Since I come from an oral background, I've always thought of a picture for each word. Phonics is not always reliable when it comes to the English language because words are not always spelled the way they sound.
I notice that with more recent words that I learn, I'll often combine signs with a mental picture representing the word.
I also use compound words as well and then break it down so I can learn it. Raincoat would be a good example.
I've a very good vocabulary even though I rarely use big words in my writing.
Left ear implanted with Med-El on April 24 2007.
Activated on May 9th.
Upgraded to Opus 2 9/10/2010