Melbourne Sounds Write training

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On 19-22 January 2015, I’ll be playing local host to the first Sounds~Write linguistic phonics training to be held in Melbourne.

Most of this course will be presented by the very nice and rather hilarious Mary Gladstone from NSW, who is currently the only Sounds Write trainer in eastern Australia. Mary has 38 years’ teaching experience and a Diploma of Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia), so what she doesn’t know about teaching literacy can be written on the head of a pin. Here she is demonstrating a technique at the Sounds~Write training I attended in Perth earlier this year:

Error correctionI’ve also just confirmed that the last day of this course will be presented by John Walker, one of the UK authors of Sounds~Write. So in the unlikely event that someone does find a question on the head of a pin that Mary can’t answer, John will be able to answer it. You can hear John and others talk about Sounds~Write on video by clicking here, and there’s lots of other information about the program on the Sounds~Write website.

I’m not planning to make money from this course, just provide local teachers and interested others with access to this evidence-based linguistic phonics training, and thank John, Mary and DSF in Perth for waiving my course fee when I did this training earlier in the year (airfare + accommodation + missed work days + course fee would have made it prohibitive).

I’m also considering becoming a Sounds~Write trainer myself, because I think it’s exactly the kind of tried-and-true course for teachers we need running here in Victoria on a regular basis.

Interest in the Melbourne course has come from further afield than I’d expected, with people registering from as far away as Canberra.

There are still places available in this 30-place course, but if you want one of them, please register soon.

What does the Sounds~Write course involve?

The Sounds~Write four day course provides everything you need to deliver top-quality, evidence-based teaching about sounds and spellings to learners of any age, from five-year-olds to adults.

Lessons are short, fast-paced, tightly-focussed and cumulative, and can be applied in classrooms, small groups or with individuals.

IMHO, this kind of training should be part of all primary teacher education. Teachers are constantly telling me that they’ve haven’t been taught much about the sounds of English, the logic of our spelling system, or how to work systematically from just a few sounds and letters through all the spelling patterns of English, to ensure that everyone learns to encode and decode with confidence. Teachers deserve better.

The Sounds~Write course is a nice mix of theory and practice, spread across four days. A huge folder provided to each course participant, and which you can’t buy without doing the course, contains all the lessons and other materials.

Sounds_write folderLessons  focus first on the Initial Code (just five vowel sounds plus one or two spellings for each consonant sound), and are called:

  • Word-Building
  • Symbol Search
  • Sound Swap
  • Reading and Spelling Words
  • Introducing Spellings with Two Letters.

The eleven units in the Initial Code are taught using a mixture of these five lessons, starting with short, Vowel-Consonant and Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (VC and CVC) words with single-letter spellings, and working all the way up to one-syllable words with five sounds (CCVCC or CCCVC) such as “trust”, “print”, “spend” and “scrub”, and words containing consonant digraphs like “shift”, “lunch”, “thank” and “snack”.

In schools using Sounds~Write in the UK, this is all taught and consolidated well before the end of a child’s first year of schooling. Where possible, it’s taught even faster to struggling learners.

The next section of the course equips participants to teach the Extended Code – major vowel spellings and more consonant digraphs, plus spellings used for more than one sound. Again this section has five lessons called:

  • One Sound, Different Spellings – Word Puzzles
  • One Sound, Different Spellings – Reading and Writing
  • Sound Review
  • Seek the Sound
  • One Spelling, Different Sounds.

There are 50 Units in the Extended Code taught via these five lessons. I like this. Learners aren’t asked to waste time and cognitive resources continually learning new activities, the focus is new content. Having five different lessons affords some variety, and once learners are familiar with each lesson, the pace can be picked up for really efficient learning.

The final section of the Sounds~Write course is about reading and writing polysyllabic words, again with five lessons called:

  • Building Polysyllabic Words – Sound Level
  • Reading Polysyllabic Words – Sound Level
  • Building Polysyllabic Words – Syllable Level
  • Reading Polysyllabic Words – Sound/Syllable Level
  • Analysing Polysyllabic Words.

Polysyllabic words often get short shrift in phonics teaching, but they can be a source of major difficulty for learners, and deserve much more attention. There are lots of spellings that only appear in words with more than one syllable, but too often,  “le” words like “bottle” and “middle” and Latin endings (-tion, -sion, -cian etc.) are about all that’s taught.

If I had to identify one thing I found the most valuable to me personally in this course, it was the strategies for teaching polysllabic words, which I now use constantly with older learners.

The Sounds~Write course runs to a school day timetable (finishing by 3.30) and there is a short assignment to be completed each day to help consolidate learning. This is reviewed as a group the following day. Like everyone else, I hear and forget, see and remember, and do and understand, so I found doing the assignments very valuable.

Participants should expect to leave this course with their heads around the sounds and spellings of English, and a framework and plenty of strategies for teaching them in a well-organised, efficient, evidence-based way. As well as the huge Sounds~Write program folder, participants also get a USB stick of other teaching resources, the contents of which look like this:

Sounds_write_USB_stick_contentsI still haven’t worked my way through everything on this USB and tried it all out, but what I have tried has been useful.

Having a clear idea of how sounds and letters work, and a well-organised teaching sequence, should make it easy for teachers to identify where to slot other quality materials into literacy teaching that has Sounds~Write as its foundation. The Sounds~Write teaching sequence also matches the sequence followed by the Phonic Books.

Who can attend the Melbourne training?

Anyone who wants to better understand how sounds and letters work in English, so that they can teach this in an efficient, well-organised, evidence-based way, is welcome to attend.

Teachers are the primary target audience, but I’d also highly recommend it to Speech Pathologists, tutors, parents and interested others.

How much does the course cost?

We wanted to make the course as accessible as possible, so the $660 Melbourne course fee is intended to just cover costs (venue, catering, materials and presenter wages, accommodation and travel).

There is also a $30 discount for members of Learning Difficulties Australia and students, including recent graduates of teaching and Speech Pathology courses who want to give themselves an edge in the competition for scarce jobs.

If you can find any other high-quality, participatory educational training that includes a whole literacy-teaching program for $165 per day, please let me know, because I want to sign up. Training of this type typically costs $400+ per day.

I was originally doing all the course administration, but have recently had to register for GST, which would have added to course costs, so invoices and receipts are now being issued and payments accepted by Sounds~Write Australia (Mary).

How do I register?

2021 update: This course is long over, and I ended up getting overwhelmed with other things and not becoming a Sounds Write trainer, but in Australia there are several of them, you can find their details here, and a list of all the upcoming Sounds Write training around the world, both face to face and online, is here.


6 thoughts on “Melbourne Sounds Write training

  1. Wendy Byrnes

    Hi I am a 2014 graduate and I would really like to attend the course in
    January. Please send me a registration form.

  2. John Walker

    How very kind of you to say such nice things about Sounds-Write, Alison. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the training in Melbourne in January – and not just because I shall be escaping the worst of the English winter!
    Funnily enough, I was training in Derby in UK yesterday and just happened to pass a little place called Melbourne, named after the famous lord, no doubt.
    Best regards,

    1. alison Post author

      Hi Amy, a UK Education department inspector did a 2013 evaluation of the Sounds~Write course, which you can find at There is a similar report from another course in 2012 at

      There is also a report on research into Sounds~Write’s effectiveness at

      I hope this is the type of information you’re looking for but if not, let me know. Alison

  3. Claire Murphy

    I recently attended the 4 day course with Ashra and Lisa (20 -23/08/19) in Melbourne. I have completed the assignment and would like to know where I should send it to. Is it possible to scan it and email it? If so please provide an email address.
    Excellent course! I really enjoyed it.

    1. alison Post author

      Hi Claire, I don’t provide Sounds-Write training, I think you must have gone to the SPELD-Vic training as the only other training in Melbourne I am aware of is run by James Lyra from Canberra. SPELD-Vic’s contact details can be found here: All the best, Alison


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