Developmental phases of word recognition

Note: We have purposely not included anticipated grade levels for these phases. It is important to address what skills your students need to develop rather than teaching grade level expectations.

Pre-alphabetic phase

Students in this stage might “read” a familiar logo or pretend to read a story using the pictures.

We don’t have a lesson plan for the pre-alphabetic phase because students you will meet will likely have some alphabet knowledge.

Partial alphabetic phase

Students in this stage know at least some letters and sounds and use this to figure out words. They may guess some words by looking at the initial letters (e.g., they might confuse the word blue for black).

Full alphabetic phase

Students in this phase recognize letters and sounds and some of the most common sound-spelling patterns such as consonant digraphs and vowel teams. Decoding is often slow.

Consolidated alphabetic phase

Students in this phase begin to recognize multi letter chunks and use these to read multisyllabic words.

Automatic phase

Word recognition for students in this phase is mostly automatic. They read fluently and focus their attention on the meaning of the text.

We don’t have lesson plans for the automatic phase because these students don’t need extra support to develop word recognition.


Choose the lesson plan template that fits your student’s reading level.

The times on the lesson plan are estimates. You may have a shorter tutoring time with younger students and spend more time on certain components with some learners.

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Scope & sequence