In the world of early childhood education, literacy development is a key focus. It lays the foundation for a child’s future success in reading fluency and comprehension. One crucial aspect of literacy is decoding words. In this blog post, we will become familiar with what decoding words truly means and why it is essential for young learners, as well as, resources and activities that can be used to develop decoding skills in young children.
What is Word Decoding?
Decoding words is the process of using letter-sound relationships to unlock the meaning of printed words. It involves breaking down words into individual sounds and blending them together to form words. When early readers decode words, they are able to recognize and understand the written text. Our goal of phonics instruction should be to develop letter-sound knowledge in our students so they can read connected text independently. This skill is vital for students as it directly impacts their reading fluency and comprehension.
Decoding words differs from sight words, which are words that children recognize instantly by sight. These are words that we’ve stored away in an area of the brain for quick retrieval. Decodable words, on the other hand, require the use of phonics skills to decode and understand unfamiliar words. High-frequency words (different from sight words) can be decodable. While sight words and high-frequency words play an important role in reading, decoding skills equip students with the ability to tackle a broader range of words. If you’d like to read more about orthographic mapping of sight words, I have a blog post all about it. Click HERE to go there now or save it for later.
How do you teach decoding words?
The process of decoding words involves a few steps. First, children need to develop phonemic awareness in order to identify and manipulate the individual sounds in a spoken word. Little learners also need to understand the connection between letters and sounds. Recognizing phonetic patterns leads to effective word decoding. Research shows us that multi-sensory phonics instruction produces fluent readers who have a knowledge of letter-sound relationships. Through direct and explicit instruction, students can blend sounds together and segment words into sounds.
Integrating both sight words and decodable words in literacy instruction allows for a well-rounded approach. Sight words provide immediate recognition and confidence in reading, while decodable words build foundational phonics skills. We focus on both types of words to enhance students’ overall reading fluency.
These guided lesson plans are based on a systematic approach to instruction that is aligned with Orton-Gillingham. Check out this method of phonics instruction here:
There are also lesson plans for 1st grade:
Decoding Words Strategies
When students can decode, they can become fluent readers. There are strategies we can use when teaching students about decoding words. With early readers, we focus on segmenting, blending, and chunking. When teaching how to decode words, think about the “I do, we do, you do” method. Guide your students to say each sound, then blend the phonemes together.
1. Segmenting sounds: We look at the letters in unknown words. We identify each sound as we move from left to right.
2. Blending sounds: We touch and say the sound in each letter as we blend them together.
3. Chunking familiar parts of the word: When we start decoding bigger words. Students learn to look for parts of the word they know such as a digraph, blend, prefix, or suffix. They may also look for syllables they know. Once those are identified, student decode the word.
Decoding words is a foundational reading skill that requires direct and explicit instruction in kindergarten and first grade. Here is a list of resources and activities for practicing word decoding to develop reading fluency. These activities are also ideal for struggling readers in second grade and beyond.
#1 Decodable Books
Decodable books are my absolute favorite way for students to practice decoding words and improve reading fluency. These decodable books are aligned with the Science of Reading. With 70% decodable text, your students will not only be engaged and excited about reading, but they will be successful readers.
Decodable books are a great way to provide differentiated instruction in decoding words. We know that children are unique and their decoding skills may vary. Decodable books are perfect for your early readers during small groups. They are also an excellent resource to use for early intervention for struggling readers.
Each bundle of decodable books focuses on common spelling patterns. With several different book options within each bundle, students get a lot of practice with various phonics skills.
Each set of books builds upon each other. After books with CVC words, students are ready for books with CVC words with digraphs and so on. Plus, there are detailed phonics lessons for each text. Check out the bundle, here:
#2 Themed Decodable Books
Decodable books are an essential component of teaching phonics. Giving students multiple opportunities to decode words in connected text will result in reading fluency, as well as, reading comprehension.
This set of decodable books is interactive! After reading the decodable text on each page, students cut and glue the picture that best matches. Plus, these decodable books are seasonal and add a fun addition to your decoding words practice throughout the year.
#3 Decodable Sentences
Flip to Review decodable sentences are fun learning activities for small groups and literacy centers! Students are sure to feel successful when practicing the essential skill of decoding words in this literacy activity.
The Flip to Review concept is ideal for small-group instruction. Students can reveal the words by flipping the flaps and checking for understanding with the image at the end of the sentence.
Add this activity to a decoding words station for students to practice reading and writing decodable words. Plus, they can match the picture to each sentence for reading comprehension practice.
#5 Clip It Decodable Words
This CVC word identification activity is a great warm-up for your intervention groups. Young learners identify the picture and decode the word to identify the correct spelling. There are real words and nonsense words for decoding practice. Plus, students get some fine motor development too with the use of clothes pins.
The bundle of clip-it cards includes additional phonics skills. There are cards for identifying the first letter, the middle sound, beginning blends and digraphs, and more! You can find it here:
#6 Build and Write Sentences
These interactive worksheets are a favorite for morning work! Each sentence is full of simple words that are decodable for students to read, trace, and write. The seasonal bundle will provide you with printable decoding and sentence practice for the whole year.
If you’re looking for one resource that has multiple opportunities for students to practice decoding words, this bundle is it! Some of the engaging activities are highlighted below in numbers 7-12.
#8 Spin and Cover
Another partner game where students practice blending letter sounds. After spinning the spinner and saying the name of the picture, students find and cover the word on their game board.
#9 Read, Trace, Write
This task is a simple, yet effective, independent activity. Little learners read the picture, circle the correct words, and write the word. Perfect for identifying and blending individual letters together.
#10 Spin and Read
Add a game piece (unifix cubes work great) to this game board to be played between partners. Students practice decoding CVC words, CVCe words, words with vowel teams, words with a r-controlled vowel sound, diphthongs, blends, and digraphs. So many letter combinations for extensive decoding practice!
Assessment and Progress Monitoring
Assessments and progress monitoring are integral components of decoding instruction. A classroom teacher may use phonics assessments, word identification assessments, and running records to measure students’ decoding skills. Regular progress monitoring allows teachers to track student growth throughout the year and helps to identify where additional support or intervention may be needed.
I LOVE using ESGI for assessments. It seriously saves so much time and the data reports are amazing to share with parents and administration.
If you use our Engaging Readers phonics curriculum, all of the tests that align with each set of skills are loaded for you!
If you haven’t tried ESGI, you can sign up for a free trial by clicking HERE!
Decoding Words in Real-Life Contexts
Decoding skills are not limited to the classroom. Helping children connect decoding to real-life applications enriches their overall understanding. Encourage independent reading in the classroom, as well as at home, to allow children to explore words in various contexts.
Being able to decode words empowers young learners to unlock the meaning of written text and develop strong reading comprehension skills. By understanding the process of decoding words and incorporating effective phonics instruction, educators can nurture early literacy skills in young children, leading to confident readers.
Decoding words free file
Try out the seasonal decodable books that are interactive! Your young readers will have so much fun reading and gluing the correct image into their decodable book! Add your name and email address below.