Decoding Strategies

The definition of decoding is the process of breaking a written word down to its individual parts and determining the word’s pronunciation based on the common sound/letter patterns of English.

When students are trying to read text of any length, they need to have a technique or process for “breaking the written code” of the words. Without one, students wouldn’t see words—they would just see a series of meaningless marks on a page.

Learning the alphabet and the sounds associated with individual letters provides students with the “raw material” they need to begin breaking the code, but decoding strategies provide them with the process for determining how to read and pronounce the combinations of letters that form words. Click on each circle below to learn more.

What is decoding?
Why is it effective?
How does it help?

Decoding Skills

A skillful reader’s ability to read long words fluently depends on his or her ability to break words into syllables. The two skills allow students to break words of any length into syllables so they can apply the Five Phonetic Skills to determine the word’s pronunciation.

Learn more about the five phonetic skills >

The two decoding skills are:

  1. If there is only one guardian consonant following the vowel, that consonant will move on to the next syllable.
  2. When a vowel is followed by two guardian consonants, the consonants will split. The first consonant will stay in the first syllable, and the second consonant will move on the next syllable.

Teaching decoding can be a challenge. But as these reading strategies are gradually internalized and become automatic, it will result in greater reading speed and fluency for your students.