Phonics instruction using pseudowords for success in phonetic decoding

Jessica Marie Cardenas, Florida International University


This study examined a Pseudoword Phonics Curriculum to determine if this form of instruction would increase students’ decoding skills compared to typical real-word phonics instruction. In typical phonics instruction, children learn to decode familiar words which allow them to draw on their prior knowledge of how to pronounce the word and may detract from learning decoding skills. By using pseudowords during phonics instruction, students may learn more decoding skills because they are unfamiliar with the “words” and therefore cannot draw on memory for how to pronounce the word. It was hypothesized that students who learn phonics with pseudowords will learn more decoding skills and perform higher on a real-word assessment compared to students who learn phonics with real words. Students from two kindergarten classes participated in this study. An author-created word decoding assessment was used to determine the students’ ability to decode words. The study was broken into three phases, each lasting one month. During Phase 1, both groups received phonics instruction using real words, which allowed for the exploration of baseline student growth trajectories and potential teacher effects. During Phase 2, the experimental group received pseudoword phonics instruction while the control group continued real-word phonics instruction. During Phase 3, both groups were taught with real-word phonics instruction. Students were assessed on their decoding skills before and after each phase. Results from multiple regression and multi-level model analyses revealed a greater increase in decoding skills during the second and third phases of the study for students who received the pseudoword phonics instruction compared to students who received the real-word phonics instruction. This suggests that pseudoword phonics instruction improves decoding skills quicker than real-word phonics instruction. This also suggests that teaching decoding with pseudowords for one month can continue to improve decoding skills when children return to real-word phonics instruction. Teacher feedback suggests that confidence with reading increased for students who learned with pseudowords because they were less intimidated by the approach and viewed pseudoword phonics as a game that involved reading “silly” words. Implications of these results, limitations of this study, and areas for future research are discussed.

Subject Area

Early childhood education|Literacy|Reading instruction|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Cardenas, Jessica Marie, "Phonics instruction using pseudowords for success in phonetic decoding" (2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3394828.