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Stephanie Lizrraga

ENG 487
Dr. Z
27 April 2015
Homework #3

Teaching Decoding by Louisa C. Moats talks about an issue that we have also discussed
in class, the fact that the English language is very confusing. It is stated that, As it has become
increasingly apparent that substantial numbers of children are failing to become skilled readers, a
consensus is emerging among reading researchers, practitioners, and policy makers concerning
the critical role that decoding plays in the reading process. The process of learning letters and
sounds begins at an early age, and young children usually begin to recognize vocabulary of
whole words through cues, such as pictures, colors, or shapes. One of the examples given was
pointing out a slice of pizza to a child and the child responding to it by saying hot or m m m
m. At this stage children still do not know that words are composed of phonemes, that letters
represent those speech sounds, and that words can be decoded by matching symbol to sound. It is
important to help young children develop the skill of print awareness, by alphabet matching and
letter naming, and having them follow the print with the finger during read-alouds so they can
develop awareness and familiarization. After achieving this they will better understand that
letters merely represent segments of ones own speech.
To develop strong reading skills children must develop the insight that letters represent
abstract speech segments and must be able to compare the similarities and differences of similar

sounding words. Through chaining games students can build words with letter cards and see
how one sound can be changed to make a new word, such as: hat, bat, bit, hit, him, hip, hap,
map. After the words with the similar sound-symbol connections are blended, they should be
used in sentences.
Moats talks about how our brand of English has at least forty speech sounds or
phonemes: twenty-five consonants and fifteen vowels, but when we teach students either ELLs
or not we only teach them the twenty-six letters A-Z and five vowels, A, E, I, O, U. English does
not use a phonetic alphabet, wherein one letter represents a speech sound. This can be confusing
for students, even those who speak English only because language is learned from speech to
print. For example the letter c has the sound of a /k/and /s/ like in cat or circle. In this example
we can see how redundant the alphabet-to-sound approach is because some letter names have
little to no relationship to the sound the letters represent. Having the alphabet posted in any
elementary classroom is something we frequently see, it usually has sight words listed right
underneath such as, Aa with a list of words like apple, and, away, all, and are. However, Moats
makes a very relevant point by stating that it would be much more logical to teach children each
sound, then anchor the sound to the grapheme (letter, letter group, or letter sequence) with a
keyword mnemonic. This would make it easier for students to identify the different sounds each
letter has, for example /s/ would be associated with snake and the letter s, and later with with
the ci and ce combinations like in city and race.
The easiest way to teach decoding to children is to teach it in a manner that is the easiest
for them. Teaching systematically explicitly contrasts with incidental, implicit instruction. In
incidental teaching, sound-symbol elements are taught without intention to follow a sequence

from easier to more difficult. Whereas systematic, explicit instruction leaves little to chance and
ensures the success of most children. The phonic elements are taught in a logical order, simple to
complex, following the structure of language itself. In systematic code instruction, decodable
books are used to that are aligned with the sound-symbol association taught in the lesson. These
books are created to make independent reading for the beginner possible, they provide practice
reading words that have specific spelling patterns or letter-sound correspondences and to
encourage sounding words out. Reading decodable texts are a good start for young readers, but it
should never replace oral reading of quality literature in a comprehensive reading program.
As teachers we must encourage active, constructive exploration, meaning hands on
activities and not just workbook tasks. While workbooks are often used as a tool for assessment,
they are also sometimes misused as a substitute for teaching. The brain responds to novelty and
sensory involvement, hence why we learn better by doing than by listening. Some effective ways
to approach this phonological awareness would be by emphasizing mouth position and the ability
to compare how words feel when they are spoken. As stated above workbook work sometimes in
the supplement to whole-language classroom reading programs. This becomes a problem
because it is inefficient, it takes longer to teach children what they need to learn, and it also
becomes less likely that all children that are capable to read will learn how to read.
Some of the reasons why decoding may not be taught is because teachers are not well
trained to do so. It requires knowledge of language, including phonology and the structure of
orthography, knowledge of how children learn language, and strategies for teaching a writing
system incrementally even as the purpose of reading is kept in focus.

From my perspective the article made some really good points and although Moats does
not directly address ESL students, Generation 1.5 students, or any other English Learners in the
article I still think they relate to each. Teaching decoding to the students would make their
experience learning the English language much easier because they will learn the multiple ways
in which each letter is pronounced or the different sounds letter combinations make. While
teaching decoding the teacher will also be teaching phonology and the structure of phonology. I
believe is is crucial for ELL students to be able to differentiate the sounds to be able to better
pronounce and write them, for example /p/ and /b/ and how it can easily be confused with the
writing and pronunciation of pest and best, /k/, /g/ with cut and gut. In this example the students
would need to know that although cut is spelled with a c it is pronounced with the sound of k.
One of the points she makes that I find most relevant to teaching ELL students is that the
use of workbooks sometimes takes over and the teacher does not effectively teach the lesson. I
agree with her that some of the best decoding programs will ask the students to stand at the
chalkboard and write words as they are analyzed, sounded out, and explained. This I think is a
very effective way of teaching children spelling and pronunciation. From personal experience I
can say that a tactic like this works. I was taking Spanish 280 last summer and I had always had
a hard time identifying where the stressed syllable was and whether it would need an accent
mark. After various failed attempts on worksheets the professor made us go up to the board and
practice their, he would say a word and we had to spell it out by syllables and then pronounce it
until we found the stressed syllable and decide whether the tilde was needed or not. After this
exercise I was finally able to make the distinctions and follow the tilde rules. I compare this to
the experience of ELL students because they are learning a new language, and although I was not

learning a new language altogether I was learning the technicalities of the language and how to
write it correctly. Decoding will give the students the advantage of knowing letters have different
sounds when paired with a different letter like c has the sound of /k/ in cranky and of /s/ in
circles.