What is Decoding in Reading?

Adapted In the early stages of reading, decoding is one’s ability to phonetically understand what they are looking at as far as the written language goes. Improving decoding ability is the best way to improve a beginner’s reading skills. This encompasses “sounding-out” basic letters and word sounds and is largely done through the application of knowledge regarding letter-sound relationships through speaking them out loud, and in your head. Decoding is done through demonstrating such skills as knowledge of letter patterns (how letters sound when placed next to each other, which varies widely under their chosen language or dialect), knowledge of common words, vs. words which need to be sounded out, and common patterns within new words such as the use of the c-h sound, the s-h sound, and the e-a sound, and so on -- at least in the English language. To decode is to make sounds to figure out what a word (especially a new one) says. Decoding becomes more difficult as readers encounter words that might sound different from what a beginner might expect given any of the individual letters by themselves.

To summarize, decoding is a reading skill that encompasses all the strategies which are used in the cognitive process to correctly pronounce written words-- from sounding them out to understanding the letter-sound relationship and letter pairing dynamics.

What is Phonemic Awareness? How do I increase Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic Awareness is a child’s ability to hear, identify, and when speaking -- to manipulate the smallest parts of sounds in a word that might make a difference to a word meaning.

Those learning to read print will need to become more aware of how the sounds in each word work, including their similarities and differences regarding the new sentence context. In order to sound words out more easily, developing phonemic awareness will be vitally important, because it is an important part of the process discussed previously; the process of decoding.

[Those learning to read must understand that words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes, as they are called, in order to progress their abilities. Hence the terminology Phonemic Awareness].

Some things you can do to increase phonemic awareness, are

To Identify and categorize sounds To Blend sounds to form words. To delete or add sounds to form new words. To substitute sounds to make new words To learn root words, as well as prefix and suffix words, as well as affix words which are common to your primary language.

How can I increase my student or child’s vocabulary?

Another, and perhaps the second most important aspect of developing reading skills, especially for young students, is developing one’s vocabulary. While this can be done simply through conversations at first, developing vocabulary is more than just reading and reciting a dictionary, and in the early stages of language development it plays a vital and powerful role in not only how a student views the world, but how they are able to (as they are directly limited in describing it by this factor.)

To improve one’s vocabulary can be done in a variety of different ways. The best ways are those which provide written context to new words, allowing the student to make use of new concepts themselves. This adaptive vocabulary strength of the student will become apparent when they move on to sentence construction, and it can be more easily added to when it is identified which concepts they take to naturally and which ones they struggle with (either in speech or in practice writing.) Simple books made for children and students just learning to read are helpful, as well as practicing reading street signs and business names, and so on in regular everyday life. Most parents will find that outside of the classroom in practical scenarios is where most of these skills will start to develop and where most of the legwork is done.

Reading to a student (or child), while using new terminologies and concepts can help, especially if you are providing written context to what you are reading them. Written context is especially important during language development, as it allows the student to see not only the words themselves but the nuances of spelling and use, given a sentence context.

Of course, Improving vocabulary can be done through a variety of methods-- and reading is just one of them. Reading signs out loud, or the names of businesses you pass by as you go about your day will all contribute, and as they grow older and are more receptive to complex communications, having written conversations will help a lot also.

All of these are tasks that narrow in complexity (to focus on a new word or nuanced concept as they have identified one - and then use it in a sentence themselves, otherwise known as parroting) and will all be very important to their retention of new words over time. Reading is only half the battle. The other half is using what they’ve read and heard to make new things.

Providing lots of context for new concepts will help to make anything they deal with or run into while reading easier. This is called building familiarity with words, and it is a vital aspect of developing a vocabulary of common words, and from that point, becoming fluent readers and writers.

Some Beneficial habits you might form to contribute to the development of a student's vocabulary are tasks such as reading them a newspaper, and having them try to read it - or reading them a magazine, or other regularly refreshed/changed material. Such habits as picking up a new book from the library once a week can also help with improving one's vocabulary, while also being an enjoyable activity.

The more activities which stimulate new and interesting uses of language, especially those which provide practice for reading and writing are important for the development of vocabulary, and practice, practice, practice, is the first and foremost piece of advice which can be offered regarding vocabulary and retention of the written word.

To reiterate; anything reading-related helps the development of vocabulary and it’s associated skills, such as reading comprehension, spelling, correct use of grammar, word familiarity (and development of common words) and so on. Even something as simple as telling them a new word each day, along with what it means, will over time build up a strong vocabulary.

Root Words

It is important to note that once a student has been shown how to make use of a new word, core words or concepts within the new words (called root words) may also help further their understanding of the language. So make sure to dedicate some time to get to know root words while you’re practicing vocabulary.

Doing this will, as well as broaden their vocabulary, make the student more flexible in their knowledge of language generally-- making them less likely to hear something they have absolutely no understanding of at all, and interestingly enough - there are many common root words in related foreign languages which share an origin; so it may even help them learn a foreign language later in life. To have a strong grasp on root words and root word definitions, will be paramount to their success and to the development of their vocabulary.

Think of it as a shortcut to a larger vocabulary in that it will provide context for the retention of future concepts that make use of root words. It will also help with the construction of new words that are functional and understandable when the student is experimenting with combining known root words to form new words or concepts.

Sentence Structure

How things like spelling might change given different and comparative contexts can also be more easily demonstrated through reading and writing than through speech, and are tangentially related to improving one’s vocabulary. Part of doing this is understanding the part of the sentence called the structure. The structure (which is the grammar) determines which spelling, and which form of certain words are used in different scenarios; such as using “too” with two o’s at the end of a sentence, or the difference between there, their, or they’re. So again, it is highly advisable that you share reading material with the student during the education process which demonstrates these subtle spelling and sounding differences given context, and that you explain them accurately.

For further example, a new reader might not know that Tsunami is spelled with a T at the front of it, or that “pneumonic” is pronounced “knew-monic” (or that it’s spelled with a ph). Even if they are annunciating the word properly, these differences in spelling are not always obvious. As such, spelling, and getting to know the structure of the sentence and how it may affect the spelling, as well as how it affects word forms - is a vital part of increasing your child’s vocabulary and should be regularly practiced - with the quirks of whatever primary language you speak being regularly thrown in to keep things interesting.

Although it is true that simply hearing the language, and being read to, can help a child or student who struggles with reading comprehension, with regards to telling a diagnostic difference between, say, for example, a visual disability (such as determining the strength of eyesight in a nearsighted person, or the severity of strabismus for a person with a crossed eye), when compared to determining the neurological differences in a patient (such as those with dyslexia, or dementia and so on) - providing written context in addition to testing verbal and written abilities for comprehension will reveal discrepancies, and discrepancies in that comprehension can make a lot of difference in their ability to learn and retain information if not addressed quickly. So often, simply reading to them is not enough, and they must also read out loud and any discrepancies made to be accounted for.

It is also worth noting, that the sooner you are reading to them and having them read to you, the better-- as developmental traits are less cumbersome to their academics if identified and dealt with through the appropriate strategies quickly.

What is Sentence Construction?

Another important practice while learning essential reading (and writing) skills, is the practice of understanding the structure and practicing the construction of sentences. The simplest sentence consists only of a noun, which is a naming word, and a verb (otherwise known as an action word) and possibly a subject, such as “Kyle kicked the ball.” - Kyle being the noun (and subject), the ball is a separate noun, as well as the subject, and kicked being the action word.

Of course, a sentence which is as simple as two or three words should probably be accompanied by a previous statement, or should be followed by one which more broadly explains it - so start writing! If there is otherwise no provided context you will find that two words are seldom enough to complete a sentence or thought intelligibly.

As a student’s learning of language progresses, their reading becomes a more skilled and complex task, and ideally, this will make them more verbose as their confidence in writing improves. They will become capable of much more than simple descriptive statements, or basic requests, through practice and expansion of the previously mentioned vocabulary. With practice and development of these skills focused on, their progress will likely move rapidly, and the student will be able to move on to complex sentences, and even paragraphs in no time. Given enough practice, these skills will develop into the much sought after essay, manuscript, and other complex writing construction skills and abilities that they’ll carry with them to the college level.

What is Reading Comprehension a measurement of?

Reading comprehension in this context is the measurement of a reader’s ability to retain or recite what they have read, intelligibly. This measurement can be applied to the accuracy of the student's intellectual understanding of what they’ve read, as well as the accuracy of retention regarding exact word use that they’ve read, (regardless of intellectual understanding.)

This can be an important subject, especially diagnostically regarding differences between eyesight, and neurological abilities in a reader, as it can highlight some problem areas and make them more apparent where they exist - a reader might read and understand a concept correctly but spell the word wrong persistently, and not be able to tell the difference between the right and the wrong spelling at first glance if I was to give just as one example. (Which happens commonly with dyslexia.)

A dyslexic student or a visually impaired student may at times comprehend things differently than intended by the text, as they may not see or process all of it, which can again make these things seem similar to the untrained instructor.

Reading comprehension is often a critical point of diagnostic criteria for neurological vs physiological differences in patients struggling to read, and it can be very difficult to tell if the issue has a basis in their ocular system or their nervous one, or if the struggles they face are purely psychological. At times it can be difficult to tell without testing it - but without going into that too much further, here are some quick pointers for increasing students reading comprehension regardless -- so try some things from the list as follows:

Find books they'll like. Read to them, or have them read aloud. Skim the headings of text and have them explain the meanings back. Re-read sections which are confusing or which stump them Use a ruler or finger to follow along for keeping track. Sound words out, and write down words you don't know to look up later. (Which can also help with spelling and vocabulary.) Discuss what you read, to get a good idea of their comprehension Summarize the things you’ve read, making sure to focus on the main points offered by the text.

What is Reading Fluency?

Fluency is defined as the ability to read and comprehend with some speed, accuracy, and proper expression. As such, it is an extension of reading comprehension in a way, though it is a little bit more narrow in definition. In order to understand all of what they read while reading quickly, children must be able to read fluently - and the language they are using must begin to come naturally to them. In order to assure that this happens is a matter of a few disciplines which can be practiced every day (reading signs, reading newspapers or book titles out loud, and under the supervision and so on) and being asked questions about what they read. If they struggle, this means they are not yet fluent. The more common vocabulary they develop, and the more they are able to communicate what they’ve read, the more fluent they are becoming. Just keep practicing, and fluency will eventually arrive for most students through repetition. When calling the names of things they’ve read out, children will often have fun. Try to make it fun for them. Lessons must be taken in sequence, regardless of where they come from, and the more enjoyable a student or child finds the related repetition of material, the better they will take on lessons by themselves, especially later in life.

What are Visual Perceptual Skills for Reading?

Before beginning their journey into books and other practical applications for reading, a child must have obtained competency in a plethora of visual processing skills which will be apparent after they’ve begun reading, and which we will go over here. For example, a child must see how letters work together to form a word, and how these letters differ in their nuances (for example a b and a d are similar and similar-sounding), and these are things they must be perceptive of through instruction. Mastering these differences and the differences between sight words (words a student can identify on sight) and other high-frequency words, as opposed to harder, less commonly used words will take effort and will be directly tied to their visual perceptual skills. Allow them to take their time, and do not rush them, as this will be a detriment to their perceptual skill development. Over time, they will get faster.

Practicing visual perceptual skills (noticing spelling or letter use nuance in a word or sentence structure) will make them realize the differences in a cognitive way, making them more likely to retain the information.

Without these skills, a student is simply seeing words on the page, and not really understanding them and their differences consciously. To work to Identify problems with visual perceptual skills can be integral to identifying any visual processing disorder that might be present, as well.

What are the Foundational Skills for Reading?

The ELA standards identify a set of skills students must master before they can become identified as fluent readers by instructors. These skills include understanding and being able to recite the alphabet, their ability to print (write), their phonological awareness, including an understanding of phonics, development of a high-frequency words vocabulary, and fluency with those words.

What is Visual Acuity?

Visual acuity is the sharpness of one’s vision, measured by the ability to discern letters or numbers at a given distance according to a fixed standard - like the Snellen chart that most optometrists will be familiar with.

What is Visual Convergence?

Visual convergence is a measurement of the coordinated movement and focus of our eyes, (or binocular vision) especially at close ranges like the kind you experience with phones, tablets, or books. Identifying a reader’s visual convergence may help identify problems associated with convergence insufficiency - something which happens when the eyes do not converge properly to result in intelligible vision, and instead results in things like blurred or double vision which are common with related issues like strabismus.

What are Saccades and Fixations? How are saccades and fixations related?

Fixations are periods where the eye or eyes are more or less still,

What is Visual Discrimination?

What is Visual Closure?

What are Visual-Spatial Skills?

Cognitive Skills For Reading

Working Memory

Concentration and Attention

Perceptual Learning

Advanced Reading skills

Speed Reading

Reading Disorders


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