Get ’em Unstuck! – c-a-t-

Do you have students who, in spite of your fabulous teaching, still make crazy errors while decoding? We do too!  Most errors are easily corrected with a few sessions of very small group work, followed by lots of practice.  However, there is one error that seems so difficult to correct.  Students who make the error while decoding, sound like this:  “/c/a/t/……horse?”  Or the classic….. “/m/o/p/…..elephant?” Every year, there seems to be one or two of our young readers that have this type of difficulty.  It always surprises me that we don’t have more students that do this. After all, knowing and recalling the sounds, then holding them in memory and blending them as a word, is quite difficult! In these cases, the thing we often jump to is more decoding.  Out come the lists of vc or cvc words for more practice. Usually, that doesn’t work for this type of error though.  Most students who decode with this type of error haven’t fully developed an understanding of how sounds blend into words.  They often need more practice with some basics first. If you have a student who is “decoding” like this, try these steps:

  1. Make sure the child knows the letter sounds with automaticity. 
  2. Go back and spend some time having the student orally segment and blend until he or she is better able to hear when the sounds make a word.
  3. Then, model explicitly how to blend the sounds they see in words. If the child has difficulty blending c-a-t, teach them to cover the last sound, blend the first two, then add back the last sound.  Ca -t, cat. This often does the trick for those who have trouble blending sound by sound. 
  4. Now, go to your word lists, word ladders and other activities for more practice.  
Usually the steps above, if given enough time at each step, will get a child “unstuck” from their decoding errors.  So if you have a young reader making silly decoding errors, give these steps a try.  I think you’ll find that they work well. 

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