Teachers from P1 to P5 are focusing well on the basics, particularly in P1 and P2 where there has been most improvement, inspectors report.
Their programmes include talking clearly, listening to respond, learning to read, building words and sentences, and developing handwriting.
"Effective uses of phonics helped pupils to learn to read and write earlier. Well-chosen resources and carefully deployed support staff often contributed to the success of these programmes," HMI states.
But by the middle years of primary pupil experience was "often not as rich, varied and challenging" and tasks were sometimes pitched at too low a level.