Phonics evidence base and the Victorian Curriculum

The difference between phonological awareness and phonics

While phonological awareness includes the awareness of speech sounds, syllables, and rhymes, phonics is the mapping of speech sounds (phonemes) to letters (or letter patterns, i.e. graphemes). Phonological awareness and phonics are therefore not the same, but these literacy focuses tend to overlap.

As students learn to read and spell, they fine-tune their knowledge of the relationships between phonemes and graphemes in written language. As reading and spelling skills develop, focussing on phonemic awareness improves phonics knowledge, and focussing on phonics also improves phonemic awareness (Hoover & Tunmer, 2020).

Theory to practice and evidence base

Knowledge of the link between speech souncds (phonemes) and letter patterns (graohemes) is one of the foundational skill in each of the models of reading. When reading, children need to "break the code" of written language, as well as comprehend texts, understand how texts are used, and to critically analyse texts. Including phonics is a necessary part of a rich literacy programme, as argued by a number of experts with differing views on the teaching of phonics including Emmitt, Hornsby and Wilson (2013),  Goswami (2010), Stahl (2011), Paris (2005), Konza (2016).  

Links to Victorian Curriculum – English, Reading and Viewing


Level 1

Level 2

  • Learn some generalisations for adding suffixes to words (Content description VCELA217)
  • Recognise most letter–sound matches including silent letters, trigraphs, vowel digraphs and common long vowels, and understand that a sound can be represented by various letter combinations (Content description VCELA218)

Level 3

  • Understand how to apply knowledge of letter–sound relationships, and blending and segmenting to read and use more complex words with less common consonant and vowel clusters (Content description VCELA249)
  • Recognise most high-frequency words, know how to use common prefixes and suffixes, and know some homophones and generalisations for adding a suffix to a base word (Content description VCELA250)

Level 4

  • Read different types of texts for specific purposes by combining phonic, semantic, contextual and grammatical knowledge using text processing strategies, including monitoring meaning, skimming, scanning and reviewing (Content description VCELY287)

Level 5

  • Understand how to use banks of known words, syllabification, spelling patterns, word origins, base words, prefixes and suffixes, to spell new words, including some uncommon plurals (Content description VCELA312)

Links to Victorian Curriculum – English as an Additional Language (EAL), Reading and Viewing

Pathway A

Level A1

  • Recognise some letters of the alphabet (Content description VCEALL049)
  • Identify some sounds in words (Content description VCEALL050 )

Level A2

  • Recognise all letters of the alphabet (VCEALL130)
  • Relate most letters of the alphabet to sounds (VCEALL131)
  • Recognise a small range of familiar words in different contexts (VCEALL129)

Pathway B

Level BL

  • Recognise the letters of the alphabet (VCEALL208)

Level B1

  • Identify common syllables and patterns within words (VCEALL288)
  • Use a range of cues to support reading and viewing (VCEALL290)
  • Apply knowledge of letter-sound relationships to read new words with some support(VCEALL368)
  • Adapt speed when reading an unfamiliar text (VCEALL370)

  • Apply knowledge of letter–sound relationships to deduce the pronunciation of new words (VCEALL447)
  • Read on when encountering unfamiliar words (VCEALL449)


Emmitt, M., Hornsby, D. & Wilson, L. (2013). The place of phonics in learning to read and write. Norwood: ALEA.

Goswami, U. (2010). Phonology, reading and reading difficulties.  In K. Hall, U. Goswami, C. Harrison, S. Ellis & J. Soler (Eds.). Interdisciplinary perspectives on learning to read: Culture, cognition and pedagogy. (pp. 103 - 116). New York: Routledge.

Hoover, W. A., & Tunmer, W. E. (2018). The simple view of reading: Three assessments of its adequacy. Remedial and Special Education, 39(5), 304-312.

Hornsby, D. & Wilson, L. (2011). Teaching phonics in context. Port Melbourne: Pearson Australia.

Konza, D. (2016). Understanding the process of reading: The big six. In J. Scull & B. Raban (Eds), Growing up literate: Australian literacy research for practice (pp. 149-175). South Yarra, Vic. : Eleanor Curtain Publishing

Stahl, K.A.D. (2011). Applying new visions of reading development in today’s classrooms. The reading Teacher, 65(1), 52-56.