3 Easy Ways to Add Comprehension into Decoding Word Work

When I first started teaching 15 years ago, phonics and phonics readers had a bit of a bad rap because they weren't as engaging and there was little to no comprehension piece to those phonics readers or decoding words practice.

But why not?  Why not add comprehension work along with the decoding practice to give our reading a purpose?  It was a no-brainer for me to beef up our decoding work by taking an extra few seconds at the end for comprehension.

Our basic routine is simple.  We read the words, highlight the focus sounds and then I ask meaning questions.  There are 3 main types of questions that I ask to add that comprehension piece to our decoding routines.  Let's take a closer look at each of them.

Word meaning I spy

This game works best after decoding a word list.  First, we read our decodable words from our digital phonics lessons.

Then, we play I spy.  Here's an example with the short decodable word lists we use each day in our digital phonics lessons.

"I spy a word that rhymes with bag." (swag)

"I spy a word with the /sk/ sound." (skip)

"I spy a word that is another word for dot."  (spot)

I use I spy questions about sounds, rhyming, definitions, synonyms, antonyms, multiple meaning words and more!

This simple activity is easy to do in any setting with any list and increases kid's critical thinking skills.  In order to answer each question, they must be able to understand the question you asked, decode the words again, and figure out the answer to the question.

I've done this using Think-Pair-Share during whole group phonics, or by giving kids dry erase boards to record the correct word in small groups!  

Use it in a sentence

This one is self-explanatory.  The only difference is that after a decoding word list, I don't say the word.  I'll say...

"Turn to your partner and use the first word on the list in a sentence."

For a challenge, ask your kids to use two of the words in the same sentence!

TEACHER TIP:  When we share, I ask the person to tell me their partner's sentence for additional accountability, and to practice their listening skills. :)

I like to keep our comprehension work pretty quick and to the point, so we do this orally.  But this would make an easy writing task for extension work if you needed a way to tie it in to writing and spelling as well.

Illustrate the Word

There are two ways I like to use this strategy.  One way I use this is by having students illustrate a word I call out and they illustrate it on their copy of their decodable words.  

Sometimes, it's as simple as...

"Illustrate the word LIP."

Other times, I combine the I spy with the illustrations...

"Circle the word that means fake hair.  Illustrate it."

The other way I like to use illustrations is by playing pictionary.  I draw the picture and the kids guess the word!  This one is super engaging, but is best for a smaller list of 3-5 decodable words so it's not overwhelming to the kids to find the correct word.

If you're looking for decodable word lists you can find the digital ones I've used in these examples in my Super Phonics digital lessons and the printable words lists in my decodable packets!

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