Prescriptive Systematic Intervention
Prescriptive Systematic Intervention
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3 Reasons Decoding Practice Strengthens Your Phonics Block



I truly believe this and want to share how all students can simultaneously learn their letters and sounds, while also learning how to read.

After reading this post you:

1. How to use a Blending board as a tool to accelerate word decoding. 

Before Jumping in, let's define some of words:

Phonemic awareness:  the ability to hear and manipulate phonemes (this is all auditory)

Phoneme: the smallest unit of speech that helps to distinguish between different words.  For example: cat, can, con, cot.

Phonics: Teaching the relationship between sounds and letters (reading and writing)


Visual Vocabulary Phonics

Decoding: "The ability to apply your knowledge of letter-sound relationships, including knowledge of letter patterns, to correctly pronounce written words," (Word Decoding and Phonics, Reading Rockets) 

Blending: Combining sounds (students practice this skill in both phonemic awareness practice and phonics). Blending happens in both phonemic awareness practice and during phonics, how it is practiced is different, the first is auditory, the second is connecting the symbol(letter) with the sound.

Before getting into the bulk of this post, it is important to know that phonics and decoding is only one component of a structured literacy approach.  There are six main components!

6 Components of Structured LiteracyAs you can see phonics and decoding is just one small component to a larger system that helps to build readers!


The first reason to add decoding practice, is that it is a part of a structured literacy approach.  Orthography is the ability to map sound to symbol.  The more fluent students are with decoding and reading words, the more of their brain power they can free up to work on comprehension of the words they are reading. 

The automatic ability to read a word, gives the brain more space to make meaning of the word or words being read.  When a reader works really hard at decoding words, there is not enough brain space to compute what is being read. 

This is the least scientific definition, but it is how I understand why orthography is important!

Structure Phonics Teaching Cycle

The second reason is repeated exposure!

I define repeated exposure as the amount of times students see a concept or practice a skill.  Embedded in decoding practice is multiple points of practice for growing skills.  

When using decoding practice through a blending board, previous taught skills live on the board until there is 85% mastery of a given phoneme or sound pattern.  Students practice daily decoding both real and nonsense words using the board.


The third reason is accelerated achievement!

I went to an Orton Gillingham training and learned that students retain new concepts when provided explicit and systematic instruction (we as teachers know this) AND multi-sensory approach to their learning.

Multi-sensory relates to students learning a new skills through multiple  avenues.  In the classroom this can be seeing, saying, writing, and reading.  

For example,  students I work with see the new phoneme pattern initially in a morning message, then explicitly practice chanting the new pattern in phonics, we write it, we identify it in words we can decode, add the phoneme to our blending board and then have independent practice with dictation and writing sentences using red words.

All these different way of learning and accessing content helps with retention and mastery.  While Orton Gillingham is often associated with helping children with dyslexia or other learning difficulties, the methods help all learners to retain new content quicker!

I mean it when I say that all my students are reading and decoding by December and some sooner.  I assert every year to parents that their children will read by January.  Many laugh at me, but I know that using a structured literacy approach that includes decoding works.

Letters first Sounds Second or Both?

I know some may ask or question teaching decoding and word reading while students are still learning their letters and sounds.  Teaching them in tandem is the way to go!

Each day my students and I run through letters: captial, lowercase, then sounds.  We do this until there is about 90% mastery, then I move the remaining students into intervention or tier 2 (small groups).

If you need a set of letter sound cards, here you go!  Each day we go through our sounds, when children get stuck, I give them the sound but also use the image on the card as a referent, but not a solution.

Phonics offers repeated exposure and reinforcement for known letter sounds!

Once finished with letter sounds, we move into our phonics routine which included writing known sounds, introducing and writing a new phoneme pattern and going through our lesson cycle, which includes seeing known letter sounds on our blending board that helps us decode words. 

Some of the words are made up, some are real.  The idea is students move from reading each sound, then blending, to progressive blending, then reading whole words with automaticity.

Bleding and Decoding Words

Each introduced phoneme follows a sequence, it is not by random how concepts are introduced.  Concepts are built upon and it is only through assessment that maybe we move out a phoneme or leave others.  I am looking for 85% mastery!

This is the scope and sequence I guide my instruction with.  It has lots of time for reteaching sounds and concepts.  This also allows my groups to be flexible and change.  I have found that students acquisition of phonemes changes rapidly.  Some kids grow quickly, while some are stagnant for longer.  Only data can give you a clear and holistic picture of your class!

Sample Scope and Sequence


Well, hopefully you now have an idea of how to add decoding and blending to your day.


As always if you have questions, reach out!







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  • Malorie Stuart on

    Hi Lena, you are so welcome! I am so happy this article was helpful!

  • Lena on

    Thanks for generously sharing your resources and techniques with us!

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