Many teachers are familiar with various decoding strategies that are aimed at helping students improve their reading skills. These strategies may include the use of picture clues, focusing on the meaning of words, and self-monitoring techniques to help students stay on track. To make these activities memorable for students, teachers often give them cute nicknames.
However, while it is important for students to monitor their reading for accuracy, sometimes these decoding strategies may not have the desired impact on a student's ability to read. In some cases, the cute nicknames or activities may actually divert a student's attention away from the text, which is not the ideal outcome, particularly for students who are already struggling with reading.
For this reason, students need to be taught additional tools to help them effectively decode unknown words in their reading. There are a number of strategies that can be used to help students at any grade level or age, and these strategies will continue to be effective as they progress through their education.
One of the best known decoding strategies is the Orton-Gillingham approach, which has been used for many years. This approach is based on a set of strategies that are designed to be used as part of a structured literacy framework. These strategies can be used by anyone, regardless of the type of lesson plan or curriculum being used, to help students improve their decoding skills and become better readers.
Build a strong foundation for phonological awareness FIRST
When it comes to teaching students the foundational skills necessary for successful reading and decoding, one of the most crucial elements is building strong phonological awareness. This refers to the ability to distinguish between different sounds, analyze words into their constituent sounds, and then recombine these sounds to form a coherent word.
Unfortunately, it is common practice to focus on teaching phonological awareness only in the early years of education and to move on even if the students have not fully grasped the concepts. However, research has indicated that the most effective phonological awareness instruction involves not only the instruction of advanced phonemic awareness skills like manipulating phonemes, but also repeated practice until the student has achieved mastery to the point of automaticity. Therefore, it is important to emphasize the importance of overlearning phonological skills and making sure that students have a strong foundation of phonological awareness before moving on to other literacy skills.
Instruct students on the different types of syllables and how to divide words into syllables
In order to help students decode unknown words, the first step is to teach them the strategy of breaking a word into smaller pieces by identifying vowels, syllable divisions and determining syllable types. This process can be done orally, however, many interventions fail to teach students how to divide the printed word into syllables. As a result, it's important to make sure that students are able to apply this strategy to the printed word in addition to orally breaking words into syllables.
The vowel sounds in words can often be the most difficult aspect for students to master. However, by identifying and marking the vowels, students can benefit in several ways, including dividing the word into syllables, improving pronunciation, and enhancing their decoding abilities. To further aid in their understanding, it may be useful to teach students about the breve and macron markings for vowels, which indicate the correct sound. Additionally, pronouncing the vowel sound before attempting to blend the word together can also prove to be helpful.
Looking for recognizable spelling patterns
When attempting to decode an unknown word, it can be helpful for students to look for familiar spelling patterns. This can include digraphs, blends, chunks, and other common sequences of letters. By recognizing these patterns, students are able to make connections between known words and new words, which can make the process of decoding easier and more efficient. Additionally, familiarizing students with silent letters, as in the words "write," "gnome," or "knight," can also help them identify predictable decoding patterns. Utilizing these spelling pattern recognition strategies can be a powerful tool for students to use when decoding new words.
Segmenting and blending
It is imperative that students master the art of segmenting and blending sounds as a crucial aspect of phonemic awareness before they are exposed to different spelling patterns. Without the ability to blend sounds, students will find it difficult to decode unfamiliar words. On the other hand, the skill of breaking down a word into its individual sounds is crucial for accurate spelling. This highlights the importance of oral proficiency in segmenting and blending sounds before moving on to more complex spelling patterns.
Identifying Affixes, base words and roots
Decoding complex words requires more than just syllable division. It is crucial for students to have a grasp on affixes, base words, and roots to effectively read and spell words. This understanding is important not only for spelling accuracy but also for proper pronunciation of words and their components, particularly when it comes to decoding multisyllabic words.
Teach masking words with fingers
Incorporating a variety of learning techniques is important for students to effectively master reading and decoding skills. While using pencil or color to mark up text can be a useful tool, there may be instances where this method is not possible. In such situations, teaching students to use their fingers to cover and "mask" different word parts, such as syllables or suffixes, can provide a practical and effective alternative. This technique can make the decoding process more multisensory and less visually overwhelming, allowing students to gain a deeper understanding of the structure of words. This can be especially beneficial for those who are struggling with reading multisyllabic words, as they can use their fingers to physically break down words into smaller, more manageable parts. By providing students with a variety of strategies and techniques, they are more likely to find success in mastering reading and decoding skills.
Tracing Unknown Syllables & Tricky Word Parts
The teacher often instructs students who struggle with decoding a specific word part to trace it on a surface while pronouncing its sounds. This method not only improves their recall of the word part but also stimulates the kinesthetic and sensory pathways utilized during the initial learning process of words and phonograms.
Set them up for success
As educators, there are numerous strategies we can employ to support students with dyslexia or reading difficulties. Selecting appropriate decodable text that is controlled and within the student's abilities is crucial. Careful consideration of font and font size can also greatly impact the student's success. The most crucial aspect in promoting success for children is teaching them metacognition in reading decoding. To do this, the teacher can demonstrate the decoding strategies, gradually encouraging the child to take on the task with less support, and eventually making it a habit for the child to use these strategies independently. This gradual transfer of responsibility is a developmentally appropriate and effective teaching method.
Teaching metacognition in reading decoding is essential for children's success in reading. Implementing appropriate decoding strategies and gradually transferring responsibility to the child is a proven effective approach. If you are looking for additional support and guidance, consider Learn with Koala, where experienced teachers can help your child develop their decoding skills and foster a love for reading. You can find and book those classes at this page.