In the pre-alphabetic phase of decoding, words are not decoded in an alphabetic sense but as icons, using what Ehri and McCormick call “non-alphabetic, visually salient cues.” A person is considered to be in this phase if she identifies few letter names or distinguishes few phonemes in words. Also, a person is considered to be in this phase if she recognizes few written words, each primarily in a limited context.
An example is the word stop. A person in the pre-alphabetic phase might readily identify the word in the context of a stop sign but not when written in non-descript type in the context of, say, a newspaper article or a flashcard. Similarly, a person in this phase may recognize her name when written but not know the sounds made by each of the letters.
Often associated with students with less than first-grade reading abilities.
Referred to by some as the logographic phase of word learning.
Ehri & McCormick, 1998
Ehri & Soffer, 1999