The NSW Phonics Scope and Sequence Explained

Photo of the the text NSW Education Effective reading: Phonics Sample sequence and table of graphemes, phonemes and corresponding words to be taught covered by an image of the word 'explained' in red text. Next to this text and image is a photo of Santina DiMauro followed by the caption 'Phonics Expert & Teacher' followed by a photo of Katherine Wood and the caption 'Phonics Hero CEO'

Editor’s note: This webinar and blog post was written on version 2 of the NSW scope and sequence. As of October 2022, the sequence has been updated for a third time. You can now view and download Phonics Hero’s revised NSW Sequence.

This week, phonics expert Tina DiMauro and I ran a free webinar, unpacking the new NSW Phonics Scope and Sequence. Here’s a recording of the session:

We know that many of you will struggle to find the time to watch the whole thing, so here’s what we covered and what you need to know.

The Science of Reading

Video: 4 mins – 7.5 mins

Tina explained that the ‘Science of Reading’ is not a program, but is the cumulation of years of research into how best to teach children to read. Australia, the UK and the USA have all come to broadly the same conclusion: that early reading should be taught with systematic, synthetic phonics. For a deep dive, read this blog post on the science of reading.

Synthetic Phonics

Video: 7.5 mins – 14.5 mins

Synthetic phonics is a bit of a buzz word in Australian schools right now. These are four of the most important characteristics:

  1. Children learn the phoneme (speech sound e.g. /ai/ like in the word ‘paid’) and grapheme connections (the phoneme can be represented by: ‘ai’, ‘ay’, ‘a_e’ and so on) of the 44 phonemes.

  2. Part-to-whole approach; we start with the smallest part of the word (the phoneme) and build the word to read it.

  3. The operational skills of blending and segmenting are taught.

  4. Students will transfer their synthetic phonics skills to their wider reading and spelling.

There’s lots more to learn, so take a look at our overview of synthetic phonics.

The NSW Phonics Scope and Sequence

Video: 14.5 mins – 41 mins

Right now it’s being trialled with Year 1 in a selected number of primary schools. We are expecting to see changes to the scope and sequence from those learnings; alterations to the groupings, the order of phonemes and what is taught in what year. What you need to know:

  • The scope and sequence is only a suggestion. You can use any systematic, synthetic phonics approach.

  • It is a guide to help teachers with the implementation of our speech sounds together with the corresponding graphemes.

  • You are expected to teach synthetic phonics for both reading and spelling hand-in-hand.

  • The pace is crucial to building a foundation in reading and writing (move onto blending quickly!).

  • Consolidation (i.e. LOTS of practice blending and segmenting decodable words) is key.

  • It starts with ‘s a t p i n’ because of the wealth of words you make with only six phonemes.

  • It goes MUCH further than the alphabet sounds. In Kindergarten, children should progress to digraphs (two letters representing a phoneme, e.g. ‘ea’ or ‘ai’).

  • Teaching handwriting alongside phonics is crucial to building a connection between the letter and the phoneme.

  • It’s important to teach tricky words alongside decodable words so that children can progress to reading and writing sentences.

Author’s Note: The Order of Sounds

From March 2023, Phonics Hero will also be mapped to the NSW Order. For now, choose the (very similar) Letters and Sounds order; you will easily be able to change this later.

If you are going to follow the NSW sequence, be mindful that in Stage 1 there are lots of very infrequent spelling choices (e.g. ‘que’ as in plaque) which are rarely going to be used by children. You might want to rethink teaching these in your precious lesson time.

If you’d like to use the Phonics Hero resources to support the NSW sequence we have matched the NSW sequence against our levels for Early Stage 1 (Foundation Year) and Stage 1. We’ve highlighted in red those graphemes we don’t cover and are therefore likely to be rare. Also be aware that you are going to have to make/source the resources from scratch; the NSW sequence has no commercial resources available yet – it’s going to be quite a drain on time and energy.

It would be wiser to wait for the proverbial dust to settle and get started with synthetic phonics with a tried and tested sequence of sounds. Our resources are available in two orders of sounds: Letters and Sounds or Playing with Sounds. Letters and Sounds is a UK sequence which the NSW sequence has been based on. Choose that for now. Phonics Hero is working on getting the resources in the NSW order, but need the pilot to be concluded and the changes to permeate through to an amended sequence.

A Synthetic Phonics Lesson

Video: 41 mins – 42 mins

An effective synthetic phonics lesson has all the key components that are needed when teaching children to read and spell. They are:

  • A fast pace of teaching the letter sounds.

  • Handwriting – the letter formation of these graphemes is also taught.

  • Blending and segmenting is taught with each group of letter sounds.

  • Tricky words are sequentially taught.

  • Decodable texts are used to apply children’s learnings.

  • More on what a great phonics lesson looks like.

    No-Prep Phonics Lessons

    Video: 42 mins – 57 mins

    I ran a short demo of Phonics Hero’s no-prep Phonics Lessons, showing how easy it makes teaching an effective synthetic phonics lesson. There are 3,000 words, 2,000 sentences, nonsense words and tricky words included. You can start with a 30-day trial from within your Teacher Account and it’s only AU$49.99 per teacher, per year for all three years of phonics curriculum, thereafter.

    Watch the trailer for our no-prep Phonics Lessons.

    Decodable Texts

    Video: 57 mins – 1 hour

    It’s so important that children transfer their skill of blending to decodable texts but this has to be done in both the phonics and the reading lesson. It’s no use sending a strong message in the phonics lesson about how to read unknown words and then encountering words that aren’t fully decodable in the reading lesson.

    You should use decodable books (here’s how to use a decodable book). The headache is that schools have been supplied with decodable books that don’t match the NSW Phonics Scope and Sequence. Teachers are going to need to be creative and match them to the order they are teaching in. SPELD NSW has a useful resource to help you organise your readers.


    Video: 1 hour – 1 hour, 18 mins

    Teachers were given the opportunity to ask questions of us, such as:

    • When to start teaching blending?

    • How quickly to introduce decodable books

    • How does Phonics Hero support teachers in tracking and monitoring students’ letter-sound knowledge?

    • How to effectively deliver a lesson for a group of students of mixed reading abilities using the Phonics Lessons

    • Can you still use PM readers with synthetic phonics?

    And more!

    To set up your session, contact us at

    Author: Katherine Wood

    Katherine is the CEO and co-founder of Phonics Hero. She has worked in phonics for over 15 years, working with hundreds of schools across the globe to support them in their implementation of synthetic phonics.

    4 thoughts on "The NSW Phonics Scope and Sequence Explained"

    1. HI Guys,
      a have staff from prep – grade 2 that would be interested in this. Are we able to do the 2 hour PD over two sessions?? Would this be live?? PEGS already have years prep and 1 on Phonics Hero. The year 2’s decided not to use this year but perhaps this PD might make them rethink.

      1. Jenny Hedger says:

        Hi Bernadette,

        I’ve sent this over to your Account Manager Michelle, and she’ll be in touch!

    2. Emma-Jo says:

      Hi Katherine,

      Thank you so much for the comprehensive overview of the new K-2 English syllabus for NSW.
      Currently at my school we have decodable readers for Kindergarten only. Would you suggest decodables be introduced to Year 1, and then on an as needed basis in Year 2, dependent on the competencies of the children?

      With thanks,

      1. Katherine Wood says:

        Hi Emma,
        Yes, decodables should be used for Year 1 and on a needed basis for Year 2. Year 1 students are unlikely to be ready to move on from decodables. Your should have a phonics scope and sequence which, ideally, your decodables also follow. Tina is available to work with you on structuring your programme, if you need that level of support. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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