Early, explicit, and systematic instruction in phonics can help strengthen students’ decoding skills. Phonics instruction should follow a phonics scope and sequence. Intervention focus for phonics uses data from an informal phonics decoding survey to determine the highest level of decoding skills mastered and teach the next skills in the progression. Use of connected text (decodable readers) is critical to developing phonics skills.
What is Decoding?
What is Phonics?
Phonics instruction teaches students basic letter-sound correspondences, how to sound out words, exceptions to the principles, and more advanced skills, such as decoding multisyllabic words.
Explicit and Systematic Intervention in Decoding
Explicit and Systematic: In an intervention for decoding, it is important that intervention lessons include elements of explicit and systematic instruction. Explicit and systematic instruction is direct, engaging, supported with clear models and feedback, and organized through a planned sequence.
Preparing to Implement the Intervention
Before delivering explicit intervention in decoding, administer a phonics decoding survey to determine skill attainment and needs. After a starting point for instruction has been identified, teach decoding subskills sequentially and integrate them with other foundational reading skills for maximum benefit. Plan explicit instructional routines, such as those presented in the video, that model the objective and allow for students’ meaningful practice with target decoding skills.
There are certain elements that must be included in an effective intervention for decoding, including:
Phonological awareness and phonemic awareness (blending, segmenting, manipulating sounds in words)
Blending sounds represented by print
Mapping phonemes (individual speech sounds) to the graphemes (printed letters)
Guided practice in writing words and sentences
Categorizing words whether they are spelled regularly or not, and calling attention to the parts of words that are not easily decoded (e.g., said)
Controlled, decodable text to practice early phonics skills and high-frequency words that have been explicitly taught
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a decoding intervention 'systematic'?
Decoding interventions that are systematic use a planned scope and sequence to introduce phonics elements, building from simple letter-sound correspondences to complex patterns. Lessons include intentional review and practice of skills.
What makes a decoding intervention 'explicit'?
Explicit decoding interventions include deliberate teaching of concepts with continuous student-teacher interaction. Teachers begin lessons by modeling the objective. Students then practice with the teacher before completing the task individually (e.g., I do, we do, you do).
Who benefits from explicit intervention in decoding?
Students who are showing difficulty learning the relationships between sounds and letters and sounding out words may benefit from explicit intervention in decoding. You may notice that these students also have trouble reading out loud, reading fluently, spelling, and working with individual sounds in spoken words despite generally effective instruction.
Elkonin boxes help students better understand the alphabetic principle in decoding. Students count the individual sounds called phonemes, and then write the letters that represent each sound.
Additional Learning Opportunities
Watch Syllable Patterns and Syllable Division presented by Dr. Maria Murray.
Expert presenter Laura Stewart shares phonics teaching techniques in PART 2 of this Zaner-Bloser webinar series.