Phonics scope and sequence can be a complicated thing to learn and understand. Find out the exact research-based scope and sequence I use to set students up for reading success.
The number one question I receive via email and social media usually goes something like this:
- What phonics scope and sequence do you use?
- What order do I teach the phonics skills in?
- How do I know what to teach when, and what to teach next?
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Today, I’m answering all of your questions related to phonics scope and sequence.
But First…A Disclaimer My Scope & Sequence
I tweak as I go. I’ve been teaching since 2010, and the order in which I teach phonics has changed since then.
I see what works and what doesn’t work, I try new curriculum recommendations. In addition, I read research and change the way I instruct and assess.
Remember, I’m teachable! 😉 So while this phonics scope and sequence has evolved over time, this is my current best. So it’s not set a stone. Think of it as written in pencil, with the ability to erase!
Phonics should always be taught explicitly and systematically. Yes, there is a general progression of phonics skills that you should follow. I’ve numbered the skills in my list below because it is sequential.
But teaching one of these skills (aside from the alphabet and CVC words) “out of order” is not going to “ruin” your readers forever and ever.”
It’s just going to simplify the process of learning to read if you do use this order.
Phonics Scope & Sequence by Grade Level
I know that many of you are new teachers (welcome, by the way!!) and you will want to know what exact skills you should cover in your specific grade level.
But I can’t answer that for you! (Sorry!!)
I don’t want to lead you astray! I don’t know the exact details of your class or your students, so I can’t give you specifics.
Every school district is different. Every curriculum is different. Every student is different.
Can you see how I would be doing you a disservice if I told you: “You teach first grade, so you much teach this and this.”?
But the Kindergarten teacher at your school didn’t get to CVCe words, and I told you to start with vowel teams….now your students have never been taught CVCe!
So what do you do in the meantime?! Stress that you don’t know where to start?
You could…but that wouldn’t do you any good! 😜
My number one piece of advice for knowing where to start in your grade level is to assess (instead of stress)!
Ok, now that you know this scope and sequence is written in pencil and grade level disclaimers are covered – let’s get started!
1. Phonemic Awareness
Your students can know ALL of the letter sounds and phonics skills in the world, but if they don’t have phonemic awareness, they will not be able to read or spell through phonics.
While I am not going to put “phonemic awareness” next to every skill I’m about to list, I want you to pretend that it’s there!
Seriously, next to each headline, pretend it says “and phonemic awareness” after it! 😂
For example, if you’re introducing the digraph CH, practice blending and segmenting words with ch before and during your lesson.
I have dozens (upon dozens) of blog posts dedicated to phonemic awareness, which you can find my clicking here.
If you want a scripted-for-you guide to teaching phonemic awareness on a daily basis in your classroom in under 15 minutes a day, you’ll want to grab these Phonemic Awareness Teacher Task Cards!
2. The Alphabet
There are soooo many theories about how letter sounds should be taught to students. For instance, letter of the day, letter of the week, introduce all letters in 26 days, alphabet boot camp…
I don’t think there’s one right or wrong way to teach the alphabet as you incorporate the following:
1. Explicitly teach the difference between vowels and consonants
Students should be explicitly taught which letters are consonants and which letters are vowels. So never think that a child is “too young” for this type of vocabulary. It always benefits them in the long run.
2. Teach students a combination of consonants and vowels that allows them to start reading and writing words before learning the entire alphabet
If you teach: c, o, a, and d first, your students can start reading and writing the following (real and nonsense) words:
- ad, cad, dad, cod, doc, etc.
The book Recipe for Reading provides an alphabet scope and sequence and it includes word lists for every step of the way! So I highly recommend it.
Don’t forget, you should be teaching and practicing phonological and phonemic awareness while students are learning the alphabet and now, making and reading words. So without phonological and phonemic awareness, they will be struggling to blend the letters to make words.
3. CVC Words
Once students, (and hopefully while students), have learned the alphabet, they should be practicing reading CVC words.
This includes CVC with all five short vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u).
- short a) cat
- short e) fed
- short i) kid
- short o) pot
- short u) tub
Remember, if students struggle with reading CVC words but know their letter sounds, the answer is….phonemic awareness. (I hope you’re not sick of me saying that yet, because I’m definitely not done. 🤪)
Digraphs are two letters that make one sound.
You should explicitly teach your students the definition of digraphs.
Start with simple beginning and ending digraphs such as wh, ck, sh, th, and ch.
- wh) white
- ck) duck
- sh) shut
- -sh) wish
- th) that
- -th) bath
- ch) chat
- -ch) reach
Don’t forget to incorporate phonemic awareness activities while learning and practicing words with digraphs!
5. Double Final Consonants
The next skill I teach after digraphs is double final consonants.
When words with short vowels end in f, l, s, or z, the last consonant is doubled.
This includes words such as:
- -ff) puff
- -ll) fill
- -ss) kiss
- -zz) buzz
Beginning and ending blends can be really tricky for new readers!
I bet you can already predict what I am going to say next….
Be sure to include a LOT of phonemic awareness practice when introducing, teaching, and practicing words with blends!
This includes l blends, r blends, and s blends.
Be sure that the words have short vowels since long vowels have been introduced yet.
Here are some examples:
- l blends: blot not bloat
- r blends: pram not prank
- s blends: swat not swine
Beginning 3-Letter Blends (Clusters)
Many s blends and blends with digraphs in them have three letters
- squ) squid
- scr) scrap
- shr) shrimp
- thr) three
- str) strap
- spr) spring
- spl) splash
Ending blends can be just as tricky as beginning blends! So be sure to incorporate a lot of phonemic awareness (are you sick of me saying that yet?).
Oh, and don’t forget to make sure that your practice words only include skills that your students have learned!
Here are some examples of ending blends:
- -nd) and
- -nt) tent
- -mp) camp
- -sk) mask
- -sp) wasp
- -st) must
- -lt) melt
- -ld) held
- -lf) elf
- -lp) help
- -ct) insect
- -ft) lift
- -pt) kept
- -xt) text
- -lk) milk
- -nch) crunch
7. Glued Sounds
Glued sounds refer to the skills ng and nk.
I like to teach these as word families. We also practice “chunking” them (or highlighting them) when we see them in words we are decoding.
- ing) wing
- ang) sang
- ong) tong
- ung) flung
- ink) think
- ank) sank
- onk) honk
- unk) chunk
By teaching students basic suffixes (and the “rules” that go along with them), we add to the number of words that students can read.
-s and -es (for plurals)
-er and -est
-ed and -ing
9. Soft C and Soft G
Remember when I said that this list is numbered but it doesn’t mean you have to follow the exact order?
This is a great example of that! I’ve used curriculums that teach this earlier in the sequence and some that use it later…it’s up to you!
Examples of soft c include:
- cent, dice, race, cell
Examples of soft g include:
- gem, age, stage, huge, magic
10. Long Vowel Sounds
Call it CVCe, silent e, or magic e, the real name for this skill be should be “tricky e.”
Learning long vowel sounds and CVCe can really throw young readers for a loop. I recommend incorporating a lot of short vowel VS long vowel practice and CVC vs CVCe practice when learning long vowels.
Examples of CVCe words include:
- long a) save
- long i) ripe
- long o) pole
- long u) tune
I have these FREE CVCe passages available on TpT if you need them!
Y as a Vowel
Y can be such an imposter! Yes, I teach my students that vocabulary! Why not? 🤪 They feel smart (because they are!) and it impresses their parents when they use the term. In addition, they’ll never forget what imposter means…or what “y” can do!
Sometimes Y acts as a vowel and takes over as e or i.
Examples of y as a vowel include:
- long e sound) baby, candy, bunny
- long i sound) fly, try, reply
Long Vowel Teams
Note: Some teachers/curriculums teach long vowel teams first, while others teach r-controlled vowels first. I’ve taught it both ways and it hasn’t seemed to make a difference either way.
Examples of long vowel teams include:
- long a) ai, ay
- ai) paint
- ay) hay
- long e) ea, ee
- ea) sea
- ee) feed
- long i) igh, ie
- igh) night
- ie) pie
- long o) oa, oe, ow
- oa) boat
- oe) toe
- ow) bow
- long u) ue, ew
- ue) glue
- ew) few
This can also be known as bossy r!
Examples of R-Controlled vowels include:
- basic r-controlled vowels: ar, er, ir, or, ur
- ar) far
- er) feather
- ir) stir
- or) word
- ur) fur
- advanced r-controlled vowels: are, air, ear, our, oar, ore, arr etc.
- are) flare
- air) stair
- ear) bear
- our) flour
- oar) oar
- ore) store
- arr) arrow
Ahh diphthongs, they have so many names! First of all, did you know that you pronounce it diFthongs? Just in case anyone was wondering… 😂
Some curriculums also refer to them as variant vowels or vowel digraphs.
Diphthongs examples include:
- oi and oy
- oi) point
- oy) boy
- ow and ou
- ow) how
- ou) shout
- au and aw
- au) August
- aw) claw
Once again, teaching students more suffixes “opens the doors” to the amount of words that they can read.
Examples of suffixes include:
- -ly) happily
- -ness) madness
- -ment) movement
- -ful) thankful
- -en) ridden
- -tion) auction
There are both words with short vowels and words with long vowels that end with a consonant + le, like in the word stable.
These endings include
- -ble) bubble
- -fle) raffle
- -tle) subtle
- -dle) idle
- -gle) juggle
- -kle) crackle
- -ple) staple
- -zle) dazzle
Prefixes come before a word. They carry their own meaning and therefore change the meaning of the word.
Examples of prefixes include:
- un) unkind
- re) remake
- be) become
- mis) mistake
These are tricky and yet I find that they are rarely (or barely) touched on in primary curriculum!
Silent letters include letter combinations like lf, lk, mb, wr, kn, and gn.
- lf) shelf
- lk) milk
- mb) climb
- wr) write
- kn) know
- gn) gnat
So…now they should know how to read, right?
Now, now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Just because you’ve taught the scope and sequence once doesn’t mean that all of your students will magically know how to read!
Learning to read is a process that involves many pillars – phonics is just one of them.
You still need to incorporate phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. You assess along the way, tweak your instruction, see progress, assess, instruct…and it goes on!
Phonics Scope and Sequence List Download
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So what do you think? Does this scope and sequence differ from what you use to teach phonics? Let me know in the comments below. 👇🏽
More Information on HOW to Teach Phonics
If you’re looking for more information about the process I use to teach phonics, be sure to check this blog post: How Learning to Read is Like Learning to Drive.
YouTube Videos for Teaching Phonics Skills
I don’t know about you, but my 21st century learners are typically engaged and motivated by videos! So that’s why I’ve taken the time to collect and list YouTube videos for TONS of phonics skills. You can find them all here!