We know there is no research to prove one scope and sequence is better than another. What we do know is it must follow logic!

When I say logic, what I am implying is, it has to be sequential and cumulative. It has to make sense in a logical way.

I know there have been many questions about what sounds should be taught and how many sounds should be in the first stage of a scope and sequence when you start teaching students.

I thought about the best way that I could answer why is a scope and sequence crucial when teaching the alphabetic principle.  I decided to do a Q&A format and show you a basic sound scope and sequence I created and why.  Hopefully, the information will get you thinking about what, how and why you use a scope and sequence.


Q. Is the order in a scope and sequence important?

A.Short answer YES it’s crucial. It needs to be sequential and cumulative building from small steps to bigger steps.

Q. How easy is it to create a scope and sequence?

A. It is not as easy as some might think, there are many factors considered if you add, remove or tweak a scope and sequence for your students.

You need to learn and understand why you would use a scope and sequence before you sit down and create it. Anyone can make a list of sounds to follow, but you need to have knowledge of the alphabetic principle. It is also important you understand the research and how it works in practice when you create a scope and sequence.

Knowledge is key so you can create structured word lists for reading (decoding) and spelling (encoding) plus create decodable sentences or resources for that scope and sequence.

When you follow a programme you are provided with word lists, lesson plans, sentences and books. When you are taught an approach like Structured Literacy you will learn what to teach how to teach it. This means that you will have the knowledge to create your own scope and sequence for the child/ children sitting in front of you. The training will show you how and why to adjust it, so every child succeeds in every lesson.

That means you will be able to create your own structured wordlists and structured sentences as well as many of your own stories if you like. It is always good to have these skills!

Some things to be considered when you create a scope and sequence. 

  • Why do you teach certain sounds in a particular order or if you should or shouldn’t split them up? (Silent e being an example).
  • Why do you teach the sound /ch/ before /tch/?
  • Why do certain vowels present real challenges for students with a New Zealand accent?
  • Why do some vowels change their sound when they are next to certain consonants?
  • How many sounds should you introduce at the beginning?
  • Can you produce enough words from your order of starting sounds?
  • Is your scope and sequence designed for all children or just a mainstream?

As you can see you need strong knowledge of how and why we teach the alphabetic principle and how it contributes to the Structure of the English language. Why, when, for who and how is vital and this is what an approach teaches you (over time).

Q. Can you adjust or change your scope and sequence?

A. Yes and if you work with struggling readers your scope and sequence can look different for each child.

Q. Why would you change the order of a scope and sequence?

A. There are a few reasons why you would change the order of your scope and sequence.

  • The student can only hold two or three sounds in working memory. Meaning for this student you would not introduce blends. Every lesson is catered for the student to have success.
  • You can bring a sound forward to give the student success with the challenges they are facing at that time.
  • The student in intervention needs to be taught the 6 syllables and syllable division to support words being introduced at school to support reading.
  • The student is tired, hungry or they are having an off day?
  • Do you introduce the next sound or go back a few steps or stay where you are?

As you can see there is a bit of skill in creating a scope and sequence and you can’t just add sounds or syllables anywhere you like. It has to be structured, cumulative and systematic. The sequence needs to be logical and you need to be able to follow it so you are diagnostically assessing each lesson and can see where the student is succeeding and where they are falling down.

Q. How do I learn to create a scope and sequence?

A. We would advise training in a quality evidence based approach to understand the what, why and how.

I created the scope and sequence below to let you see what thought process went into it. It is based on my knowledge of the alphabetic principle and my student. I thought about how my student struggles with the introduction of new sounds especially vowels. Plus how many are grouped together and how fast I should go?

I used my training, knowledge and research from Sally B Childs and Aylett Royal Cox who were the first people to use i,t,p,n,s,a . Today we commonly see this order of sounds listed as s, a, t. p, i, n. This order was for children who were identified as struggling or who have dyslexia or similar. It was known as remedial work.

Thank you Olwyn Johnston for sharing the history of the i,t,p,n,s,a  sound.  (Link below).

I will share the logic of why I created and used this scope and sequence with my student. This will let you see for yourself how important it is for a scope and sequence to be created by someone who has knowledge of the alphabetic principle and the knowledge of why it must be sequential and cumulative.

  1. s a t i n
  2. h o p
  3. b c g m
  4. f k l u
  5. d e r v
  6. j w x
  7. y z

In line 1 – I split s a t p i n and removed p to reduce the number of sounds that needed to be taught. These sounds will provide plenty of words to use especially when blending is a big challenge. The n sound is also very helpful here as it is a sound you can extend to help with blending words like nat (nnn a t) or tin (t i nnnnn).

We want to provide success, ‘Go as fast as you can and as slow as you must’ Anna Gillingham

In line 2 – I added p into line 2 to complete the s a t p i n words and adding h and o was added to provide more options of cvc words. The /h/ sound can be pushed out too when blending like the /n/ sound.

In line 3 – b has been added on its own to separate it from d and p and I have added the /m/ sound that can be pushed out to help with blending.

In line 4/f/ has been added for pushing out for blending again and k l u means I can separate the vowels avoiding any sound confusion with /a/ and /e/ or /e/ and /i/ with NZ vowels.

Line 5 – I have now added d as it is far enough away from b providing longer for mastery of b (reversals). Then/e/ is added to on its own to help stop confusion with /i/. I also added /v/ to keep it separate for sound confusion with /f/.

In line  6 – I have three consonants being mindful of how many times they are used

In Line 7 -I added the final consonants to complete the 26 sounds of the alphabet.

I avoided sounds that can sound the same on each line and I have also avoided anything that could be visually seen as the same.

Auditorily  similar Visually similar
/f/ /v/ b   d
/t/ /d/ b   p
/b/  /d/ q   p
/b/  /p/ n  m
/k/  /g/ h   n
/m/  /n/ v   w
/i/  /e/ n    r
/o/ /u/

Extra notes –

I added a pushed sound to each line early on to help with blending.  I am not using term continuant sounds because /h/ isn’t a continuant sound.

I only introduced four sounds in the first line to help build confidence and masters so the student can achieve success quickly.

Three sounds were introduced in line 2 because you don’t want to add too many sounds while we are reviewing the first set of sounds when a child is struggling.

Some scope and sequences add word endings like /ng/ and /ck/ before all 26 consonants are taught to introduce more of the words we use each day. Again the knowledge of the person creating the scope and sequence will determine what sounds are introduced and why.

Letter formations.

Q .  In what order do you teach letter formations in your scope sequence?

A. For this exercise I am using the Oxford NHS letter formation recommendations using ‘families of letters: e.g. start with the easiest first (long letters): l, t, i, u, j, y. Then go onto the next easiest letters (curly letters): c, a, g, q, o, e, f, s. Then the ‘bouncing ball’ letters: r, n, m, p, h, b, d. And finally the ‘zig zag letters: v, w, x, k, z.

The order to teach the sounds would look more like this, 

  1. t i a s n
  2. o p h
  3. c g m b
  4. l u f k
  5. e r d v
  6. j w x
  7. y z

There is logic in why we teach the sounds and logic in how we teach the letter formations. Making this scope and sequence very logical indeed!

I hope this document helps you understand how important scope and sequence is when you are teaching the alphabetic principle. If you follow a programme then you will have a set scope and sequence.  Have you ever asked the company why they teach the sounds in that order?

Most scope and sequences we use in New Zealand have their decodable books. I want to clarify that decodable books are often thought of as a tool to help ‘practice’ skills that you have covered. They are not used in structured literacy to teach reading.

The books do not and should not determine your scope and sequence. They are a tool to support review and check for generalisation of skills.

Using a sequential and cumulative scope and sequence to guide your explicit teaching of the alphabetic principle is essential for all children, but crucial for our kids who struggle.

I will leave you with this statement it is much easier to speed up a scope and sequence than it is to slow it down.

This document complements “What is a Scope and Sequence?” on the website.


Where should phonics teaching start? satpinand its origins, rivals and implications”



This document was created by Sharon Scurr, founder of the deb,  01 October 2022