St. Leonard’s Catholic Primary School

by Lyn Nelson, Literacy Leader

Report/review from a school; implementation Model for Wordshark

School Level

Why we chose Wordshark: St. Leonard’s is working hard to ensure our literacy program aligns with the science of reading. We have adopted a school wide, systematic phonics program and we implement termly monitoring at both the cohort and individual level. A significant challenge, particularly in the early years, is the widely different phonic skills of students within each class and teachers find it time-consuming and difficult to personalise each students’ learning. The literacy leaders were reassured by the evidence base for Wordshark and found it aligned with our goals and approach. We valued the game format to engage students, particularly as our state was in lockdown for vast periods of the Covid pandemic. Wordshark enabled us to assess students and provide personalised learning throughout our extremely long lockdowns. The program was initiated across the junior and middle school (Foundation to year 4) and for target students in the senior classes.

Literacy Leader

The literacy leader conducted Professional Learning Team meetings with staff to share the research, rationale and to build teacher capacity and share expectations for Wordshark implementation. As we were in lockdown when we implemented the program, we conducted online parent sessions to explain the program and our rationale for implementation. This was particularly helpful in getting the parents to value and support the program. The Literacy leader also monitored student usage and data and reached out to support families in accessing the program and trouble shooting.

Class Teachers

At St. Leonard’s, class teachers have a strong focus on implementing daily phonics instruction aligned with our scope and sequence. Wordshark is used to give children the opportunity to practise skills at their own level. This is set as daily home practice and the data from student results supports the further planning of phonic instruction.

In class, Wordshark is also accessed to support teaching via IWB. Teachers use the Wordshark Course Summary to locate specific skills to support their teaching.

Where the learning intention might be to read and spell words ending with consonant blends, teachers might share the blending and segmenting activities from level 8, having teams or individual students complete the tasks. At the end of the work, students might have their mini whiteboards while the teacher shares one of the spelling games or checks and students answer on their whiteboards enabling the teacher to view students skills and results during the lesson.

Teachers also use Wordshark to support vocabulary development by linking it to the literature used in the classroom. The year 3/4 teachers have a strong focus on building students vocabulary. Target words are selected from the texts children are studying and the teachers use Wordshark to customise a unit based on the text. This provides children multiple exposures to new words to develop their understanding of meanings and their ability to fluently read and spell more complex words from texts.

When specific grammar skills are being taught (i.e. homophones) Wordshark units are set either in the class program or as revision activities in homework. As with all Wordshark activities, this facilitates explicit teaching, multiple exposures and personalisation of the learning for each student.

Support staff

Wordshark Online offers fabulous opportunity for learning support staff… having low skilled students work on the program under supervision (so you can ensure they get the opportunity to articulate sounds, read aloud etc.) is golden.


As part of a determined effort to improve the teaching of phonics in our school, Wordshark has been invaluable. It has been a highly effective means of providing personalised programs for students, enabling frequent practice of core skills and it provides us with strong feedback about each students progress. Spending time to make sure staff, students and families understand the program and ‘buy in’ has been key to ensuring strong usage and good outcomes. It has become a highly valued resource in our literacy program. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Hilden Oaks Preparatory School & Nursery, Tonbridge

Sharon Tringham – SEND support

In the past we only used Wordshark 1:1 with students requiring specific support. Two years ago we began introducing it to all students in Form 1-3 to ensure there were no gaps in their phonic knowledge, after the interrupted learning due to Covid lockdown.

Wordshark provides necessary overlearning in any area it identifies for each individual student. The programme then offers them a wide range of personalised games such as auditory memory (helicopter game) and visual memory (pairs). Students really enjoy ‘Hunt’ where chasing monsters around the screen develops fingers strength for writing and typing, as well as supporting memory and syllabification skills.

It has flexible options to work through a dyslexia programme or National Curriculum requirements and alerts us if anyone needs additional support. Teachers find being able to use SET WORK for a particular aspect such as class spelling for an individual, a group or the whole class is really useful. Everything is designed so students can work alone at home or at school but can celebrate their successes by printing out their progress certificates and sharing them.

How most schools use Wordshark

  • Most schools use the automatic progression course, Supershark, following the progress of their students and having a copy of the Wordshark course for reference – resetting the Unit where necessary – to an earlier or later place. Pace through this course can be calculated bearing in mind each unit has on average about 6 or 7 lists.
  • In addition to this, schools like to set work, based on the spelling patterns and rules they are currently working on. They choose from the published courses (using Search) or create lists of their own. These, for example, could be vocabulary lists, or examples of words spelt wrongly in workbooks or further practice of particular spelling patterns and rules.

Features used… 

Using Automatic Progression? (Supershark) Setting Work? Creating Personalised Lists? Allowing Free Play? Using at school & at home?
88% 65% 56% 62% 50%


What teachers say they value most in Wordshark

  • Setting Work
  • Assessment
  • Rewards for students
  • Facility to add own lists