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Sound Waves Literacy: Key Information

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Sound Waves Literacy: Key Information

Sound Waves Literacy 29/1/24

We’ve collated answers to some of our most frequently asked questions. Does Sound Waves Literacy align with the Science of Reading (SoR) research? Does the program follow a Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) approach? How are reading and spelling taught alongside each other? and more!

Does Sound Waves Literacy align with the Science of Reading (SoR) research?

Yes, Sound Waves is a whole-school systematic synthetic phonics program for teaching phonemic awareness, synthetic phonics, morphology and etymology. It’s informed by research from the education, psychology and linguistics fields on the best practices for teaching reading and spelling. Students are explicitly taught phoneme–grapheme relationships and phonemic awareness skills (e.g. segmenting phonemes for spelling and blending phonemes for reading).

Is Sound Waves a Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) approach?

Sound Waves is, and always has been, a systematic synthetic phonics approach to teaching spelling. It’s systematic because it follows a carefully controlled order of introduction for graphemes and it has a cumulative Scope and Sequence that progresses from simple to more complex concepts. The program is a synthetic phonics approach because students are explicitly taught phoneme–grapheme relationships and how to segment and synthesise (blend) phonemes for spelling and reading.

Is Sound Waves Literacy evidence-informed?

Yes, Sound Waves Literacy is an evidence-informed program as its development was based on findings from peer-reviewed research (e.g. findings on synthetic phonics and explicit teaching). Sound Waves Literacy aligns with a wide range of independent research and reviews from the education, psychology and linguistics fields on the best practices for reading and spelling instruction. This includes the three significant reviews of reading research conducted in the last few decades.1 2 3 For research links, read our detailed article Sound Waves Literacy and synthetic phonics: The facts.

How are reading and spelling taught in Sound Waves?

Reading and spelling are intrinsically tied to one another. As such, Sound Waves Literacy provides a comprehensive and engaging suite of resources to ensure these key literacy skills can be taught systematically and explicitly.

When students first begin to read and spell, they require dedicated and effective support when learning phoneme–grapheme relationships that make up the English spelling system. Sound Waves early years focuses on fostering effective phonemic awareness skills, such as identifying and blending phonemes, and segmenting words into phonemes. The program incorporates targeted reading practice through carefully curated Decodable Readers (for Foundation and Year 1) that follow a systematic synthetic phonics sequence. Instruction is in two parts:

  • Systematic spelling lessons: The online teaching resources include explicit lessons to introduce specific phoneme–grapheme relationships and cover key language concepts. Students then consolidate this knowledge through the corresponding Student Book activities.
  • Targeted and differentiated reading practice: Students apply their understanding of phoneme–grapheme relationships through targeted reading practice. For every phoneme–grapheme relationship taught, there are corresponding Sound Waves Decodable Readers available in three levels of difficulty: Support, Core and Extended. Having differentiated decodable texts means every student can experience reading success.

As students transition into the upper years, they bring with them the skills required to decode text and read. Therefore, the focus of Sound Waves shifts to not only cover the basic and extended code of Australian English, but also morphological awareness and etymological knowledge. The delivery of systematic and explicit spelling lessons using the online teaching resources continues and students consolidate their understanding with Student Book activities. At this stage, most students will have acquired the skills needed to read texts and, as a result, their reading practice shifts from decodable texts to a variety of children’s literature. However, students who haven’t yet mastered decoding and word recognition skills can use the Sound Waves Decodable Readers to help develop these essential skills.

Is Sound Waves a speech-to-print or print-to-speech approach?

Sound Waves is a speech-to-print approach as it structures learning around the 43 phonemes of Australian English. The Foundation program begins with fostering phonemic awareness skills and introducing all 43 phonemes. Students are then systematically taught how each of these phonemes corresponds to different graphemes. Common and simple graphemes are taught before more complex graphemes. For example, students learn that /f/ can be represented by f before learning that /f/ can also be represented by ph as in dolphin. While students require the ability to turn speech into print (spelling) and print into speech (reading), the number of graphemes in Australian English is far larger than the number of phonemes. Greg Brooks, the author of Dictionary of the British English Spelling System, believes there are over 500 phoneme–grapheme relationships in British English. Therefore, organising learning around 43 phonemes and teaching students different ways to represent these phonemes in writing is a friendly and logical approach.

Does Sound Waves contain lessons on grapheme choice patterns?

Yes, grapheme choice patterns are covered in Sound Waves lessons where they’re referred to as ‘Helpful Hints’. These hints cover repeatable and reliable spelling patterns within Australian English. Students are taught how phoneme position, etymology and morphemes can influence and determine spelling choices. They also learn suffix addition patterns. Find out more about grapheme choice patterns in Sound Waves in our article Helping students make correct grapheme choices: Unpacking the Kite Sound Box.

How does Sound Waves teach and foster correct articulation?

When students learn a phoneme in Sound Waves, they’re encouraged to practise correct articulation. This process occurs throughout the program from the first time students are introduced to a phoneme in Foundation through to every unit in Years 1–6 where phonemes are revised and new graphemes are taught.

As Sound Waves was written for Australian classrooms, it’s organised around the 43 phonemes of Australian English. Sound Waves Literacy Online includes articulation videos (How to Say the Sound videos) to help introduce each phoneme and to allow students to hear and practise correct articulation.

Do you still have questions about Sound Waves Literacy? Chat to your local education consultant or register for one of our upcoming professional development workshops.


  1. National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. National Institute of Child Health & Development.

  2. Rose, J. (2006). Independent review of the teaching of early reading. U.K. Department for Education and Skills.

  3. Rowe, K. (2005). Teaching reading: National inquiry into the teaching of literacy. Department of Education, Science and Training, Australian Council for Educational Research.

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