Student learning support

Students have a range of abilities, interests and understandings. Celebrating student differences and targeting their learning needs helps to create an inclusive classroom.


Differentiation involves planning instruction that meets all students’ learning needs. This is best done through a structured literacy program. This evidence-informed approach supports students to develop literacy skills and knowledge by teaching at their point of need.

Using a Response to Intervention (RTI) approach is a key part of structured literacy. The RTI framework helps you plan for differentiation.

Structured literacy

Structured literacy is an explicit and systematic approach to teaching reading and writing. Students are sequentially taught knowledge and skills from simple to complex, and they build on their learning in small steps.

A structured literacy approach addresses six key areas, known as the Big Six of Literacy.

Evidence informs us that a structured literacy approach:

  • supports all students
  • particularly benefits students who may need extra support.

In a structured literacy classroom, differentiation happens at the point of need throughout each lesson. You can plan so that students are scaffolded according to their data-informed learning needs.

For example, after students have been taught the digraph ng as a whole class, practice is differentiated through task allocation.

  • Students who are working at the whole-class level practise segmenting and writing a word with a simple word structure, such as ‘wing’.
  • Students who require further support practise forming the letters n and g while saying the /ng/ sound with teacher support.
  • Students who require extension at simple word level practise segmenting and writing words with more complex structures, such as ‘sprung’ or ‘ringing’.
  • Students who have already mastered the use of this digraph at a complex word level practise reading and writing sentences containing words with the digraph ng at the sentence level.

Find out more about how a structured literacy approach enables you to cater for all your students’ learning needs. Access the Literacy Hub’s professional learning topic on Explicit instruction for phonics – an instructional model, which explores whole-class phonics instruction.

Response to Intervention

The Response to Intervention (RTI) model helps schools make decisions about student learning support. This approach helps teachers provide the right amount of explicit teaching and guided practice that each student needs.

The RTI model has three tiers:

  • Tier 1 instruction is evidence-based, whole-class instruction. It incorporates core knowledge and skills aligned with the curriculum outcomes that students are expected to learn in a particular year level. Effective Tier 1 instruction is designed to support 80% of students to progress successfully in their learning.
  • Tier 2 support is for students who need a boost in their learning to meet planned outcomes. It is delivered in small groups, either in or out of the classroom. Around 15% of students will require this additional support to progress in their learning.
  • Tier 3 intervention is for students who need the greatest level of support. These students may also receive additional support from allied health professionals such as speech pathologists and/or occupational therapists, alongside their school-based supports. It is best delivered one-on-one due to the level of intensity and focus required by the student. Around 5% of students will require this additional support to progress in their learning.

The best results come when Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions are given in addition to Tier 1 whole-class instruction, not instead of Tier 1 instruction.

In Tier 2 and Tier 3 instruction, teachers provide additional modelling and guided practice. This gives students the extra targeted instruction, repetition of practice and immediate feedback they need to embed learning into their long-term memory.


All students have areas of strength and areas where they need support. In an inclusive classroom, instruction is flexible and responsive to the needs of all learners. Having an inclusive learning environment gives students the best chance of early literacy success.

Explore information and resources to help you cater for the literacy needs of various groups of students.

English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D)

About 25% of Australian students have English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D). Students whose home language or dialect is not English come to school with rich language skills and strengths in their home language. This provides a valuable resource to draw upon. You can do this by:

  • finding out about the languages your students speak at home, and talking with families about the similarities and differences between this language and English
  • encouraging students to use the skills and knowledge they have in their home language when using English
  • using words in a student’s home language to develop their English vocabulary
  • supporting students with a shared home language to discuss concepts, give feedback to each other and talk about how they can communicate their ideas in English.

Acknowledging and celebrating the skills a student has in their home language is a strengths-based approach that supports their English literacy development.

  • Visit this website to find out about plurilingual awareness (the ability to use knowledge of different languages), and strategies you can use to promote this awareness in your classroom.

Some students who have English as an additional language or dialect may need extra support to develop Standard Australian English and reach early literacy outcomes. This support can include:

  • continuing oral language development through rich conversations, listening to texts and role-play
  • encouraging the use of the students’ home languages
  • slowing the pace of instruction and offering more guided support where required
  • using explicit instruction to emphasise how to make the correct sounds in English, including a focus on correct mouth shape and tongue positioning
  • dedicating extra time and support to developing phonological awareness in the English language context.

The following information and resources can help you to meet the needs of EAL/D students:

Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) students

Australia has a culturally diverse population. Students have a range of languages, backgrounds, experiences and knowledge.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are a part of the oldest living culture in the world. Being inclusive of and celebrating this culture benefits all students.

You can be inclusive of all cultures by:

  • being sensitive to cultural differences in the resources you use
  • planning learning activities and adapting resources to suit your students’ background knowledge
  • encouraging students to share their culture, language and experiences
  • teaching students about significant cultural days of celebration.

Use the following information and resources to learn more about building an inclusive classroom and engaging all students in your literacy program.

Students with disability

Some students with disability may require specific supports to develop early literacy skills.

Planning your literacy program to be inclusive of all students is key to meeting the needs of students with disability. The Australian Curriculum National Literacy Learning Progressions provide a step-by-step sequence of literacy achievements. These can be used to plan for and track student growth, regardless of the students’ age or year level.

Using a Response to Intervention (RTI) model will help you and your school provide support to all students, including those with disability. An RTI framework helps schools allocate resources to students who require extra literacy instruction. An aspect of your RTI may include working with allied health professionals to provide the most effective support.

Neurodivergent students

Neurodivergent students bring to the classroom varied and unique perspectives and thinking, as well as varied and unique learning needs.

Many aspects of a structured literacy program support neurodivergent students including:

  • reviewing newly taught content and skills often
  • having a set routine and structure that is repeated in each lesson
  • introducing new knowledge in small chunks.

You can further support neurodivergent students in your literacy program by:

  • using visual cues as well as oral instruction
  • using concrete materials where possible
  • breaking learning into steps with a visual cue for each step
  • making adjustments for individual students to help reduce stress.

Listen to this podcast about Classroom adjustments: Autism for strategies you can try in your classroom to support neurodivergent students.

Students with literacy learning difficulties and disabilities, including dyslexia

Some students in your class may present with a learning difficulty or a learning disability that makes literacy learning more challenging for them. There are ways that you can adjust your literacy instruction to further support these students, including:

  • adapting the pace of your instruction
  • breaking down the learning into smaller chunks
  • providing additional repeated and guided practice with teacher support
  • ensuring students work to mastery before moving on in the learning progression
  • following evidence-informed instructional routines.

Some students may need further support. Explore the following resources for more detailed information about how you can support students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Read how decoding, reading and reading disability can be examined and explained using the Simple View of Reading model.

Gifted and talented students

Like all students, gifted and talented students have unique strengths, needs and interests. Their level of knowledge and skills can vary across curriculum areas.

Students who are gifted and talented in literacy often master decoding skills early. You can support these students by shifting their learning focus to other areas of the Big Six, and having them apply their literacy skills. For example, they could focus on developing the skills needed for writing composition and reading comprehension.

You can cater for gifted and talented students by making their learning engaging and relevant. Assessment is key to this: knowing the student’s point of need will help you plan specific learning tasks.

Read more about meeting the needs of gifted and talented students.