How decodable books can support language comprehension

Scarborough’s Reading Rope is a wonderful theoretical framework for describing the complexity of reading and what we need to teach children in order to become fluent readers who can comprehend a text successfully.

Decoding is on one branch of the rope, and language comprehension is on the other branch. These become increasingly intertwined as children become fluent readers. Both parts of the Reading Rope must develop in tandem. When children are complete beginners, teachers can enrich and develop language comprehension through ‘read aloud’ books that the children can’t yet read themselves. One may be tempted to think that children can only begin to develop language comprehension through their own reading once they become fluent readers. We would like to argue that children can develop language comprehension as they learn to decode.

How can decodable books develop language comprehension?

Decodable books can introduce new and interesting words.

Our Dandelion Readers books Levels 1-4 list new vocabulary children can learn. Pre-teaching the new vocabulary will help children understand the text when they encounter the new words in the context of a sentence. See below how the words: stream, keen, and current are introduced.  This is an opportunity to clarify homophones – the word ‘current’ in a stream is different to the word ‘currant’ in a cake…Vocab annotated 4

Context helps to understand the story.

Talking about the story helps children understand what is it about. This sets a context to the story. For example: “Tosh jumps into the stream to swim. He gets carried away by the strong current. What can happen to someone if they jump into a stream with a strong current?” A great way to discuss what to expect in the story.

Stream annotated text 1

Reading new vocabulary in the text.

When reading the text the teacher can pause to clarify any expression or vocabulary that is new: “What do you think ‘sunny spot’ means?” Or: “What does the sentence ‘Shep was not keen’ mean? Why do you think he wasn’t keen to jump into the stream?” Lots to discuss here.

Stream annotated 2

Learning to decode and language comprehension can work in tandem!  Let’s teach it this way!



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