MSL Multi Sensory Structured Literacy

Clayton South Primary School (CSPS) is in Melbourne's southeast bayside suburbs. We are a Science of Reading & Learning (SOR/L) school and use structured literacy. Science of Reading (SOR) refers to an enormous body of research and an emerging consensus that converges into how the brain learns to read and how educators should teach reading to ensure the best outcomes for all students. We use MSL (multi-sensory learning) to link reading, writing, and spelling. We have staff trained in the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach, which prepares educators to successfully provide reading instruction to all students and targeted instruction to struggling readers, including those with dyslexia.


Learning to read is not a natural process like learning to walk. Our brains are naturally wired for oral language (speech); however, our brains are not naturally wired to read and write. Reading is a complex skill and what is termed biologically secondary. Our language has evolved over many decades and many words have Latin, Greek and even Japanese origins. At Clayton South Primary School we explicitly teach children how to decode (read) and encode (spell) using an evidence-based scope and sequence, ensuring children develop literacy skills for future academic success.


We offer a program that promotes skill development in reading and viewing, writing, speaking, and listening in a supportive and stimulating environment. Planning is based on the Victorian Curriculum and is supported by best practices around literacy acquisition. We have a knowledge-rich curriculum to build our students' depth and breadth of content knowledge by embedding history, geography, and civics in our lessons. We use explicit direct instruction (EDI) across all year levels. At CSPS, our two-hour daily literacy blocks are non-interrupted learning time for children in Prep to Year 6. 


All the components of the Big 6—oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension—need to be integrated and embedded into a comprehensive literacy program. 

  1. Oral Langauge
  2. Phonological Awareness

  3. Phonics

  4. Vocabulary

  5. Fluency

  6. Comprehension

Our early year's educators engage all students in Prep to Year 2 with daily Heggerty Phonological & Phonemic Awareness activities. We use the Little Learners Love Literacy Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) program. Our literacy instruction is very structured and teaches children the 44 letter sounds and how we blend sounds to read and spell. We have invested in new sets of decodable readers for our beginning readers. Children use decodable readers to practise the sound-spelling relationships and use the decoding skills taught in phonics lessons. Reading for enjoyment is essential for children. Teachers share rich, authentic texts daily to promote reading for pleasure. Students are provided with books for adults to read until children can decode well enough to tackle the books themselves. We challenge children to read for 15 minutes a day in class, and nightly reading is encouraged. Our students borrow 3-5 library choice books per week. Structured literacy and explicit teaching are particularly beneficial for students with English as an Additional Language / Dialect (EAL/D).


Here at Clayton South Primary School, we are fortunate to have a team of allied health professionals on staff, including a speech-language pathologist (speech therapist) to work with the children and guide our practice.


Our students learn about the grammatical structure of words, explore morphology (the study of words and their parts), syntax (sentence structure), and the fascinating world of etymology (the history and examination of the origin of words and meanings). Children learn a range of words with prefixes and suffixes throughout their time at primary school, usually starting in Year 2 and Year 3. Learning about root words, prefixes/suffixes help children understand words better and unlock the structure and meaning within words. Students also begin to see links between different words and identify word families. 

eg. the word destructive

the prefix "de-" means, in this case, "removal" (eg "dehumidify" "defame" "detoxify").

the root "-struct" means "to build" or "to assemble". 


At Clayton South Primary School, we have focused fluency instruction in our classrooms. Fluency pairs is a short, sharp activity where we pair students to read a text multiple times a week. In our spelling lessons from Prep to Year 6, we follow the guidelines of Spelling Mastery. For writing at Clayton South Primary School, we have started implementing The Writing Revolution (TWR), also known as The Hochman Method, an explicit set of evidence-based strategies for teaching writing.


Literacy support at Clayton South Primary School is our priority and a social equity issue. We have introduced the Response to Intervention (RTI) model, a multi-tiered approach to learning instruction. In Tier 2 or 3 intervention, we can differentiate instruction and target specific skills for struggling learners. Our team provides:

  • Tier 1 whole-class instruction using evidence-based instruction.
  • Tier 2 support in small group sessions for students identified as at risk to supplement skill-building.
  • Tier 3 individual intensive 1:1 targeted support for our struggling learners. 

We offer the same RTI model for literacy and numeracy.


Our internal data indicates that our change in practices implemented in mid-2020 is working for our students. At Clayton South Primary School, we have undertaken significant professional development to align our instruction with evidence-based research. 


Five from Five, AUSPELD, and Learning Difficulties Australia have collaborated on an evidence-based framework to dramatically reduce the number of children who finish primary school unable to read proficiently. Clayton South Primary School has proudly signed the Primary Reading Pledge. We endorse and are working towards the goals outlined in the pledge. Our school is committed to using evidence-based reading instruction, assessment, and intervention. We use Dibels and LLLL assessment tools.


Clayton South has a school policy on reading instruction, setting out the rationale and evidence for our instruction, assessment, and achievement approach. Our evidence-based template is provided by Professor Pamela Snow (La Trobe Uni), Dr Kate DeBruin (Monash Uni), and Dr Linda Graham (Qld University of Technology).