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5 Decoding Strategies For Struggling Readers That Will Make Them Love Reading

For struggling readers, two necessary elements to learning how to read better go hand-in-hand: decoding and comprehension. Decoding strategies for struggling readers help teach skills to sound out words and identify the letters within those words. Comprehension strategies for struggling readers teach students to make sense of what they've read to retain what they learned and apply it appropriately in future reading situations.

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What is Phonemic Awareness

By teaching phonemic awareness and strategies for struggling readers, teachers can help these children read better and hopefully learn to love reading. Children can be taught to listen for a word, break it down into parts, work with a partner to put the words together, find patterns in words that repeat sounds, etc.

Build a Strong Foundation

Before you can really start teaching kids how to decode words, you must build a solid phonetic foundation. Teaching your kids letter-sound correspondence is just one way of doing that. The key to remember here is that the individual letters in the alphabet are not all the phonemes in the English language. Ensure you include all the common word "sounds" used in the English language to prevent gaps.

There are many games and activities you can do with phonetic learning, but one of the most simple and practical strategies is to put these phonemes on the walls around the classroom or in your house. Letting your reader see the sounds they must decode will help them later, especially if you have neurodiverse learners. Putting pictures with sounds also helps. This allows the child to see the picture and remember the sound, then view the letters and see the sound. Over time this will click.

As easy as that is, you should probably play some games too! You can play many different games to help your child understand the sounds used in the English language, from puzzle sounds to rhyming words.

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Kids can understand all the phonemes in the world and not progress in reading skills if they can't blend the sounds together correctly. This can be very difficult for many readers. You know what each part of the word sounds like, but when you go to "sound it out," you end up with chunks of sounds that don't connect to the word they know verbally. There are many strategies to help kids learn how to blend sounds into words, such as wiping their arm as they say the word or the "say it slow, then say it fast" technique. However, each child learns how to blend words in their own way and in their own time. Try out several methods until you find one that works for your reader.


Teachers can help their students decode words by breaking them down into syllables. This can be done by first having students identify the vowels in a word and then breaking the word down into each syllable. Once students have broken the word down into syllables, they can practice making the appropriate sounds for each one. Finally, they can put the syllables together to figure out the word. This skill will benefit older students who may encounter large unknown words while reading.

Affixes, Base words, and Roots

Teaching kids about common word parts like base words, affixes, and roots can help them understand more challenging words and texts. This strategy not only allows them to read the word but also helps them figure out the meaning of the word as well.


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