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The Reading Brain (Part 2): The Phonological Path

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

Students decode a word using the phonological path until the word enters their sight word vocabulary.

This is the intentional decoding of a word, and it is slower and uses more mental capacity than sight recognition.

  1. Students identify specific letters in a word.

  2. Students convert those visual images into sounds and blend those sounds together into a word.

  3. Students need to connect the word to meaning.


For the word bat, students (1) see the letters B, A, T, (2) convert the letters to sounds (/b/, /a/, /t/) and blend them together, and (3) connect the word bat to its correct meaning based on language comprehension (i.e., either a baseball bat or an animal bat).

The following figure is a simplified version of the reading brain using the phonological path (based on the work of Dehaene, 2009 and Strom, 2022).

Text and image from aLEARNcoach LLC (


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