Ehri's Four Phases of Word Reading

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Linnea Ehri--a Professor of Educational Psychology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York--has developed a four phase model of how students learn to read words (Ehri, 1999). The four phases are:

  1. Pre-alphabetic phase: students read words by memorizing their visual features or guessing words from their context.
  2. Partial-alphabetic phase: students recognize some letters of the alphabet and can use them together with context to remember words by sight.
  3. Full-alphabetic phase: readers possess extensive working knowledge of the graphophonemic system, and they can use this knowledge to analyze fully the connections between graphemes and phonemes in words. They can decode unfamiliar words and store fully analyzed sight words in memory.
  4. Consolidated-alphabetic phase: students consolidate their knowledge of grapheme-phoneme blends into larger units that recur in different words.


FreeReading supports Ehri’s model by:

  • Assuming that students begin with no alphabetic knowledge, so that they move from Pre-alphabetic to Partial-alphabetic by learning letter names (not taught in FreeReading)
  • Focusing intensively on transitioning students to the crucial Full-alphabetic phase by teaching (i) Phonemic awareness, (ii) Letter sounds and (iii) Sounding out systematically and explicitly
  • Further transitioning students to automatic recognition of sight words by teaching Word-form recognition systematically and explicitly
  • Supporting transition to the Consolidated-alphabetic phase by teaching Advanced phonics skills such as decoding base-word/ending, word families, and compound words.