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Teaching Strategies: Decoding Text

Janelle Cox

Around the time when a child is in about 1st grade or the age of 6 or 7, they really learn to read well. So reading comprehension and decoding strategies are at the top of the list for these youngsters.

Decoding is an essential skill, because it is the foundation in which all other reading is built upon. Primary students (in grades K-2) will need to know how to decode basic words and text in order to read, as well as comprehend what they are reading.

However, for some students, even the simplest of words can be a struggle. This is when tools and teaching strategies must be used.

Here are six decoding teaching strategies all young readers should learn and memorize. The more that they become familiar with them, the easier it will be for them to read fluently.

Teaching Strategies: Chunk the Word

Teach your students to break the word up into more "Manageable" parts. For example, the word "Remember" may look difficult to a young child. But, when chunked up in to "Re-mem-ber," it will almost certainly be more manageable. Tell students they can even clap the symbols to help them learn how to chunk a word. For the example “Re-mem-ber” they can clap three times, and this will help them break the word apart.

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Take it Letter by Letter

If a student is stuck, then tell them to get their mouth ready by taking the word letter by letter. Instruct students to get their mouth ready to say the word but slowly take the word letter by letter.

Think About the Meaning

Students need to think about what the meaning of the text is in order to gauge an unfamiliar word. Instruct students to read the sentence and think about what it is trying to say. Then, go back and re-read the word. This brings us to our next strategy.

Re-Read and Read Again

Some students will have to read, and re-read a word several times in order to make sense of it. Teach your students that this is OK, and it’s a good thing to be persistent while reading. Even if they have to re-read a word 10 times in order to understand it, they will reap the benefits of it because once they learn that word, they will always know it.

Skip the Word

If a student just simply cannot read the word, have them skip the word and continue reading the sentence. Sometimes after reading a little bit further, the meaning will become clearer and the student can go back to the skipped word and re-read the sentence knowing the proper meaning.

Use Picture Clues

Pictures can be a lifesaver for struggling readers. If a student cannot read a word, all they have to do is look at the picture to give them a clue of the meaning. This is usually the students’ favorite strategy because it is the easiest and most effective way to figure out a word and its meaning. However, it’s important to not allow students to only use this strategy. This should not be their only go-to strategy when they come upon a hard word.

Sticky Word Strategy Helpers

Here is a quick tool that is very effective and popular with many teachers. Print this out, laminate it, and give it to your students to reference in school and at home.

Lips on the Fish

Get my mouth ready to read the word.

Stretchy Snake

Stretch out the sounds in the word.

Eagle Eyes

Look at the pictures for clues.

Skippy Frog

Skip the word, read to the end of the sentence, think about what makes sense, then try reading the sentence again.

Flippy Dolphin

Try another vowel sound if the first sound does not sound right.

Chunky Monkey

Find smaller parts within the word.

Give these reading strategies a try in your classroom. Make sure to keep them posted in the classroom for easy reference and print out the simple fun tool called “Sticky words.” You can add a photo of each animal to each strategy if you like.

Remember, in order for children to have full reading enjoyment, they need to first learn how to decode and comprehend what they are reading. Once they have mastered that, then they will have it all right at their fingertips.

Do you have any decoding text strategies that you would like to share? Please share your classroom activities and ideas in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts. You never know, you may just help a fellow teacher out.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.