Introductory Challenge

This unit focuses on helping readers “decode” written words that are new to them. Though beginning readers are most aware of decoding—figuring out the sound and meaning of written words that are unfamiliar—all readers decode to some extent when they come across new words in their reading. Experienced readers decode automatically, without having to give it much thought. Less experienced readers sometimes find decoding hard. Struggling readers may find decoding so difficult that they avoid reading. As you go through this unit, think about the major decoding strategies of phonemic awareness, structural analysis, and context clues and which of the three strategies you use most in your own reading. Three sets of questions to help you think about these three issues might provide focus:

  • When you read, do you hear the sound of each word in your head? If so, what happens when you encounter an unfamiliar word? If you do not hear the sounds of words when you read, what happens when you encounter an unfamiliar word?
  • How do you use meaningful parts of words to figure out unusual or unfamiliar words, such as “prenuptial,” “antediluvian,” “protoplasm,” or “hapless”?
  • If you are reading technical material on the web (e.g., information about medicine, computers, science) and you encounter an unfamiliar word, what do you do?