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Literacy Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Sound Sense

The Ready to Read Phonics Plus books have recently been developed to support instructional reading and focus on explicit teaching of word recognition knowledge and skills. We recommend teachers of children in early years use these books to support early literacy development in the classroom.  

Please note over the coming months we will be making changes to existing content on Literacy Online to ensure current early literacy teacher supports place a sufficient emphasis on word recognition. Throughout this process you may find content has been changed or has been moved. Please let us know by emailing [email protected] if you cannot find something you are looking for and keep an eye on the newsreel for links to newly updated content. We welcome any feedback that will help us make it easier for you to navigate the changes.

Sound Sense logo.

Sound Sense: Supporting reading and writing in years 1–3 is a revised and updated edition of Sound Sense: Phonics and Phonological Awareness (2003). 

You can download the new PDF here: 

The ability to hear the different sounds within words is essential to reading and writing successfully. Sound Sense provides suggestions for how you can support students, particularly year 1 students, in developing and applying understandings about sounds, letters, and words when reading and writing.

The suggestions are closely linked to the expectations for students’ learning described in  The Literacy Learning Progressions for the first year of school. They include links to specific Ready to Read shared texts, including poem cards. You can find many more suggestions for building and consolidating these understandings in the teacher support materials for all Ready to Read guided texts.

Sounds and Words – a clarification

Sound Sense provides suggestions for how teachers can support students in years 1–3 to develop and apply understandings about sounds, letters, and words when reading and writing.

Sounds and Words is a different online resource, for teachers of students in years 1–8. It has a wider focus than Sound Sense. It provides information about vocabulary and grammar as well as phonological awareness and also includes a summary of the resources available to teachers.

Phonological awareness is an overall understanding of the sound systems of a language, for example, awareness that words are made up of combinations of sounds.

Phonemic awareness, which is the finest “grain” or level of phonological awareness, involves the ability to identify and manipulate the individual sounds (phonemes) within words.

A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word.

Phonological awareness includes the ability to recognise syllables, to recognise and generate rhyming words, and to separate the onset (or beginning) of a word from its rime (the cluster of letters that comes after the initial sound of a one-syllable word). For example, for the word “shop”, a child who demonstrates phonological awareness is able to recognise the onset (“sh”) and the rime (“op”). A child who has developed phonemic awareness is also able to identify the phonemes in the word “shop“ (“sh/–/o/–/p”) and understands that new words can be formed by the substitution of phonemes (“hop”, “pop”, “ship”, “shot”).

Phonological awareness and phonemic awareness apply to aural discrimination only – they do not involve the written form of words.

The relationship between spoken sounds and the letters that represent them is called phonics.

Updated on: 29 Mar 2021