Advanced Decoding Strategies
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Advanced Decoding Strategies. Sharon Walpole University of Delaware. Michael C. McKenna University of Virginia. Today’s Goals. Review decoding demands presented by more advanced texts Review syllable types

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Advanced Decoding Strategies

Sharon Walpole

University of Delaware

Michael C. McKenna

University of Virginia


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Today’s Goals

  • Review decoding demands presented by more advanced texts

  • Review syllable types

  • Consider strategies and procedures teachers can use with children who struggle to read multisyllabic words

  • Consider applications to needs-based instruction


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Back in School . . .

  • Select one instructional strategy to implement and a set of words to teach

  • Try it in needs-based instruction with struggling second- or third-grade students

  • Make materials or procedures for your teachers to use in their needs-based groups


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Let’s take a look at a wonderful piece of children’s literature often included in basal reading programs.

Think about your struggling second- and third-grade readers. Which words would cause them trouble?


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One hundred years ago in Paris, when theaters and music halls drew traveling players from all over the world, the best place to stay was at the widow Gateau’s, a boardinghouse on English Street.

Acrobats, jugglers, actors, and mimes from as far away as Moscow and New York reclined on the widow’s feather mattresses and devoured her kidney stews.

Madame Gateau worked hard to make her guests comfortable, and so did her daughter, Mirette. The girl was an expert at washing floors. She was a good listener too. Nothing pleased her more than to overhear the vagabond players tell of their adventures in this town and that along the road.


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Think about your readers halls drew traveling players from all over the world, the best place to stay was at the widow Gateau’s, a boardinghouse on English Street.

Which words do you think struggling readers would find hardest to decode?

What makes them hard?


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Some GARF Assumptions halls drew traveling players from all over the world, the best place to stay was at the widow Gateau’s, a boardinghouse on English Street.

  • Our overarching goal is to create competent, flexible readers who can read real literature for real purposes.

  • Phonics and word recognition strategies will never be 100% effective, but they can drastically cut down on the number of unknown words in a text.

  • You need not teach children extensive “rules” to be systematic and explicit in your instruction.

  • Teachers serving struggling second- and third-grade readers need help supporting children to work through multisyllabic words.


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A CAUTION halls drew traveling players from all over the world, the best place to stay was at the widow Gateau’s, a boardinghouse on English Street.

The decoding strategies we are discussing can only be used with readers who are proficient decoders of almost all spelling patterns in single-syllable words. If they are not, needs-based instruction should be focused on teaching those patterns that the children do not know.


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What are the basic types of English syllables? halls drew traveling players from all over the world, the best place to stay was at the widow Gateau’s, a boardinghouse on English Street.

Louisa Moats presented strategies for reading big words at our Funded Conference.

Let’s review the syllable types that she shared with us.


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Syllable Types in English Spelling halls drew traveling players from all over the world, the best place to stay was at the widow Gateau’s, a boardinghouse on English Street.

Moats, 2005, Reading big words: Syllabication and advanced decoding


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Syllable Types in English Spelling halls drew traveling players from all over the world, the best place to stay was at the widow Gateau’s, a boardinghouse on English Street.

Moats, 2005, Reading big words: Syllabication and advanced decoding


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Can you apply these? halls drew traveling players from all over the world, the best place to stay was at the widow Gateau’s, a boardinghouse on English Street.

Take words we’ve chosen from Mirette on the High Wire and categorize them by syllable type.

Here are some hints:

  • A particular syllable can be of only one type.

  • Check the vowel sound first; it will often give you a hint.

  • All words with two vowels together or with the diphthongs oi/oy/ou/ow are vowel teams.


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What difference does it make to know the syllable types if my children can’t identify syllables?

We can actually teach children strategies for identifying syllables. We can also use strategies to help them to practice reading syllables.


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Using Syllabication my children can’t identify syllables?

Ganske, K. (2006). Word sorts and more: Sound, pattern, and meaning explorations K-3. New York: Guilford Press.

Ganske provides a set of 6 tips that teachers can give children to help them to recognize and use syllables in decoding.


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Look for known words; divide between them (e.g., hall-way, foot-ball)

Look for double consonants; divide between them (e.g., muf-fin, smit-ten)

Look for two consonants together; divide between them unless they are digraphs (e.g., cac-tus, pub-lish, a-phid)

Look for sets of three consonants; keep digraphs and blends together (e.g., an-them, in-stant)


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If there is only one consonant between two vowels, break the word before the consonant and try the long sound in the first syllable (e.g., ho-tel, e-vent).

If that doesn’t work, break the word after the consonant and try the short sound in the first syllable (e.g., man-age, ov-en).



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Using Syllabication into syllables?

Louisa Moats also taught us a decoding strategy based on syllabication.

Let’s review it.


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Reading Big Words into syllables?

  • Underline each vowel or vowel team except for silent e.

  • Box any word endings you can see.

  • Circle any prefixes you can see.

  • Use syllable types to decode each vowel sound.

  • Blend the syllables together.

  • Say the whole word and see if it makes sense. Try a different way if it doesn’t.

  • Ask for help if you can’t get the word.


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Let’s review the Reading Big Words procedure with a set of big words. Remember to actually mark the words in the order that Moats suggests.

(use the list of words we’ve provided

to try it out)


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Coaches’ Corner big words. Remember to actually mark the words in the order that Moats suggests.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Moats’ approach and Ganske’s suggestion?

Does anyone have good syllable-level decoding strategies already built into their core or their intervention programs?

How effective are they with struggling readers?


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Beck, I. L. (2006). big words. Remember to actually mark the words in the order that Moats suggests.Making sense of phonics: The hows and whys. New York: Guilford Press.

Read Chapter 6 to learn a strategy for practicing multisyllabic decoding.


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SyllaSearch big words. Remember to actually mark the words in the order that Moats suggests.

  • A set of two- and three-syllable words is introduced, first as wholes and then with separate syllables written on cards.

  • The syllables are set into a three-column matrix, out of order.

  • Children rebuild the words from their syllable cards, reading the syllables as they work.


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What are the words? big words. Remember to actually mark the words in the order that Moats suggests.


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Coaches’ Corner big words. Remember to actually mark the words in the order that Moats suggests.

Can you see any potential uses for SyllaSearch in your needs-based groups or centers?


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Wouldn’t it be layering if teachers used these strategies? big words. Remember to actually mark the words in the order that Moats suggests.

No. In GARF, we use additional teaching strategies during needs-based time to support word recognition.


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Let’s Plan . . . big words. Remember to actually mark the words in the order that Moats suggests.

  • How could you find words to teach using a syllabication procedure, Reading Big Words, or SyllaSearch?

  • What materials could you make for teachers to make this easier?

  • In your second- and third-grade needs-based groups, how could you integrate more advanced decoding practice?


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Back in School . . . big words. Remember to actually mark the words in the order that Moats suggests.

  • Select one procedure from today’s presentation to implement.

  • Select words from your own instructional materials.

  • Try it out in needs-based instruction with struggling second- or third-grade students.

  • If it works, think of ways to make it easier for your teachers to do it.

  • Be prepared to share at the next coach’s meeting.


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References big words. Remember to actually mark the words in the order that Moats suggests.

Beck, I. L. (2006). Making sense of phonics: The hows and whys. New York: Guilford Press.

Ganske, K. (2006). Word sorts and more: Sound, pattern, and meaning explorations K-3. New York: Guilford Press.

Moats, L. C. (2005). Reading big words: Syllabication and advanced decoding. Boston, MA: Sopris West.


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