A Metacognitive Approach to Phonics: Using What You Know to Decode What You Don't Know

Irene W. Gaskins, Marjorie A. Downer, Richard C. Anderson, Patricia M. Cunningham, Robert W. Gaskins, Marlene Schommer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For poor readers, one roadblock to the construction of meaning from text may be the inability to decode words quickly and accurately. In most cases more phonics instruction, similar to what has not worked in the past, does not improve this situation. Based on an analysis of the research literature in decoding and linguistics and a 4-year cycle of program development, a new program was created for teaching decoding to poor readers of average or above intelligence in grades 1 through 8. The program guides students to become aware of patterns and consistencies in our language and to apply a decoding process of using what they have learned about words to decode words they do not know. It is a teacher directed, supplemental program to be taught to a whole class for approximately 15 to 20 minutes a day and is intended to be used in conjunction with a basal reader or trade book program. The program features a multisensory approach, strong emphasis on vocabulary and language development, and a direct teaching model. Goals of the program include teaching students to use known words to decode unknown words, to discriminate structural components of words, to see how our language is organized, to be flexible in pronouncing words, and to demonstrate automaticity in decoding---all as foundation blocks for the meaning-making process. Preliminary evidence suggests that the program has been successful in improving students’ decoding skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-41
Number of pages6
JournalRemedial and Special Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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