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Decodable text for teens and adults

We’re often asked what decodable readers we recommend and the answer is ‘none’. This is because the vast majority of TRT learners, even those who are working slowly through the *Foundation levels, are not beginning readers.

  • They all come with some sight words so there’s no reason to limit those in text.
  • They usually know all the basic alphabet sounds for both reading and writing and can work with multisyllabic words from the first lesson.
  • That Reading Thing is structured to get a student from ‘sap’ to ‘recognition’ in 3-5 hours. Students with more entrenched difficulties might take 6-9 hours, but that’s far quicker than most beginning phonics programmes.
  • We also have a policy of not reading anything they’d be embarrased to be seen with.

That said, we’re not against controlling text to guarantee success for people who feel that reading is beyond them. Even teachers who don’t like phonics at all will choose text for simple syntax and familiar vocabulary when working with adult learners. We just add expected code knowledge into the mix.

It’s easy to find text for students who are flying through the Foundation levels, but those who are working hard rather than flying need more carefully selected reading material. We suggest looking for high interest articles and stories that contain a lot of words your student will be able to decode at a certain TRT level. Sometimes it will be about something they’ve asked for but sometimes you just stumble across a story you think will be fun to read together. See also Where reading can take you.

Many years ago I thought the first part of this online news article would be great for a teenager who was working at about Level 6 in TRT (split vowels). At that level, expected code knowledge is still very restricted, so I was thrilled to find so many words that were either decodable or decodable with one sound (in bold) given. In the first sentence alone are:

when     Dave    staggered    up   Jeff   drenched    in     astonished   logger    think    thing    man    get    him    hospital

See the whole article – opens as a pdf. (NB photo of dead animal)

However, a lot of decodable words won’t necessarily make a text easy to read. I understood that a 14-year-old in Birkenhead wouldn’t know what a cougar, logger or loading machine were and Rheaume would be given freely; however, when they read the sentence that started, “Bundling the 61 year old mill worker”, the student thought the man’s name was Bundling. So decodable isn’t enough – but that doesn’t mean our students shouldn’t be reading from authentic sources. As a bridge, I created a more straightforward excerpt and brought it along with the original so they could see the photos and try to read it if they wanted to – and they did. Starting with a simplified text allows for much more fluent reading and comprehension but having the original right there is important as a reminder that, after only a couple of hours of TRT, they are already getting closer to reading whatever they want.

For more on authentic reading material and phonics see:

Books for struggling readers – lowest ability

Books for struggling readers  – middle ability

Books for struggling readers – higher ability

*Foundation levels: Words and syllables: all basic code cvc, cvcc/ccvc and beyond, sh/ch/th, split digraphs, ck/x/qu (review), endings: le, y, er, ing, tion, and ed.

Followed by the Advanced Levels and the concepts of Look the Same, Sound different (sunny, try, yet, myth) and Sound the Same, Look Different (cat, kit, black, Chris, tobacco, cheque)

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