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Home / Instruction & Assessment / Literacy / Literacy Planning


To share and connect - To question and create - To understand ourselves and others - To have a voice, to leave a trace

Elementary Literacy Critical Reading Components

Learning to read is one of the most important skills an individual can learn and therefore it is important to understand the five critical components of reading. The five components are: phonological awareness & phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. These components work together to create strong, rich and reliable reading abilities.

Guiding Documents

These guiding documents can serve as a reference for school-based conversations about moving learners forward.  They were created in the Spring of 2021 by a multi-disciplinary team of educators.  Moving forward, there are plans to create an accompanying interactive toolbox with rich examples and resources.  If you are interested in getting involved, click here to apply by November 16, 2021.

Foundational Skills Overview
Reflecting on Reading Instruction Through an Inquiry Lens

Critical Reading Components

Phonological & Phonemic Awareness

Phonological awareness is the ability to notice the sound structure of spoken words (Kilpatrick, 2015). Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify, isolate and manipulate sounds. It is a part of phonological awareness.


A system for approaching reading that focuses on the relationship between letters and sounds (Kilpatrick, 2015).


Reading Words at an adequate rate, with a high level of accuracy, appropriate expression, and understanding (Birsh & Carreker 2018).


Vocabulary is the knowledge of words and word meanings (NIL, 2007; Honig, Diamond & Gutlohn, 2008).


Comprehension is making sense of what we read. Comprehension depends on good word recognition, fluency, vocabulary, wordly knowledge, and language ability (Birsh & Carreker 2018).

Critical Skills By Grade

Critical Skills Checklist

Continuum of Skills

Listening to Reading


Listening to reading may look like:

  • Online resources on projector
  • listening centre with recorded books and printed copies of the book
  • Listening centre with online recorded material on iPads or computers
  • Class Read Aloud


Listening to reading allows students to follow along with words or picture and to listen to a model of a fluent reader. It demonstrates nuances of language such as rhythm or pronunciation. It allows teachers to model reading strategies and to make predictions and connections.


Independent Writing


Independent writing is a time when children write by themselves, exploring their ideas and practicing the skills necessary to effectively communicate through writing. Using formative assessment gathered during conferring with students, teachers can plan mini-lessons that target specific skills and strategies. Independent writing time is quiet, uninterrupted and has purpose. Children brainstorm, develop ideas and apply learned skills and strategies. During independent writing, the teacher has the opportunity to confer with students and determine writing goals.


Independent writing allows students to see themselves as writers and communicators of ideas and stories. Through guided support, students gain fluency in brainstorming, recording and revising their ideas. Gaining the skills of an independent writer increases student confidence and love of writing.   


Independent Reading


Independent reading happens when a student is reading on their own, whether it is with a print resource or something online. As the reading is occuring, students are working through the process of decoding the information to both hear the text read inside their head and to comprehend the meaning of the information. Independent reading is a traditional method for learning used in all educational settings.


Independent reading is a lifelong skill and serves many functions including personal enjoyment, learning through reading, facilitating discovery of the world around us, and can bring an immense sense of joy. It is a nuanced process that requires the combination of many different processes such as phonological awareness, fluency, and comprehension and, as such, should be practiced for 20-60 minutes every day.

Oral Language


Oral language is the spoken language used to communicate feelings and ideas. It mainly consists of five components: phonological skills, pragmatics (e.g., social norms), grammar (syntax), morphological skills (e.g., prefixes and suffixes) and vocabulary (semantics).


A strong foundation in oral language skills will lead to greater success in literacy achievement. Children need many opportunities to learn and practice these components of oral language to help them with mastering the reading process.

Word Work


Literacy centres provide opportunities to differentiate and work with different groups of students. Each group can have a set of words to work on using a variety of consistent materials. Keeping materials consistent allows the focus to be on the words, not the materials used. Word work can be done through games, manipulatives and/or with other classroom materials.


An understanding of phonemic awareness, phonics and vocabulary are all important skills when reading and writing. Word Work is a way to teach and practice many of these literacy skills.

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