Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reading Strategies for decoding words (freebies)

Last week I mentioned the use of reading strategies. Teaching these strategies and giving kids the opportunities to practice/apply these strategies is the biggest focus during guided reading at the beginning of the year. There are so many great resources available for you out there, but I made these to share with you too. 

I introduce these decoding strategies one by one. I model the strategy during read aloud, shared reading and guided reading groups. During guided reading groups, I introduce the strategy and model how to use it. We practice together using parts from our book or using sentences that I make up. Right before they read their books, I always remind them of what their strategy focus is. While they are all reading, I will check in with a student and listen to them read. This is my opportunity to assess a student's ability to use this strategy and to guide that student to apply the strategy correctly. Some groups may catch on quicker than others so you may want to spend more time focusing on a strategy with certain groups. At the end of the guided reading, I always point out to the group all of the good things I saw when I read with each of them. I'll give examples of how each student used a strategy to figure out a word. For example, "I saw Bobby skipped the word "does" and then went back and reread. After he got his mouth ready, he figured it out." 

At this point in the year, we've already introduced all of the strategies. 
Even though students have learned all the strategies, they still need to practice applying them in a guided setting. With some groups, I may have a particular strategy that we will be focusing on together. With other groups, I may give each student a particular strategy that they need to work on.  

Above is a picture of a mini sized strategy card right above my student's book. She is chunking that last word on the page. At this point in the year, we've been practicing this particular strategy for a while, but this is her strategy focus. Before she can ask for help, she has to try this strategy.

(These pictures are my older strategy cards that I made forever ago! I made new ones for you all with frames and updated clip art)

In this picture, there are three strategy cards because this student is working on using these three strategies together. This student relies mainly on phonics so she often uses the strategies "sound it out" and "look for chunks". As you know, this doesn't really help her when she gets to sight words that aren't phonetic. So she is focusing on skipping the word, going back and rereading. The other two strategies are think about what makes sense and get your mouth ready (make the first sounds in the word). I have her use those strategies together. 
Here's an example: Sam does not have fun. The word does is not a phonetic. So, she skips it, reads the rest of the sentence, goes back and rereads the sentence. When she gets to the word does, she "gets her mouth ready" by just saying the first sound, /d/. When she reads Sam /d/ not have fun, she will more than likely (if she thinks about what makes sense) be able to figure out the word does.

Ways to use mini-cards:
1. to remind them of their strategy focus.  
2. It's also fun to have all the cards out and have them tap the card when they used a particular strategy. If you really need to motivate your kiddos to use strategies, you could keep track of how often they tap a card with math counters to put on the strategy cards.
3. A fun game to play with the strategy cards is "Tell me which strategy". I read from a book or write a sentence on the board. I underline the word that I need to figure out. When I get to that word, I call on kids to tell me which strategy I should use to figure out the word. You could also have them all hold up the strategy card to show what they think. That gets them all involved.

In the free download, I included bigger posters of the strategies and the smaller versions for each student to use in your guided reading groups. You could cut them up individually and you could also laminate the two sides back to back to make a bookmark for kids. 


  1. Thank you!

  2. Sarah, your blog is truly darling! You have a wonderful thing on here! So glad I stopped by!
    Please visit!

    Amy Howbert
    Little Miss Organized

  3. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article.
    I will be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information.
    Thanks for the post. I'll definitely comeback.
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  4. Hi!!I love your strategy cards! I love the pictures you used as well..thanks so much for being sooooooo generous! amy

  5. I LOVE these, but was wondering if you have a blank template that if we wanted to we could create other cards based on maybe a different strategy the kids needed (I just want to keep the theme the same!). Thanks so much - these are great!

  6. Hi, Just wondering if you can change the pink one from stretching the word to - say it slowly? In the big and little size?

  7. Dear Sarah,

    Great article here with excellent strategies to help young readers and those who are challenged with reading. Thank you for posting this for all of us!

    You might also like to know about a decoding and focusing tool called the Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759). It is available in 2 sizes for long and short text lines. It also focuses the eye on a particular line of text and provides the option to read through a selected colored filter (from an included set of 3 colors recommended by a developmental optometric group.) To learn more about these research-based reading aids, please visit (Made in the USA)

    Thank you again for a great article AND for all the help you provide to teachers and parents through your good blog here!

    Happy Reading!
    Joan M. Brennan