Decodable Readers: Choose Quality, Use Routines
What are decodable readers?
Decodable readers are short books purposefully crafted to support reading development. They are utilized in the early stages of reading instruction while students are learning how specific phonemes (letter sounds) and graphemes (written letters) work together to form words.
Decodable readers are an effective tool for phonics instruction. They give students an opportunity to read books that require decoding familiar graphemes. “A high proportion of the words in the earliest selections children read should conform to the phonics they have already been taught.” (Citation: Phonics from A to Z, Wiley Blevins, 2017) Words with phonemes that haven’t been taught explicitly and high-frequency words are limited, allowing students to read confidently and independently.
Choosing Quality Readers
It is important to consider the sequence of decodable books. They are ordered with intention. As the books progress, the texts gradually include more spelling patterns and words with more complex structures. Books used in the beginning will have less text per page than books used later in the series. This makes them valuable for building ongoing foundational reading skills.
Traditionally, decodable readers include engaging pictures or illustrations. While these visuals enhance the overall impact of the book and are of high interest to the readers, picture clues can lead to students guessing words in sentences instead of applying phonics knowledge to decode words (a preferred reading habit).
Teacher Created Materials has developed a set of decodable books a third of which are text-first. These texts differ in their approach, introducing text by itself before revealing the same text with pictures on the following page. Reading text without relying on picture clues is an important step to developing fluency and supporting a student’s love of reading.
Finding quality decodable readers is important. When selecting a set of books, be sure they:
introduce phonemes and graphemes in an order that aligns with phonics instruction.
include a high percentage of decodable words, yet sound natural.
identify targeted phonics skills.
highlight the use of any challenge words that appear in the text.
Using Routines for Instruction
It’s tempting to get these books into the hands of students right away. However, developing routines for the use of decodable readers in the classroom will increase their value as a means for phonics instruction. The predictable nature of routines allows for positive and successful learning experiences. Keep the following in mind when using decodable readers with students:
Prior to reading, explicit phonics instruction should take place. Students should know and practice the skill(s) included in a decodable book before they read.
High-frequency words and challenge words are included in decodable books. Although they should be limited, teach, or review these words before students read independently.
Create before-reading activities. These might include previewing the text and making predictions.
Dig into the book! Students can participate in several different ways. Independent reading, echo reading, whisper reading, and partner reading are some examples of how to engage students with the readers.
While students are reading, provide corrective feedback in the moment when it’s necessary. Students may be tempted to continue reading starting with the word after their mistake. Encourage them to make the correction first, and then resume reading.
Plan for after-reading activities. Students will benefit from a review of the phonics skill(s), an assessment of comprehension, word play activities, and more.
When the reinforcement of specific phonics patterns and grapheme-phoneme correspondences is needed, be sure to reach for a quality decodable reader and plan for purposeful instruction.
Interested in learning more about decodable texts?
Join our upcoming free live webinar on How To Ensure Decodables Are An Effective Tool For Phonics Instruction.
The national conversation highlighting the science of reading has prompted many teachers across the nation to ensure that students receive high-quality phonics instruction, building the foundation for reading. Decodable texts are considered an important, application component of phonics instruction. And yet, teachers still wonder, “what might I do with these decodables?”
Decodables are powerful tools to provide ample opportunities for application, allowing for learning to cement. Decodables provide organic ways to infuse writing instruction, practice to develop fluency, and to build vocabulary and comprehension.
Through this webinar, educators will:
Discover routines and strategies to support classroom or small group instruction that includes decodable texts.
Engage with lesson ideas that build reading, writing, vocabulary, and comprehension skills, and more.