The International Dyslexic Association and the Dyslexia Evidence Based Group (deb) recommend that all dyslexic children are taught by using a scope and sequence that follows a Structured Literacy approach. It can be hard to get your head around what a scope and sequence is if you have never heard the terminology before or seen one.

The most important thing to understand is we MUST teach the alphabetic principle in the correct order (systematic and sequential) starting from the easiest skills to the hardest skills (cumulative) building knowledge of the code as you go. We DO NOT skip steps.

It needs to be systematic, sequential and cumulative and taught using explicit instruction. We have listed a few questions and answers, plus an example of a systematic synthetic phonics programme’s scope and sequence to help you get a better understanding of what it is, and why you need to use one.

What is a scope and sequence? 

The ‘scope’ refers to the concepts or skills that need to be taught.

The ‘sequence’ refers to the order of which the concepts and skills are introduced.

Why is using a scope and sequence important? 

A scope and sequence is important because it allows the educator to tailor the learning to the child’s needs and teach in a sequential and cumulative order. This means children master each skill before moving on to the next, helping every child experience success in the lesson.

How will a scope and sequence help with assessing children’s knowledge? 

A scope and sequence is your reference to look at after completing an assessment. It will show you the gaps in the child’s knowledge when you refer to the scope and sequence, and give you a place to start teaching from the sequence (order) of skills and concepts.

It will also let you see what knowledge the child has retained and what might need to be retaught before moving onto the next skill/concept.

If a child can’t read or write simple CVC words like ‘bat’, ‘pop’, or ‘ cut’, then you would look back and check if the child knows all the 26 sounds and can blend sounds to make words and if they can write the letter of the sound.

If a child can read ‘bat’, ‘cut’, ‘pop’, ‘bank’, ‘tank’ and ‘pink, ‘pong’ and ‘long’ but misspell the words as: ‘tangk’, ‘bangk’ and ‘pingk’, this will tell you the child can hear, hold and write CVCC and CCVC words, but needs to be taught how to hear the difference between ‘nk’ and ‘ng’.

This also shows up with words like frog when a child spells ‘fog’, not hearing the ‘r’, or ‘drip’ becomes ‘trip’ hearing ‘dr’ as ‘tr’.

SPELD NSW has developed a Phonics and Morphology Scope and Sequence for Reading and Spelling for Kindergarten ( Year 1 NZ) and Year One (Year 2 NZ) 

This Scope and Sequence has a focus on phonics for reading and spelling. It also includes some basic morphology and high frequency irregular and partially irregular words.

This image of the Scope and Sequence covers the Basic Phonics Code and introduces commonly used graphemes from the Extended Code.

You can see everything is introduced in order, building from sound knowledge to word knowledge and then to sentence level while making sure every step is taught and reviewed. Children are regularly checked to make sure they have mastered the sound, spelling pattern or skill they have been taught before moving on to the next sound, skill or spelling pattern.

Another example of a Scope and Sequence can be found under  ‘What does a Structured Literacy Lesson look like?

Why would I need a scope and sequence if my phonics programme has an order to teach sounds?

When you teach from a scope and sequence using Structured Literacy you don’t move from lesson to lesson like you would with a school programme that normally has 36-40 week lessons that need to be completed by the end of the year. It’s not enough to introduce it and hope they get it. It’s about teaching it explicitly and making sure the children understand what they are learning and can remember it in reading and spelling.

The best way to explain this is to show you the difference in a lesson. Here is an example of what a basic phonics week based programme may look like:

Week 25: teach digraph /tch/

The teacher will introduce the sound, maybe do a few activities like finding (‘tch’) and circling the sound in the weekly poem. They will ask the children to list words with the sound and the teacher writes them down. They may also learn about what words rhyme with words that have ‘tch’.

Example of words ‘dutch’, ‘catch’, ‘patch’ i.e. Word families. The children often shout them out or may write them in a book. They may even find words with /tch/ like stretcher or watch.

It all sounds great and fun and for the rest of the week the children will be given books with predictable text (PM colour wheel books) and they will be given a list of words for spelling and asked to look, cover, write and check at the end of the week.

Examples of words for spelling could be: ‘people’, ‘little’ and ‘mother’.

These words are taken either from essential lists created from Fry’s word list or the words are taken from the list of words commonly used in the colour level of PM readers.

They will be asked to add a word with the sound /tch/ into your story for creative writing.

It all looks fine on paper and ticks all the boxes, but what happens if children are off sick for that week and/or the next week.

What happens if your child needs more than one week to learn the sound ‘tch’?

What happens if your child is dyslexic?

The answers are not great.

We have heard things like, “Sorry, it’s been taught already and I need to keep teaching the programme, but we will try and get someone to teach it later.” But this ends up happening in bits and pieces or not at all. Your child starts to fall behind and this is where the gaps keep getting bigger.

There is no assessment in place to check if the child knows or understands how and when to use the sound /tch/ in writing and spelling because often a child will spell ‘catch’ – ‘cach’ or ‘patch’ – ‘pach’ and the teacher has no real reference or understanding why the child doesn’t get it, especially if she feels she has taught the sound the way the programme told her to it. She has done her job and followed schooled procedures and used the training and knowledge she gained to become a teacher.

But when we use a scope and sequence that follows a Structured Literacy approach this is how the lesson of /tch/ would look.

It would not be planned for week 25 it would be planned for when the class was ready to be taught /tch/ or the child was ready for the lesson.

Before teaching /tch/the educator would have explicitly taught the first 26 sounds of the alphabet and the main digraphs like /th/, /ch/, and /sh/. The children will have mastered the sounds and be able to read and write words which include the 29 sounds listed above.

The lesson will always begin with review of sounds and patterns that have been taught so in this example the words will incorporate the 29 sounds they already know.

Example being

  • shop
  • mum
  • dad
  • that
  • chip
  • bat
  • chat

They will be asked to read and spell the words and then write a few dictation sentences that include the words and any irregular words that have been taught.


  • I am Mum.
  • Mum and Dad chat.
  • Is Chip the bat with dad?

The irregular words for the above sentences would be  (is(z) because of the ‘z’ sound unless it’s been taught) and ‘I’ because it’s a word that says a long vowel which has not been taught yet. Every other word included in the sentence the child can sound out, read and spell.

This is diagnostic and the educator can see if a child is struggling and what part of the scope and sequence needs to be checked and retaught before moving onto to teach /tch/.

If the lesson is ready to continue, and the child has mastered everything in review, the educator will explicitly teach the sound /tch/ by using direct/explicit instruction – I do, we do, you do. 

The educator will also bring in a traditional multisensory component using auditory, visual and kinesthetic and explain and model the process of each step. Nothing is left to the child to pick it up.

This particular digraph/spelling pattern also has a rule – LSASV (long spelling after a short vowel) – and the educator will teach the children the rule. The digraph /tch/ comes after a short vowel. Children now understand when they should use /ch/ or /tch/.

You would also include the exceptions to the rule like “rich and much” and explain they don’t follow the rule because they are not English words, they originate from other languages. The children will then be taught how to read the words and spell the words with /tch/ in them. The spelling words and reading words would be the same and they would only include the new sound and the previous sounds taught.

Example : catch, patch, clutch, hitch, notch, hutch.

Children will read and spell these words before going to the decodable book to read.

The children will build mastery, by allowing them to practice using their decodable reading book, and by using the words in their spelling and reading. This is why decodable books must align with your scope and sequence to allow children to review and master.

To learn more, head to “What does a Structured Literacy lesson look like in intervention?

We DO NOT  introduce words like ‘stretcher’ because the child may not be able to hold more than 4 sounds to be able to spell s/t/r/e/tch and we have not taught /er/ (a controlled r sound, which will be further down the scope and sequence.) It is not fair to ask a child to read or spell a word we have not taught them. We would never expect someone to drive a car on the motorway if we haven’t taught them how to drive, use brakes, turn the wheel, switch gears, hit the pedals or explain what the road rules were or what the road signs mean. It’s unfair to expect someone to learn and understand a life skill like driving by sitting and observing a driver for a few years, yet this is what we do with reading, writing and spelling.

It’s not good enough to expect a child on day one of school to read a book with sounds and words they have not been taught and continue this process for the next three years. It is unfair to expect them to be able to learn to read, write and spell at a mastery level just because they are exposed to it.

It’s not good enough just to introduce and expose children to reading, spelling and writing. If we want children to have success we must explicitly teach children to read, spell and write in a systematic, sequential and cumulative way using a scope and sequence and have the understanding and knowledge to know the difference between the two.

This document was created by Sharon Scurr, founder of the deb, in Febuary 2022