Decodable texts are an important tool in helping beginning readers. A decodable text is one where a student is able to decode the majority of the words used. It is important to keep in mind what phonics skills a student has learned when selecting decodable texts.
Decodable texts are one tool in helping students learn how to read. Younger MLs may be able to mostly read decodables as they are building their phonics knowledge. For older MLs they will still need exposure to content knowledge. Decodables can be used as a part of their broader reading instruction.
Build Background Knowledge
Use text sets to group materials together by content. This includes showing a short video clip about a topic, reading aloud an article or book to students, and having students read multiple books about the same topic. The benefit of purposely building background knowledge is that students have a deeper understanding of the vocabulary used in the decodable text.
Decodable texts typically use simple language. This allows students to be successful in reading them independently. One downside is that the text might rely on the picture or not explain the meaning of unfamiliar words. This can make it challenging for MLs to fully understand the content that they are reading. Using other texts to build background knowledge is one strategy for solving this problem.
Decodable mini books paired with an emergent reader on the same topic.
Readwords has text sets on a range of topics. Read out loud (or have student use the build in audio feature) the article before reading a related decodable text on the same topic.
Be Mindful of Sentence Patterns
Some decodable texts use awkward sentence patterns in an attempt to avoid using words that are difficult to decode words or add in additional examples of words that follow a particular phonics pattern. This can make comprehension particularly challenging for MLs.
One way to overcome this challenge is to rewrite awkward sentences either before students read them or as a group after students read them. You can also do this with single words that are not commonly used be are easy to decode.
Sticky notes are a simple way to rewrite the text in a decodable to make it more accessible for your students. You can also have students rewrite the text themselves or with support as writing practice.
Having students write about the content or story of decodable builds in spelling practice that is not isolated. Simply writing about what happened in the story a student uses vocabulary from the book. Higher level students can focus on spelling and content. For students that can decode the book but still struggle with spelling, they have a built in scaffold. They can look at the text and copy words as they write.
Teach/Review a Phonics Pattern
The ideal way to use decodable texts is as a way for students to practice a new phonics pattern. First have a mini lesson on the new phonics pattern then give students time to independently read the decodable text. As student are reading listen to them read a selection out loud.
Build Reading Stamina
Other decodables include a range of phonics skills and have longer amount of text. These are helpful for increasing students reading stamina. If necessary chunk that amount of text that a student has to read. You can also scaffold texts by reading out loud a portion and having students read a smaller selection independently.
Building a Decodable Collection
As a teacher, it can be challenging to find enough high-quality decodable texts to use with students. Try and start with one set and build your collection over time. For suggestions of texts look at Decodables for MLs.
My current favorite fiction decodables are from Whole Phonics. The books have diverse characters and silly stories (that actually tell a story. There are three sets. The first set has one or two lines of text per page. By the third set there are a few lines of text on each page.
For nonfiction the best (that are affordable) I have found are Junior Learning (Beanstalk) Decodables. There is a big range in the content quality of these texts. Some of the lower level books do not follow the same topic for the whole book. Starting in with the blend books there is more consistency.
For quick practice of new phonics patterns, I have printable one page decodable books for basic and advanced vowel sounds.