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Basic Phonics & Decoding Skills for Literacy

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  • 0:03 What Are Phonics Skills?
  • 1:15 When & Why Readers Struggle
  • 2:40 Phonics & Decoding…
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Learning to read and write requires a solid foundation of phonics and decoding skills. This lesson will define phonics and show how basic skills can help struggling readers.

What Are Phonics Skills?

Children learn to read in predictable ways. Threads of instruction provide students with a foundation of skills they need in order to thrive in a literate world. Teachers begin weaving these threads by first teaching sounds in speech, or phonemes. Students are then taught that there are symbols that represent these phonemes in speech, what we call letters.

Next, teachers introduce the concept of phonics. Children are taught the relationship between phonemes and letters, or phonics. Do you remember learning these basic skills? You may have first printed your letters in isolation, working on identifying each and naming the sound. Then you progressed to blending sounds together to sound out words in books or write words on the page. Or you may have been shown letters of the alphabet and words and used your phonics knowledge to decode them.

Let's look at a scenario that helps explain more about how phonics and decoding skills are used in literacy. Ms. Jones is worried about her daughter, Sally, who isn't progressing in first grade. She did okay in kindergarten but seems to have hit a wall this year with her ability to read and write. She scheduled a meeting with the teacher, Ms. Morris, who will help her understand what's going on with Sally's skill development.

When & Why Readers Struggle

Ms. Morris begins by telling Ms. Jones about typical development in reading, specifically phonics and decoding skills. Decoding is the process we use to read words on the page. For beginning readers, it often involves the sounding out of individual words by using phonics skills, developing an awareness of how each letter sound blends with others.

In order to decode, children need to use visual memory of how the letters and words look. Reading the words on a page requires the brain to recognize the letters and patterns visually, then blend them into syllables and words.

When decoding, the brain typically automatically processes these ideas. However, sometimes students struggle making these associations. Ms. Morris explains that for a few students this part of the brain doesn't automatically process this information.

Sally seemed to do well in kindergarten with identifying letters and sounds. She even memorized a few high frequency sight words. Ms. Morris agrees that Sally has the basic ideas down - she's phonemically aware. However, in the classroom, Sally doesn't seem to have a good understanding of sound and symbol relationships or show she's aware of the patterns used in speech. In other words, she's not using her phonics or decoding skills to read.

In order to teach young struggling readers the decoding process, specific strategies and interventions are necessary. The good news is, teaching these skills build successful readers. How does this work?

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