Are Decodables Only for Beginning Readers?

Decodable books, stories, and passages are texts that the author limits the word choice to include an abundance of the pattern currently taught, as well as exclude patterns that have not yet been taught. The goal of a decodable text is to promote repeated phoneme-grapheme correspondence in the brain, as we know that this is one of the skills needed to store words in the brain’s longterm storage (via orthographic mapping). A common misconception is that there is no use for decodables past the very early grades. Until a student is a fully competent decoder, decodable texts are still beneficial. Here is an example: Jonah is in second grade. Learning to read has been challening for him, but Jonah is making progress with short vowel patterns and gaining fluency with words, phrases, and sentences. Jonah is now learning the vowel-consonant-e syllable type (or magic e), and this is proving to be difficult for him as his brain wants to say the short vowel sound instead of the long. Jonah would benefit from reading various decodable texts that target the vowel-consonant-e pattern. For some students, their acquisition of the various orthographic features of our language may come somewhat swiftly with anywhere from 1-4 exposures. The reality is that most students will need somewhere between 5-20 exposures to a pattern before their brain recognizes it automatically. Decodable texts provide the needed practice and exposures for growing readers, at any age!

References

  • Ehri, L. C. (1998). Grapheme-phoneme knowledge is essential to learning to read words in English. In J. L. Metsala & L. C. Ehri (Eds.), Word recognition in beginning literacy (p. 3–40). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
  • Ehri, L.C. (2014) Orthographic mapping in the acquisition of sight word reading, spelling memory, and vocabulary learning. Scientific Studies of Reading 18(1).

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