It is expected to develop from no knowledge of the alphabet (including names of letters and their associated sounds) to a very advance and sophisticated decoding skill in which unknown words can be decoded in a systematic manner based on previously known words and their structures. There are multiple strategies that children learn to use when reading words that aid in their development of word recognition. These strategies include: Decoding, Analogy, Prediction, and Sight (Duke, Letter- sound knowledge Part 2 presentation, 2012).

Decoding: strategy used to read words that involves the identification of single sound-letter relationships or small chunks of letters and combining these smaller units of sound to produce a word. This strategy encompasses both sound-letter knowledge and phonological awareness.

Analogy: using knowledge of a known word to figure out an unknown word

Prediction: making a prediction about a word based on various factors such as initial letters, contextual cues or pictures, or words that surround the unknown word.

Sight: the ability to read a word automatically. These words are familiar to the reader and are a part of the reader’s memory. These words can be identified unconsciously by the reader.

In addition, there are also different phases of word learning. The stages of word learning are: Pre-alphabetic, Partial-alphabetic, Full-alphabetic, Consolidated-alphabetic, and Automatic-alphabetic.

Pre-alphabetic stage: reader does not use Alphabet knowledge while reading words, instead reads words based off memory and appearance. Readers in this stage are able to identity words that are frequently seen in their environment, but are paying no attention to the structure of the word including its phonemes and letter make-up. This stage is evident in preschool and kindergarten.

Partial-alphabetic stage: reader uses some sound-letter knowledge to read the word, but is highly dependent on other contextual cues such as pictures. In this stage, readers may use initial and end letters to make predictions about the word, but often make mistakes because they overlook the content in the middle of the word. In addition, readers are not able to decode unfamiliar words.

Full-alphabetic stage: reader uses knowledge of systematic sound-letter relationships to decode a word, including knowledge of all the graphemes and their associated phonemes. Their number of sight words increases and they begin to use multiple strategies in order to read a word.

Consolidated Alphabetic stage: readers shift from reading a word sound-by-sound, letter-by-letter to reading a word focusing more on chunks or groups of letters. These chunks of letters include prefixes, suffixes, onsets, rimes, and syllables. In this phase, readers continue to increase their sight word knowledge and also begin to recognize recurring “multi-letter combinations” (Sound-letter Knowledge Part 2 Powerpoint).

Automatic- Alphabetic stage: The reader has reached a proficient reading level where most words are sight vocabulary. The reader can recognize words automatically and accurately and can rapidly decode unfamiliar words using multiple strategies.