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Teaching Strategies: Decoding Text

Janelle Cox

Cartoon of students standing and reading a book

Around the time when a child is the age of 6 or 7, they start to seriously develop their reading skills, 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 on which all other reading is built. Primary students (in grades K-2) will need to know how to decode basic words and text in order to read and 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 they become familiar with them, the easier it will be for them to read fluently.

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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 into "re-mem-ber," it will almost certainly be more manageable. Tell students they can even clap the syllables 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.

Take it Letter by Letter

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

Re-Read and Read Again

Some students will have to re-read a word several times in order to make sense of it. Teach your students that this is okay, 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 is really struggling with reading a word, have them skip the word and continue reading the sentence. Sometimes after reading a little bit further, the meaning will become clear 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, they can look at a 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’s meaning. It’s important, however, to encourage students to use a variety of reading strategies. This should not be their only go-to strategy when they come upon a difficult 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, and then try reading the sentence again.

Flippy Dolphin

Try another vowel sound if the first one does not sound correct.

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 “sticky words.” You can add a photo of each animal to each strategy if you’d 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 those principles, they are sure to flourish.


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.

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