Beginning reading texts should be simple for students to read. As students are learning phonics skills and high frequency words, they need to be able to practice reading them in a controlled text. Sentence patterns and repetition are considered to be part of patterned texts where students practice reading by memorizing the pattern and what the words look like as a whole.
Truly decodable texts include limited syllables and a determined word list based on a phonics scope and sequence. Those word lists are made into texts and supported by images to increase engagement and comprehension. Students then use those decodable readers to practice and expand their skills based on what they have learned about phonics, blending, and decoding.
A study by Cheatham and Allor found that decodability is a “critical characteristic of early reading text.” Thus, decodable readers should be a culmination of skills taught. For instance, Vista’s Discover Phonics, a K–3 foundational skills program, includes decodable texts that are 100% decodable based on the program scope and sequence. Every week a new decodable reader is introduced and includes the sounds and high frequency words that are being taught that week or that have previously been taught. As each week of the program concludes, a new decodable reader is introduced with the new skills being taught as well as review of all previous skills.
Truly decodable texts, based on a systematic and explicit standards-driven scope and sequence, allow students to increase their foundational skills by actually reading and decoding each word based on prior phonics knowledge. Sometimes these texts include a Rebus approach (using pictorial representations of words) to make simple stories more interesting and accessible. High-interest decodable texts are very valuable, but often difficult to find, as they are extremely limited on word choice and, therefore, on content.
Decodable readers should:
- be high interest and engaging
- include age-appropriate content and subject matter
- follow a specific scope and sequence
- use strategies to ensure students are actually decoding and not just memorizing words
- include explicit and systematic instruction
- teach students letter-sound relationships
Decodable readers, alongside a defined instructional path, explicit instruction, and teacher support, will allow students the practice they need to apply decoding skills and later apply those skills to new texts.
By Vanessa Wara Perrota