Looking for Barbara Brann’s Early Literacy Learning Resources?

Access them here through Barbara Brann’s partner organisations.

Barbara Brann’s Early Literacy Learning Resources can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Now partnering with organisations committed to development of early literacy following The Magic Caterpillar Writing Process, Barbara Brann’s early literacy learning resources are having an even bigger impact.

Learning Skills 4 Kids

Fiona Lilley

An occupational therapist for more than 25 years, Fiona has specialised in working with children with developmental delays and/or learning difficulties.

Based in New Zealand, Fiona has integrated Barbara Brann’s Resources into her work and is the only New Zealand distributor of her products, which she sells through her online store. Fiona and teacher Martina Schmidt work closely with Barbara Brann in New Zealand, coordinating delivery of early literacy professional development workshops in that country.

Contact Learning Skills 4 Kids in New Zealand

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Curious about what’s behind Barbara Brann’s resources?

Discover answers to your early literacy questions here

Barbara’s framework of learning outcomes traces literacy development from pre-curriculum to the curriculum outcomes that aligns with the first 12 – 18 months of schooling in Australia and New Zealand (and will line up with expectations of curriculum on most countries in which children begin formal schooling at five years). The framework encompasses five key learning areas or domains:

Language and Oracy

Talking Domain

Beginning Reading and Writing

Beginning Reading and Writing

Auditory Processing, Phonological and Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Spelling

Listening Domain

Visual Processing Skills, Language of Learning, Word and Letter recognition

Looking Domain

Gross and Fine Motor Skills, Handwriting

Moving Domain

Key learning domains

Each domain is broken down into sub-skills which are progressive in both difficulty and complexity across four stages of stages. In total, approximately 360 learning outcomes are defined. The framework provides an integrated progression of skills, which are also aligned for difficulty and complexity through the domains to ensure that progress on one domain is matched to progress in another. It is based on the belief that:

  • Literacy develops in an integrated way with all skills and understandings coming together in an interdependent way that results in proficient reading and writing.
  • Literacy develops when the components of literacy are connected and contextualised.
  • Literacy involves the senses of hearing, sight and touch involving movement. All senses must be engaged at all times to ensure the connections among the aspects of literacy are understood.
  • Literacy develops when children have mastered the building blocks upon which literacy is based because, when these foundations are solidly in place, the child is ready to take advantage of more formal literacy instruction.
  • When the building blocks are not in place, or are weak or when some are missing, the foundation is not strong enough to connect all the aspects involved in the complex tasks of reading and writing. At some point, these children will experience learning problems.
  • Literacy will not necessarily develop for many students if it is taught as discrete elements at different times through different programmes, methods and resources. Literacy is not synthetic. A sound cannot be written! There is no such thing as a single sound in isolation from other spoken sounds! Words occur in the context of language, not in isolation! Written words exist in the context of written language, not on individual cards to be recognised out of context. Spelling is of no use unless you write. You can’t create spellings for words if you can’t hear and isolate the sounds in every position.

Want to learn more about Barbara’s building blocks for early literacy?


Research over the years indicated movement can have a major impact on one’s ability to perform higher level cognitive tasks if the movement required is not automatic. Research indicates some key findings which are instructive around handwriting:

  • Motor, or kinaesthetic memory, is a key aspect of any sports person’s level of performance.
  • Students with poorly developed visual motor skills will have difficulty with handwriting
  • Students who have difficulty with handwriting use an inordinate amount of physical and cognitive energy just to write, leaving little left for higher level tasks, such as creativity or remembering what they are writing
  • Brain activity also indicates more of the brain is activated when students physically “pen” a creative piece of writing than when it is created using a keyboard
  • Older students who take notes using pen and paper, recall more than students who take notes using a computer.

Poor handwriting affects students’ ability in all aspects of school life whenever there is a need to use a writing implement. Written language is affected both in quantity and quality. Spelling ability is affected. Speed and accuracy is affected too.

Handwriting must be automatic to leave the brain free to concentrate on higher level cognitive tasks. It must be developed as early as possible and be brought to automaticity as early as possible to ensure development of other aspects of literacy are not interrupted by poor motor skills.

The Magic Caterpillar Handwriting Process is a process to ensure handwriting develops quickly and correct letter formation is ensured and automatic. The process is not linked to any particular script or font, rather it is designed to teach correct formation irrespective of what the letter “looks like” at the end of the process. Importantly, it incorporates the senses of hearing, sight and touch through the use of a beautifully illustrated story of Casey the Caterpillar

Learn more about The Casey the Caterpillar Handwriting Process

Auditory Information processing – Phonemic awareness to spelling

Phonemic awareness is defined as the ability to work with the sounds of language within words. Specific instruction in phonemic awareness skills teaches students to discriminate and recognise phonemes or sound units in words. It is different from phonics (or grapho-phonics to use the correct terminology).

Letters (visual graphics) are not introduced until the student has well developed phonemic (sound) awareness. This skill is essential to reading and spelling. Many students referred for extra tuition are failing because of poor phonemic awareness. Auditory skills form the basis of phonemic awareness.

Barbara helps teachers and parents understand how to incorporate phonemic awareness into literacy learning, both for spelling and reading. She demonstrates how to ensure understanding of how the sounds of language link to letters and to the spellings of words. Her work is based on the premise all senses need to be involved in the teaching of phonemic awareness and spelling skills. Objects and toys which can be manipulated and coloured blocks used to represent phonemes and letters are tools Barbara engages in her professional development learning.

Want to learn more about Barbara’s approach to early literacy spelling?

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“It is quite magical to watch how quickly students come to understand the connections among sounds and letters, the patterns that form the basis of spellings of words and the morphological or meaning aspects of spellings of words.”

– Barbara Brann