13 Ways to Use Decodable Text


Nothing is more rewarding than teaching a child to read. As a reading interventionist and primary teacher this is the most important job I have, and it is also the hardest. The one thing that the science of reading says is fundamental in fostering young readers is to use decodable text.

Decodable texts are books or passages specifically designed to reinforce phonics skills by utilizing letter-sound correspondences that children have been taught. The text is aligned to phonics patterns and previously taught sounds and patterns are included to reinforce skills that students are familiar with.

Are you looking to build a more comprehensive decodable readers library? The books you can find on Education to the Core Premium are an invaluable resource for incorporating decodable readers into your classroom.

These books are laid out from the most simple phonics patterns to the more complex. Each text gives lots of targeted practice on the new sound while also reviewing previously taught sounds. You can find this extensive library of decodable readers by clicking the button below.

I use my Decodable Reader library each and every day in my classroom and am always looking for new and fun ways to get these magical books into the hands of my little learners. I have 13 ways to use decodable text beyond building phonics fluency in small groups.

1. Use Word Hunts

Using decodable text, have students hunt and highlight or circle the target phonics words. This can be completed as an independent activity, a station, or done with guidance in a small group. Challenge your students to find each and every word by telling them how many they need to hunt and read on every page.


2. Sound Sorting

A simple strategy to reinforce phonics using decodable text is to have students do a sound sort. This works especially well when teaching a phonics pattern that has multiple spellings, such as vowel teams. After students have read the decodable, use the words that match the phonics pattern and have students read each word and sort them based on those phonics patterns.

3. Find It, Read It, Write It

Turn your little readers into classroom spies!  Create cards that have your target phonics words written on them. Hide the cards around the room and have students use magnifying glasses to hunt for them. When they find a word students can read it to their partner and write it on their whiteboard.

Another fun version of this game is to use an I Spy High Frequency Words activity to type your decodable words into a template. Perfect for a center, students use a magnifying glass to find the words within the picture and write them on the line.


4. Using Decodable Text in Word Challenges

While sounding out is the name of the game when it comes to decodable text it can also be used to reinforce context clues to enhance comprehension of text.

After students are familiar with a decodable text, cover some key decodable words in the text with washi tape or small post-its. Have students reread a sentence with a missing word and use their understanding of the sentence to guess what word is missing. Have students write the word on the post-it to reinforce spelling and reread the sentence to confirm if it fits or not.

Try it the opposite or silly way by having students write words that follow the phonics pattern but don’t make sense in the sentence!


5. Create Mini-Books Using Decodable Text

Want to use decodable text to reinforce writing? Try having your students create mini-books! Here is a simple way to fold a single sheet of paper into a small book. Once students have created their book, have them use as many words from their decodable text to re-write the words into a new story and create illustrations on each page to match their new story. Have students read their new stories to partners to practice fluency too!

Need a simpler version of this activity…? Give each student a half-sheet of paper and have them take the words from a sentence in their decodable book and use them to create a brand new sentence. Great syntax activity! 


6. Cold and Hot Reading Races

Repeated practice of decodable text is one of the best ways for students to gain mastery of a phonics pattern. It is critical for students to become fluent with each phonics skill so that they can read with automaticity.

Cold and hot reading races are a fun way to build this needed fluency! Have students partner together and use a timer to read their decodable text. Then have students reread the same text many times throughout the week and race their time to get faster and faster. Kids love it if they can graph their progress and see how much faster they get each time!


7. Using Decodable Text within Reader’s Theater

Young readers often struggle to read with expression and not sound like little reading robots. One way to practice expression is by acting out stories. Use decodable text to give students confidence with the task. Why? Because in decodable text all the words are ones they can sound out. By having students act out decodable text in a reader’s theater style they can focus on expression by doing different voices and being the characters in the decodable text.


8. “Whoing” and “Whating”

Being able to sound out and read the words in a text is only half of the reading battle. The other half is understanding the text and what it is about.

A simple way to build comprehension is to do “whoing and whating” in your small groups with decodable text. “Whoing” is asking students questions about who is in the story and “whating” is asking questions about what is happening.

Simple short questions are best when the focus of your teaching is decoding so students can point to the answers or answer quickly with one or two words and then keep reading.


9. Using Decodable Text to “Read It Like A…”

Here’s another great activity that builds students’ expression and reading rate! Use a familiar decodable text and the Read It Like A popsicle stick cards.

Students pick a stick and take turns reading a page of the decodable reader or a line from the decodable text. This helps students gain confidence because they practice rereading a familiar text which will make them read it quicker each time and with new expressions too!


10. Developing Vocabulary Using Decodable Text

Learning new vocabulary and understanding the meanings of words is important to overall comprehension of text. Use decodable text to also teach new words and their meanings to your students.

Beyond Phonics is the perfect set of text to focus on this important skill in reading. Give students a chance to use new vocabulary in sentences and make their learning permanent by recording each word in the Word Wisdom Notebook. Teacher hint: I have a guide of possible vocabulary words to introduce for each Beyond Phonics passage.


11. Grammar Search and Sort

Nouns, verbs, adjectives, oh my! My students love a good grammar search and sort. Use three different colored crayons and have students label the parts of speech in their decodable text using the code N, V, A in the three crayon colors.

Then have students write the words on post-its that correspond in color and add them to a class anchor chart. In doing this task students get extra chances to read their decodable and also get to demonstrate understanding of grammar concepts.


12. Using Decodable Text to Research Topics

One thing I’m always trying to do in my classroom is find ways to incorporate more science and social studies for my curious little learners. Decodable text is a perfect way to do that!

Students get a chance to build background knowledge about high-interest topics such as moon phases, layers of soil, and so much more using the Beyond Phonics: Decodable Comprehension Passages all while still practicing familiar phonics patterns.


13. Rainbow Reading Box

Nothing is more important than giving students confidence with independent reading. Fill their reading book boxes with our Decodable Reader Library to keep their phonics skills sharp and their confidence high with familiar, fun text each and every week.

With so many different ways to use decodable text in your classroom your kids are going to be engaged and busy working towards becoming strong, fluent readers all while having fun!

Incorporating decodable text into fluency, grammar, writing, science and social studies means your students are getting repeated practice and you as a teacher are flexing those multi-tasking skills and making the best use of every minute in your day. That’s the best thing! Keep those kids reading and they will be unstoppable!

Written By: Andrea Gudmundson

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