Research shows that a student who has reading problems does not naturally utilize the decoding area of the brain. Because the student has difficulty manipulating the sounds of a word within the decoding area, the word is unable to be processed into the automatic recognition area of the brain. Thus, the student is unable to use the comprehension and retrieval features within that area. (Shaywitz, 2003) The student has difficulty decoding unknown words, as well as problems with reading comprehension and reading rate. Reading problems also affect spelling and writing. The student has difficulty meeting age-level and job skills expectations.
In 1979, an adult learner helped me develop a concrete, multi-sensory decoding strategy. Using pencil and paper, she was able to discover for herself the "sound spelling" for any word she needed to know. As she "did the decoding" for herself, she was able to add the word to her word recognition area. The word became part of her reading and writing vocabulary.
Since that time, I have used the method to help many students of all ages improve their reading and writing skills. The strategy is designed to work with any text, any word, any level. In addition, alphabetic recognition can be successfully taught using simple words. I have used the method to teach a group of students as well as individual students. Currently, I am using it with special education students in a public school classrooom.
I help my students decode words using the following process:
- As I sound aloud each letter of a word, the student repeats the sound and then writes the letter. Vowels are sounded with first short, and then long sounds.
- While looking at the word that has been written, the student spells the word aloud.
- The student is helped to sound each letter of the word again, as per step one.
- The student copies the word on the same line.
- The student locates, circles, marks, and sounds all easily obvious blends, digraphs, and endings within the word.
- The student marks the word's vowels and consonants to discover the syllable and vowel-consonant pattern.
- Using simple symbols, the student marks the sounds of the vowels and consonants, thus developing the "sound spelling" of the word.
- The student copies the word's "sound spelling" on the same line.
- While looking at the "sound spelling", the student reads the word aloud.
- The student relates the "sound spelling" to the written spelling of the word.
- The student locates the word in the text and reads it aloud.
- The student reads the word aloud as part of the sentence in the text.
Usually, at the completion of this process, the student is able to recognize the word at the next encounter. However, if he/she continues to have a problem with the word, the procedure continues:
- The student spells the word aloud and then attempts to read the word.
- The student sounds each letter of the word and then attempts to read the word.
After the student solves the word, she/he rereads the sentence in the text for improved fluency and comprehension.
In most instances, step 13 is sufficient. If not, the student is usually able to read the word independently after completion of Step 14. However, if the student continues to have difficulty with the word, a review card is made. The word is written on the front of an index card. Underneath it is a simple sentence that illustrates the word. The "sound spelling" is copied on the back of the card. The student uses the card for review and practice.
Intitially, the process goes very slowly. However, usually after concretely decoding several words and reading them, the student becomes increasingly efficient with the process. The 14 steps of the process are modified and consolidated appropriately. Repeated readings of the text improve fluency and comprehension. The student begins to recognize an increasing number of words and begins to be able to use context clues and word patterns to decode other words. Increasingly, the automatic recognition area is utilized for decoding and comprehension.
By using this decoding technique, the student usually improves in the following skills:
- The ability to independently recognize and form individual letters correctly.
- The ability to independently reproduce individual vowel and consonant sounds.
- The ability to locate a word in text.
- The ability to read a selected sentence fluently with increased comprehension.
- The development of automatic recognition and comprehension of words.
I have efficiently and successfully helped many students with diverse types and degrees of reading problems, using this method. Students enjoy learning and using the strategy, and they especially enjoy knowing that they are able to decode any word they need to know in order to comprehend any text.
I have written and published a book, Hearing, Saying, Writing, Seeing, and Reading The Sounds of Words, which teaches the strategy. The book includes examples to illustrate the sounds of the most frequently used words in written English. In many cases, the example word is one of the most frequently used words. Information about the book can be found at LearnToReadNow
, and the book is available for ordering from AuthorHouse