Decodable Reading Passages
Do you remember the first time you read a book by yourself? Or have you seen a child’s face light up when they read something for the first time? You may be using decodable reading passages in your classroom, but you may not be getting the most out of these stories. Decodable readers are a wonderful first step into the world of reading! With text focused on phonics skills, decodable readers get children excited to read because it allows them to be successful while practicing life-long reading strategies.
What Are Decodable Readers?
Decodable reading passages are short stories that are easily read using letter sound knowledge and other phonics skills. In the early reading stage, they often use a repeating pattern with common sight words and easily decodable words. A decodable reading passage may read like this: I have a cat. I have a dog.
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While these types of passages may seem simple to those of us who have been reading for a lifetime the young brain has many things to think through to read this! The reader must look and think about: sight words, where letter-sounds don’t make sense, decodable words, where letter sound do make sense, punctuation, and putting it all together to make sure the sentence makes sense, and matches the picture – if there is one!
The Best Decodable Readers
Using decodable readers are a great way to increase fluency with early readers! What is a decodable reader? A decodable reading passage is one where the reader can easily read (or decode) the words using their knowledge of letter sounds and other phonics skills.
The best decodable reading passages do not have pictures. What?! Did I just read that right?? Yes. The best decodable reading passages do not have pictures! How are the kids going to figure out the words, you ask? They need to use their phonetic knowledge (or knowledge of letters and how they work). Studies over the past few decades have revealed that using pictures to support reading decreases overall reading ability. When reading, children look to the picture first and guess at the word, rather than use their knowledge of letters to figure out the word first. Like with any skill, use it or lose it. This results in children practicing their reading less, and their guessing more. You can read more about the importance of using decoding as a reading strategy here.
The best decodable reading passages target one phonics skill at a time, and have limited pictures like the ones below:
Why Are Decodable Reading Passages Helpful?
There are so many steps for the brain when learning to read! Early readers must look at the letters and words and use many different reading strategies to make meaning out of the text. Looking at the pictures, seeing the whole sentence, identifying words and letters the know and some they don’t…learning to read can be overwhelming! This is where decodable reading passages are helpful. Using a decodable reading passages helps the reader focus on one skill at a time. Once a child masters a reading strategy, or phonics skills, they can then use it automatically, increasing fluency.
Make a Plan for Your Decodable Readers
Brains are not built to multitask. I like to say, “You’re not doing two things, you’re doing one thing poorly”. When using decodable reading passages, focus on one thing and have a plan before you call the child over to read. Use your data to figure out: what reading strategy am I working on today? Does the child need support with phonics? Comprehension? Accuracy or reading speed? Having a clear plan in mind helps you, and the child, get the most out of the decodable reading passages.
Decodable Readers for Kindergarten
You can work decodable reading passages into every single one of your small groups, and you should! When using decodable readers for Kindergarten, you can target different phonetic strategies with the stories. Once students have a working knowledge of the alphabet (hint: they don’t have to know every letter and sound, just a few and a vowel!) and some knowledge of sight words (have, to, see) work to introduce sentences with consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words like: cat, hat, dog, or cut.
Write down simple sentences on a whiteboard and encourage the student to use their sight word and letter sound knowledge to solve the sentence! It can be helpful to use sentences from your chosen decodable reader 1) so you don’t have to think of them on the spot and 2) so the child is familiar with the words and sounds when they go to read, which can increase success and confidence when reading.
Short and Sweet Decodable Reading Passages
Decodable reading passages do not have to be long, in fact – they shouldn’t be! The purpose of decodable readers is to focus on a specific skill, such as a vowel sound or words with digraphs. A majority of the text should be easily read, except for the target skill. This allows the child to strengthen their knowledge of the target skill and not worry about the other features in the text. The more focused your decodable reader is, the more the child will learn
Leveled Decodable Reading Passages
Talking about books is an important part of learning to read and learning how to process information. If each child is reading at a different level, how can they access the same text? This is where decodable reading passages come in! Thinking back to having a focus for the reading passage, it’s important when you’re targeting content or comprehension that the student does not need to worry about the phonics. That means, they are already automatic and comfortable with the sight words and letter-sounds or phonics skills used in the text.
The beauty of decodable readers is they are easily leveled to meet the phonics skills of each student so they can focus on the content being taught! Provide each child with a story at their independent reading level, then you can have a class discussion about the content of the story. This is a great way to work in social studies or science curriculum during your literacy time! Classroom discussion also supports social-emotional learning and creates a supportive and positive classroom environment.
How to Use Decodable Reading Passages
Can I use a decodable reader more than once? ABSOLUTELY! Decodable reading passages can, and should, be used in many different ways. A mantra in my classroom is “good readers reread” because, as with any text, you can learn something new from it every time! A CVC reader can be used to practice: short vowel sounds, sight words, punctuation, fluency, comprehension…the possibilities are endless. No matter what reading strategy you are teaching, decodable reading passages help your students achieve their reading goals.
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Are your students still working on pre-reading phonics skills? Check out these resources below to support knowledge of short vowel sounds!
Share how you use decodable reading passages below!