from the Victorian Curriculum.


At St. Mary’s we are guided by the enormous body of research that is known as The Science of Reading (SOR). This approach to the teaching and learning of reading maximises outcomes for all students. Learning to read is not a natural skill like learning to walk so our brains are not hard wired to do this. This body of work explains how our brains learn to read and provides instructional approaches that are most effective. It encourages the teaching of skills through explicit instruction


At St. Mary’s we use a Systematic Synthetic Phonics approach to teaching the 44 speech sounds of the English language. In Prep-2 we follow the scope and sequence from Decodable Readers Australia. Children learn the relationships between the sounds (phonemes) and the letter symbols or spelling choices (graphemes) in a structured manner. The ability to match the phoneme and grapheme enables students to read and spell words successfully. Students have plenty of opportunity to practise their phonic knowledge and blend these sounds together when completing daily activities from Heggerty Phonological and Phonemic Awareness Program and when reading from our large range of decodable texts. 

Once students have a firm understanding of this alphabetic code, they dive deeper into their understanding of words through our structured approach to morphology and etymology. Students learn a range of prefixes (un, re, mis) suffixes (ed, ing, able) base and root words (tract, aqua, happy, geo) Learning these, helps students understand new vocabulary better, spell more difficult words and identify links between words. 


Students develop their comprehension skills through authentic texts, rich in literature. In P-2 these are often read to or with students as they are still developing their code knowledge. The focus of these sessions is to build students’ vocabulary knowledge, to learn about the sentence structures used in writing, to develop knowledge of different topics and expose students to many different forms and genres of writing. 


In the 3-6 classrooms at St. Mary's students engage in novel studies which are also designed to develop the above mentioned comprehension skills. We support all students in accessing the text regardless of their decoding ability. We do this through reading to students, reading with a partner, listening to audio books or with assisted technologies such as the C-Pen. We believe all students should be provided opportunities to engage in conversation and knowledge building of age appropriate material. With reading to learn being the focus in the Senior School, students are provided with many opportunities to express this learning in writing tasks. Through structured practice, students create sentences, paragraphs and whole texts to communicate their ideas in many written and oral forms.


Each class participates in a weekly Library lesson where comprehension is further extended. The love of reading is fostered in these sessions and all students are encouraged to borrow books of their choice.


At. St. Mary’s, we conduct evidence-based assessments that provide us with clear, detailed understanding of our students' needs. We have a multi-tiered approach to intervention to differentiate instruction and target specific skills for our learners.

Tier 1: whole class instruction using evidence based teaching

Tier 2: support in small group sessions for students identified as at risk to build required skills

Tier 3: individual intensive 1:1 targeted support

MiniLit- an evidence-based, explicit and effective early literacy intervention program for teaching reading skills to children in Year 1 or 2, is one of the interventions utilised.