Literacy PK-3

Systems Change

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Decoding is the ability to use our understanding of letters and speech sounds to figure out unfamiliar words. Students with strong Decoding skills can read more complicated words, and their reading becomes more fluid.

Main Idea

In addition to understanding the relationship between letters and speech sounds, the ability to properly read and pronounce words is dependent on understanding letter patterns. Children must be explicitly taught to attend to these letter patterns.

When children use their Alphabet Knowledge of the symbol-to-sound relationships, they are able to translate the printed words they see into the spoken language they know and understand. Although the English writing system is complex, approximately 80% of single-syllable words in English are "regular" and can be decoded using standard rules of connecting phonemes (the smallest unit of sound in a language) to graphemes (letters or letter combinations that represent phonemes). Skilled readers can generalize these rules to read unfamiliar words and can even correct pronunciations of "irregular" words using their oral Vocabulary knowledge.

Over time, children's reliance on Decoding decreases as they recognize familiar words automatically and understand their meaning, resulting in more fluent Orthographic Processing. The Decoding skills that underlie identifying words may also support emergent writers in spelling. As children learn to sound out words, they are also breaking down the important parts of the word to put it into writing.

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