How to use decodable texts transcript
Let's take a look now at how to use the decodable text in the form of a decodable book in the classroom. We're going to demonstrate at whole-class level how you would use it, in a focused teaching group and also for independent practice. And just before we begin, a big thank you to the team at SPELD SA form granting us permission to use their text, Sant the ant, in our presentation today.
Yes, much appreciated.
The first thing to note, and we had a few questions about this, is that yes, decodables can be used effectively at a whole-class level for a lesson. You can also be catering to those various abilities that are represented in your class when you are reading these decodable texts because you can include support for letter–sound correspondence level, word level, and text level. And you'll be using both modelling and guided practice so that the students will be supported at those various levels and areas of need.
Also, when you're reading a decodable text with the class, you're modelling the way to use that text and modelling how to get the most out of that decodable text. All really great reasons to be using this kind of text with your class as a whole.
We chose one of SPELD SA's phonics books because they are a really good example of how letter–sound correspondence, word blending and building up to text level can be included in the text. They're also supportive of placing emphasis on the decoding side of reading – what these texts are primarily for – but they also offer some teacher support in terms of promoting engagement with the meaning of the books. There's some vocab work and some example discussion points in there as well.
It's important as teachers that we remember the core purpose of using a decodable book with our students is to just support the students' decoding muscles, as we keep saying. Lifting that print off the page is the goal for using these texts, but certainly that's complemented by the attendance to the meaning in the text as well.
We're going to actually do a bit of a demonstration here. You'll have to imagine that I'm joined by a lot of classmates because I'm going to represent the students and then Elaine is going to act as the teacher, and we're going to work through this book as we would with a whole class.
Generally, if you were introducing a decodable text in a lesson, you would have learning intention and success criteria at the beginning. Let's just imagine for the purposes, we are learning to read words and sentences in the book by using the letters and sounds and irregular words we know. The success criteria for students is that they'll be able to sound out words using their letters and sounds, and they'll be able to read sentences using letters and sounds they know plus the irregular words they've learned.
I would introduce it as:
This is our decodable text we are reading today. I can see an ant on the front cover and it looks like he's in the bush or in the desert maybe. I can tell that because there's no buildings around and I can see that lovely red brown dirt that you often get out in the bush. Let's see. We're going to read and find out if I'm right. I'm going to use my letters and sounds to read the title for us so you can watch, listen and learn while I do for the beginning. /s/, /a/, /n/, /t/. /s/-/a/-/n/-/t/. Sant. Sant the. /a/, /n/, /t/. /a/-/n/-/t/. Ant. Sant the ant.
I think this ant might be called Sant. I think that's his name. Now, maybe we could make a prediction about what we think this book might tell us or what the story might be about. Rebecca, could you help me make a prediction for this book?
I think Sant the ant might go on an adventure.
He might. Maybe he'll take us and show us where he lives or something. That would be nice. All right, let's have a look.
Before we start reading, we are going to practise our letters and sounds and our word blending and some of our irregular words that we've learned. I'm going to point to each letter and you tell me the sound.
/s/, /a/, /t/, /i/, /p/, /n/.
All right. I'll blend the first word and then you can join in. /i/, /n/. /i/-/n/. You join in with me.
/a/, /t/. /a/-/t/.
And then you'd keep going, practising that word blending.
Now we've got our irregular words here and we have studied these ones previously before we read the book. Let's just read these ones today.
The. On. A.
The. On. A.
For anyone who'd like to know how we do introduce and work with those irregular words, if you have a look back at topic two, we really unpack that there.
In this book there's a page about introducing any vocabulary that you'd like to address with students before they read. The difference here to how you might have done this before, with other books that maybe are not decodable, is there's no need to write the word and actually tell students what the word is, or to point out the word and tell them. Because the words are decodable, you can let the students decode the word and then just have that discussion about meaning.
It's useful if you think there's any words that are going to trip students up, you can do that work first. I always found that really useful as well with students with English as an additional language background because even though the words are really simple, they can still sometimes have multiple meanings. For example, the word ‘tap’ is here. If you've got students that only recognise ‘tap’ as tapping someone on the shoulder when they're playing Tiggy, for example, you might need to explain in this book, it's got a different meaning and pictures can help with that to really unpack that meaning. That can be really useful to tune them in.
Again, traditionally or previously in the past, people have done a complete picture walk sometimes of the whole book to really cue students into what the story might be about. There's no need to really do that with a decodable because the focus is primarily on the words. The words come first. Students are going to use their knowledge and their skills with a decodable to read those words. And then the pictures can really give … well they are there for interest or additional information. Words first in a decodable.
All right, I would say to students:
I'm going to start reading our book and then you can join in with me.
I'm going to read the first page. This is your modelling.
/s/, /a/, /n/, /t/. /s/-/a/-/n/-/t/. Sant the… /a/, /n/, /t/. /a/-/n/-/t/. Sant the ant.
And I'll do the next one.
Ooh, I can see he's hiding somewhere maybe. Let's read to find out.
/s/, /a/, /n/, /t/. /s/-/a/-/n/-/t/. Sant. /s/, /a/, /t/. /s/-/a/-/t/. Sant sat. /i/, /n/. /i/-/n/. Sant sat in a. /t/, /i/, /n/. /t/-/i/-/n/. Sant sat in a tin.
Yes, I can see him sitting. It looks like a rusty old tin. Sometimes we call that a can as well, but it's called a tin on this page.
All right, you can join in with me now, everybody. Off we go.
/s/, /a/, /n/, /t/. /s/-/a/-/n/-/t/. Sant. /s/, /a/, /t/. /s/-/a/-/t/. Sant sat. /a/, /t/. /a/-/t/. Sant sat at the. /t/, /a/, /p/. /t/-/a/-/p/. Sant sat at the tap.
I wonder what he's doing at the tap. What do you think? He might be a bit ...
He might be getting a drink.
He might be, yes, he might be a bit thirsty. Let's keep reading. All right, we'll do our next page. Everyone ready? You join in.
/s/, /a/, /n/, /t/. /s/-/a/-/n/-/t/. Sant. /s/, /a/, /t/. /s/-/a/-/t/. Sant sat on a. /p/, /i/, /n/. /p/-/i/-/n/. Sant sat on a pin.
Oh dear, that doesn't sound good.
My sister sat on a pin once.
Oh no, I'm sure she didn't like that either. I wonder if she hurt herself. Thanks for sharing that, Rebecca. All right, let’s have a look, he's saying something. Let's have a look and see what he's saying. And we’re going to use just our sounds to hear what sounds he's making.
/a/, /a/, /a/.
I think he's saying, “/a/, /a/, /a/”. Do you think he might have hurt himself with that pin?
My sister hurt herself.
Oh, I'm sure she did. It's not a very nice thing to happen. All right, let's keep going.
Before we finish, we are going to build our fluency at doing that decoding. We’re going to decode those words again, but a little bit quicker this time. I'm going to start. /a/, /t/. At. You join in with me.
/a/, /n/. An.
/a/, /n/. An.
One more. /i/, /t/. It.
/i/, /t/. It.
You would work through all the words for fluency building. They're words that should be quite familiar to students at this stage with their letters and sounds. And then finally in the book you can have that discussion, that beautiful rich discussion around the comprehension and confirm your prediction or talk about what was different to what you predicted. It's really important to still do that work because our aim of reading is to enjoy and understand what we read. But again, the primary focus was on the decoding for reading this text.
What then happens following reading is an individual copy of the text could be given to each student who is ready to read it independently and they always want to get their hands on the books you've just read. You can give those out to students who are able to do that.
What you would be looking for is the students that are close, you can see that they just need a little bit more support to be able to access that text independently. They're the students you're going to gather for your focused teaching group.
And students who are working at maybe the oral blending level still and/or written word blending, they will be going to do independent practice with resources that are pitched to their level of where they're at. They've had an opportunity to join in and see the modelling and join in where they can, but then they'll be going to their table and working on things they can really do well on their own. It may be again, using their word rings or letter–sound correspondence matching tasks, wherever they're up to.
It's really important to emphasise here that if you were to give those students a copy of the text at this stage when they're not ready to really focus on the words and be able to read those words, what they would actually do is go to their table, look at the pictures and make up from memory what they think the story is. They're not focusing on words. So you're sending a mixed message there about what reading actually is if you let them do that. It's best not to give them the book at this stage and just pitch their activities at their skill level.
Let's talk through what that teacher focus group could look like. We've had students read it with the whole class perhaps, or this could be a separate session where they're reading a decodable text at their level. If you think about a teacher focus group, the aim really is to provide more guided practice with more immediate feedback and support because that's what these students need. That's the intensity they need at the moment. You'll be gathering a group of students with like or similar needs as matched to that decodable text that you've selected. The small group or the teacher focus group time is a really good time to be monitoring and setting phonics-related goals for students. So, you're tracking their progress there.
On the right-hand side of the screen, you can see an infographic that we've created here at the Literacy Hub to give teachers a guide of how you could work through decodables in a teacher focus group. We hope it's handy as well if visiting teachers are coming into the classroom, because they'll be able to follow that same instructional routine with your students so that students' attention can stay on the content and the skill development rather than having to adjust to a new way of using the book.
We hope that this is supportive for that. You'll see as you look through that infographic that it’s very similar to the way that we worked through as a whole class. That's on purpose because we don't want to be doing something different over here and something different in the other corner. We're keeping that instructional routine quite similar.
We start with the letter–sound correspondence practice. Then we're going to look at word-level reading for both decodable words and irregular words in the book. Then the teacher or the teacher with the students will decode the title and have a brief discussion about what that book might be about and what that brings up for students. Step four is where we are getting into that reading with the students and really supporting our students with that guided practice for decoding.
You can see on the infographic, there's a little arched table and we have one student facing the teacher and then the other two students are facing away with their books. Your aim in that teacher focus group is to have a chance to read with each student so that you are able to give them that really, really concentrated guided practice, immediate feedback, and you're able to monitor those phonics-related goals with them as well.
We did have a few questions come through actually on registration about do I need to read the whole text with every student when I'm reading in a small group? Our answer would be no, that's not necessary. Remember, we're not reading through the whole book and checking if they've understood what's happened in the book. We're using this as a tool to support students with their decoding practice. If you’re able to have some time with each student in that group where you can monitor their decoding, where you can support them with their decoding and where you can give that feedback, that's your aim. So no, you don't need to read through the whole text with every student.
Number five on the list is that discussion to wrap up and bring students back together and pause on the meaning of the text and what they've got out of the text. Then at point six we have that opportunity again for students to be given that text for independent reading following this session or in another session, they might have book boxes where they're storing all of their independent reading texts.
Again, remember the focus of this is on decoding mostly. The bulk of your time when working through this would be spent on steps one, two and four, where you are really providing guided practice, immediate feedback and support to build those decoding muscles.
We'll put the link in the chat for that infographic and we'll move ahead now and have a look at our independent practice with a decodable text.
It might not surprise you to hear that we want students to use approximately the same process that they've learned through the whole class and the teacher focus groups. Again, we're going to ask them to be working through letter–sound correspondences, word-level decoding, and then enjoying that text as a whole.
Remembering that if we are giving our students a text for independent practice, their accuracy should be close to perfect because we don't want students practising mistakes. We're setting them up for success here. The students will need to have all those letter–sound correspondences in the book, and they need to be able to blend words at that complexity represented in the book as well.
Independent practice gives our students lots of great opportunities for repeated reading of books that they can read confidently, and that's what promotes that orthographic mapping as they're reading those words and those texts a number of times, which leads to fluency and therefore leads to, or contributes to, an ability to comprehend those texts as well.
As your students do become more independent in terms of their reading with a decodable text, if they're able to read that text fluently and confidently, it becomes a resource for tapping into some of the other Big Six areas as well. If the decoding is easy and fluent, the focus for that student for that text can shift to vocabulary or it might be comprehension. You might be asking them for a written response to the text. For example, they might have one of the illustrations from the text and they're writing an alternative sentence for that using their letters and sounds that they know. So independent practice, great for repeated reading and then looking into those other areas of the Big Six. But remember, it's books that students can read accurately and it's to set them up for success in that.
Another way of using decodables for independent practice, so independent of the teacher, is in paired fluency reading. We're actually going to go into more detail about that in our next coaching session, which is for our next topic, fluency and progress monitoring. If you're interested in hearing about paired fluency reading, definitely come along to our next coaching session.