How to decode words when reading | Phonics| High-Frequency words | Sight Words

How to help your child decode words when reading? | Phonics

Sharing is caring!

Phonics is where real reading begins. This is the stage where your child will begin to decode the spellings of printed words and sound it out.

Decoding words require your child to be able to have good:

So, if you wonder why your child finds it difficult in trying to read a simple 3 letter-words, click on the link above to work on those. It is essential to have a solid foundation for both of these skills in order for phonics instruction to be successful.

How to begin teaching phonics with blending

There are many ways to teach phonics but the one which is found to be most effective is via direct instruction. This means that you have to teach your child how to blend in an explicit and direct manner by showing them exactly how to blend and allowing them to follow after you.

Below is an example of how you teach final blending using the method. Example of the word ‘map’:

  • Point to the letter m and say /m/.
  • Point to the letter a and say /a/.
  • Slowly slide your finger under the letters ma and say /ma/ slowly.
  • Then quickly slide your finger under the letters ma and say /ma/ at normal speed.
  • Next, point to the letter p and say /p/.
  • Slowly slide your finger under map and say /map/ slowly.
  • Point to the word and say /map/ at normal speed.

Another type of blending is successive blending where you simply stretch the words as you point to each letter. Example:

  • Run your finger under each letter as you stretch out the sound of each letter like, “mmmmaaaap” Do this without pausing in between. For example, do not say /m/ (pause) /a/ (pause) /p/.
  • If the first sound is not a continuous consonant sound, quickly blend the first sound with the vowel sound that follows. For example, “baaaat”.
  • Slowly compress the word. Example, from “mmmmaaaap” to “mmaap” to “map”.
  • Point to word and say, “The word is map.”


Being able to apply what they learn is the key to children being able to read. They need opportunities to practice what they learn by providing them with reading materials.

Below are the 3 types of reading materials that your child needs when practicing:

  1. Controlled text – words are decodable and based on the sound-spelling relationship
  2. Patterned text -words are predictable (e.g. repeated text patterns, matching illustrations, rhyme, repetition, alliteration, familiar story)
  3. Trade books– cover a wide range of format and genres to build on children’s comprehension, vocabulary, and interest in reading. These are to be read to the children or they can read independently if they are able to.

Ensure that you provide opportunities for your child to learn from a variety of book. Using controlled text will allow your child to apply and practice their decoding skills.

Studies have shown that children who are able to practice using controlled text will have better reading attitudes and achieve mastery at decoding.

However, it is also important that you provide more reading materials other than the controlled texts to build on their interest in books. In other words, your child needs more than a book which talks about “A cat on a mat” to sustain their love for reading.

Exceptions to the rule

You will eventually realize that not all words can be sounded out. For example, you can’t sound out “who”. If you try, you will probably end up doing this:

That is why there are certain words that children need to put a little more effort into.

High-frequency words or sight words

Children need to know high-frequency words in order to be a fluent reader. So what are high-frequency words?

High-frequency words:

  • appear frequently in texts
  • carry little meaning (e.g. of, a)
  • may be ‘irregular’ and do not follow the conventional sound-spelling rules

How children identify high-frequency words

Although most of these words are non-decodable, studies show that these words are stored in their lexical memory just like how they store regular words.

In simpler terms, your child needs to pay attention to each letter and pattern of the letters in the word. So, when teaching high-frequency words, you should focus your instruction on putting attention to the letters and patterns of letters in the words.

How to teach high-frequency words

Instructions are focused on drawing children’s attention to letters and patterns of letters. This is done by using direct instruction.

This is how a lesson can look like:
1. Say the word and use it in a sentence
2. Write the sentence and underline the word while reading the sentence again
3. Discuss the features of the word (e.g. pointing out that ‘there’ and ‘where’ are similar)
4. Spell out the word aloud together with the child
5. Practice writing it

Lots of reinforcement. It is important to note that learning words which are irregular may take a longer time for children to grasp as compared to regular words. For example, early readers may confuse ‘was’ with ‘saw’ or “these” with “them”. Therefore, provide more practice and exposure to words.

Below are some interesting activities ideas to help children recognize these words:

Sight-word play dough

Feed the dog sight word

Fish the words

List of high-frequency words:

100 high-frequency word lists

Dolch list

Take things one step at a time

There are so many words in the English language but the great news is that you don’t need to teach them every single word in the dictionary. The goal is to teach them the tools so that they can discover new words on their own.

Now to do this, they have to keep on reading and discovering new words in books and printed texts around them. This can only be achieved when they understand what they read, making them hungry for more.

Click the link below to find out how you can help them make sense of what they read.

Part 5: Helping children make sense of words and sentences | Comprehension


Intro: Guide to teaching children reading

Part 1: What your child needs to know before learning to read | Print Awareness

Part 2: 8 Strategies for teaching children the alphabet | Alphabet Knowledge

Part 3: Why your child can’t blend words | Phonemic Awareness

Part 4: How to help your child decode words when reading? | Phonics

Part 5: Helping children make sense of words and sentences | Comprehension


Want to remember this? Post this article to your favorite Pinterest boards!

How to decode words when reading | Phonics| High-Frequency words | Sight Words

Sharing is caring!


Share your thoughts