[Transcript of the Quickest Way to Teach the Main Decoding Strategy]


Hello, I’m Marnie Ginsberg of Reading Simplified, where it’s our mission to help classroom teachers streamline their reading instruction and accelerate their students’ reading achievement.

So today we're going to show you “Blend As You Read.” This is a super-simple activity that is so helpful for getting young learners to be able to read and to decode. It's the main decoding strategy that I use to teach kids how to decode, and it saves so much time as compared to many other traditional approaches to decoding.

Ok, so you're ready? I'm going to teach…now I'm going to use an activity called Read It, which is how we teach the decoding strategy Blend As You Go.

Now he's already learning, he's already pretty good at Blend As You Go. But we are going to show you how he does it and if he needs help, great.

Trying the Main Decoding Strategy with Progressively Harder Words

Ok, we're going to erase that so we can get started. We're going to pick a word, a CVCC word, not the hardest developmentally or phonemically.

Marnie: …you have to read it before you get to write it. No, before you write it before …you gotta read it.

I don't know what it says…do you?

Child: Fields?

Marnie: It could be, but what else could this (tapping the “e”) be?

Child: (sounding out the word) F…e….l….t….Felt?

Marnie: “I felt the frog.” Okay, I want you to pick one marker. Which one?

He gets to write it–each sound as he says each sound–but he's got to pick one before he can do it.

Child: I just don’t know which one and I wanna play tic-tac-toe.

Marnie: Oh tic-tac-toe is a fun game. We can play tic-tac-toe with putting words in each square and he reads it before he gets to play, but right now I just want to show them how you do this activity. Can you show them?

Child: Okay. Which one should I pick? Which one is better?

Marnie: Hmm… does anybody have a vote out here? Oh, I think I think your dad's watching. What color would he want you to pick?

Child: I don't know.

Marnie: Let's go with blue. Okay?

Marnie: Okay, say the sounds as you write it.

Child: (sounding it out) fff….eee….lll…ttt… feeee……

Marnie: You were right, it's /ě/ – felt. “I felt your hand; your arm.”

Child: I thought it was… iiilllttt..

Marnie: That's right it can be /ĭ/ but in this word it’s / ě /.

So he did the Blend as You Read strategy to read this. He wrote it and he said each sound, so he segmented it, which is another approach, that's helpful for becoming a good reader.

Now say the sounds and erase.

Child: (erasing) ffellttt…

Marnie: Okay, so that was CVCC and he was able to do it. He didn't have trouble with the blending at all, so I'm going to make it a little harder; I'm gonna make a CCVC word.

(to child) Now, you need to wait for my turn, okay. Good, well I want my turn okay, so here we go, no, I think I'll use your colors, since you like this color and it’s also darker.

Child: curllsssss.

Marnie: Yeah it could be. What else could this be?

Child: Cross?

Marnie: Ah, cross! This is a cross, right?

Child: Cr…o…..o….ss….

Marnie: You want green? Cuz it’s better than the purple.

Child: O…sssss…oh….

Marnie: It's not working very well. I’ll just get rid of that purple. /crŏss/

Child: Cr….o….sssss…

Marnie: Say hi if you're here and you have done Blend As You Read. Or if you’re just seeing it for the first time, I want to hear from you. Say hi; tell us where you're from.

Okay what do we do, before we finish, you get to play the erase game. I'm gonna beat you.

Child: Cro….sss…

Marnie: He's segmenting, getting extra practice at phonemic segmentation as he writes, okay.

So, CCVC was easy for you, so I'm gonna try to challenge him with another one.

Child: CCCV?

Marnie: That's right, CCVCC, let's see if I can find one of those.

Okay, I think I found one, don't do that because you're not going to be able to have space for your word.

Child: St…aaaannn….d. Stand.

Marnie: Yeah, what’s that mean?

Child: Stand, like… it…

Marnie: Like to? This is more of an /ă/ sound. Before you write it, let’s make sure you…

Child: Stand. Stand. Stand.

Marnie: Yes! Stand up.

Child: /St…an/

Marnie: /Ă/… just by itself, /ă/

Child: Annn…..d. Stand.

Marnie: Very nice! And the word is…

Child: Stand.

Marnie: Let’s erase it! /S/ /t/ /a/ /n/ /d/. Very good.

So, did you hear him put those sounds together?…/Ssssttaaaannnd/.

He didn't go… /S/ /t/ /a/ /n/ /d/ and then try to figure out the word. He put the sounds together as he went, which is awesome!

Let's see, I might need to try to challenge you again! Hmm, okay, I got a challenge.

I gotta erase it to make some space, you're so fast!

Child: St….rrr…..aaannnnddd….Strand.

Marnie: Uh huh. Like a strand of hair.

Child: Strand.

Marnie: Strand. Okay, say the sound as you go. Oh I'm gonna challenge you again, I'm gonna erase it. Oooh, strand.

Okay, can he do it, when he's not able to see it? He’s got to hear the sounds. Strand. Like a strand of hair. Okay, let me hear, you say the…

Child: Ssstttt….

Marnie: Ok. What’s that? Uh huh. Str…. you forgot one sound. 

Child: Oh I forgot. Rrrrr….Ssst..rrrr….aaaaaannnnnddddd.

Marnie: Wow! Ladies and gentlemen – the other way – Oh you’re making a capital /D/? Ladies and gentlemen, did he get “strand”? Yes he did! Woohoo!! Okay, high fives all around!

Marnie: (laughing) No thanks.

Child: Now I’m gonna draw a line.

Marnie: So, you can go, you've done a great job, you went to the hardest level that I have!

Child: St……r…aaannnndd. Strand.

Marnie: Strand. Thank you so much for coming, you did a good job today!

He's also working on the Ă sound

Child: Now I need to get this!

Marnie: Oh that's right, help yourself. So, he’s finished!

Look How Far He's Come

So after being in our “Level Up Your Readers Achievement 5 Day Challenge” in November when he didn't know the short vowels, he's now mastered the short vowels through Switch It and Read It in a reading text with mostly decodable patterns that were aligned with what he was targeting at that time.

Then he moved into the Advanced Code or Advanced Phonics, like the sound /oa/ in all its spellings. He’s learning the Key Sentence, “Go home to show the boat to Joe,” and that helps him remember the spellings of the /oa/ sound, the most frequent spellings.

Then he did /ee/. “He sees many of these each year.

That's another /ee/ sentence that helps him remember those key spellings like double-e and “ea” and many… the /ee/ in /many/.

And now he just started today the /ay/ sound, but I wanted to also just check in to see how his blending purely was going with really challenging CCVCC words and also check in on his short vowels.

So, initially he wanted to choose the long vowel sound, which is fine. That's normal right now since we're teaching him the long vowels. He’s gonna need to develop a strategy, another decoding strategy of Flex It.

With Flex It, he tries one sound, and if it doesn't work….maybe the word was “sand” and he said /saind/. That wasn't it but something like that, then well, /saind/ doesn’t work, flip it out that /ay/ and try another sound.

And that's why Switch It is so helpful because he has developed the ear for finding a problem–pulling out the problem sound and putting in a new sound.

So, what he was practicing was Blend As You Read, and he's pretty good at it so you didn't get to see me coach him how to do it as you go, but I want you to consider that this approach will save you time, particularly with your strugglers.

CVC Level of Phonemic Difficulty

So say you have this word (“sun”). What do a lot of reading programs say to do?

They say to teach…to say the sound segmented fashion. /S/ /ŭ/ /n/ and then go back and try to put it together. Sun.

Well that works for some kids.But it's not a fool-proof decoding strategy. Especially if they have good memories, they can remember all of that. I think what happens a lot of times, even if they're saying /s/ /u/ /n/ in their head, they're putting the sounds together as they go.

And in fact that is the smartest strategy, that's what I want to ask you guys to teach your students. Again, especially beginners or strugglers.

So, instead of going /s/ /u/ /n/, we actually start at the very beginning and put the first two sounds together. What you have so far, /sssss/ /uuuu/ /Suuuuu/ And you hold the vowel, /sssuuuuu/ /n/.

If the student can get to that to that medial vowel–this is the hard part really–if they can blend that much and hold that sound out… /ssuuuuuuu/, then adding the last one is pretty easy.

And then you progress into more phonemically challenging words and continue to get the students to Blend As You Read. So, that’s a CVC word, that's the easiest phonemically.

CVCC Level of Phonemic Difficulty

The next level of phonemic challenge is CVCC. That's like the word ‘help’ that he did today. So, again try to get the student to go to the vowel. /Heeeeeeeeeellllllppppp/

You hold out the vowel and you hold out the consonant /hellllllllll/ and you gradually reveal the consonants, so the student is Blending As You Read; that's the key decoding strategy here.

I know it's so simple and it may seem like it's not that big of a deal, but I find that it's a quick solution for kids who are struggling.

In sum, we did “sun” for CVC. Now this is CVCC, that's a little harder than ‘sun’ but we can make it even more challenging. If you put the two consonants at the beginning, that's the next level of challenge of phonemic development.

CCVC Level of Phonemic Difficulty

So let's do this one. Again, instead of the classic approach of going, “/s/ /p/ /ŏ/ /t/. What word?”

You want to have them Blend As They Read from the very beginning.

First, you ask them to put those first two sounds together. Okay put those first two sounds together. /S/ /p/.

Now maybe they say, “/s/ /p/” and can't figure it out. At that point you just say, that's okay, let me help you. I hear /Sp/, put it together /Sp/ and then go to this sound, and if you do that they will probably be able to put the /ŏ/ in /spŏhhhhh/.

I'll hold it with me, pretending I'm with a child, /spŏ–/ /t/ and then they get the word.

So that's the Blend As You Read decoding strategy, with a slightly harder word.

When the two consonants are at the beginning, it’s harder to blend. Just like when kids say “spaghetti” wrong, and they say sisgetti or pisghetti. It's because the consonants at the beginning of a sound of a word are the hardest developmentally to speak and to read.

Okay we're going to take it to the next level with you.

CCVCC Level of Phonemic Difficulty

If it's hard to put them at the beginning, it's even harder to put them at the beginning and the end.


Okay so that was the example of “stand,” but maybe I'll do another one. This is a CCVCC word and this is the hardest developmentally only from a phonemic perspective. We're still using short vowels but it's just very hard for the student to tackle all these consonant combinations.

So you would ask your student to put the first two sounds together /s/ /t/ /st/ /ŏ/ Hold it. /sssstooooooommmmmm/ /p/ ooh stomp.

And that is Blend As You Read – a very simple but critical component that's missing in a lot of kids’ reading.

I consider this the #1 beginning readers’ strategy.

This is the approach that I want them to take when they are coming upon an unknown word.

What About Phonic Irregularities?

Now some people say, well, this just doesn't work because of all the irregularities in the English language.

And it is true, the irregularities make it harder, but if you are there guiding them in a small group, then they can be successful at it.

And if you also control the text, so they don't see too many irregular words initially when they're first learning how to do this approach, then they can succeed.

You might have remembered that he did this word, and I wrote the /sh/ spelling, I wrote it in a different color, because I wanted him to understand that this is one unit, just like if he was to do this word, say the word ‘thick,’ I'd want him to see that the /th/ is one sound and the /ck/ is one sound, so he wouldn't say /t/ /h/ but he would see this as a unit – “thick.”

So that's how you can help them do the Blend As You Read, when you come to some of the trickier things of our language. Now this isn't irregular but that's how to cope with those consonant digraphs.

So, that is Blend As You Read, here from Reading Simplified. It's the number one strategy that I use with kids of all ages, even actually, kids who are reading in the middle school level.

Blending Problems Drag On and On

Recently I had a student who is a fourth grade student, and she was able to read seventh grade material but she was still struggling in school and she was making mistakes with some of her reading. Her pronunciation, missing words, skipping words, and making some sloppy errors that her mother didn't like and also her teacher said that she wasn't comprehending and lo and behold, her Blend As You Read was very very poor, which matters especially when you read multi-syllable words.

/In/ /tell/

You want to have the same approach, the Blend As You Read approach, used, adopted when the student’s reading multi-syllable words.

I call it Blended By Chunk. So they'd try the first one chunk…/In/ /Intell/ So they've already blended these two together /Intella/ Intelligent.

Instead of /i/ /n/ /t/ /e/ /l/

Blend As Your Read works at the multi-syllable level, too.

This young girl had such a gap in her decoding and her blending, that when we worked on this activity and Switch It and a couple of other things like Sort It, she jumped ahead really quickly. After six sessions, her word attack or ability to read nonsense words, went up two grade levels and that was largely because of this strategy, along with the Switch It strategy.

So if you are coming here and you haven't tried that strategy, I'd love for you to give it a try. There's more information in the blog post about Read It. In the activity Read It, we teach the Blend As You Read strategy, so it's a strategy the student can use with Word Work opportunities, but, of course, really we want them to transfer it into real reading and that is my main point for today.

If you have seen this young boy in earlier videos learn how to do Switch It, then Read It today, we're demonstrating the second thing that he learned to help move him along as a reader. Read It and the Blend As You Read strategy is the second most important tool in my toolkit or my arsenal for being effective an reading teacher.

Thanks for tuning in and if you have any questions, let me know. Also, if you think this would be helpful for a colleague, I would love for you to forward this post to them, so that they can get access to this information. If you think this information is unusual and it may be helpful, then maybe some of your peers will as well.

What blending problems have you faced? Please respond in the comments below!