Tips for Learning New Vocabulary Words

Using Decoding Strategies to Learn Words and Meanings


Decoding new words and meanings simply means a student is able to determine how to pronounce a word and figure out what it means by using his or her knowledge of the letters, sounds, and word patterns. This practice is important in readers of all ages, including both beginners and those who are more advanced.  Developing more experience with word structure will give students more ability to read words that they have never encountered.

Learning to Read
Decoding relies on sounding out words and is a very successful way of teaching people how to read.  After early readers learn the alphabet and the sounds associated with each letter, they can begin to learn to decode, or sound out groups of letters in order to pronounce the words. When early readers are able to learn to decode new words, they gain more experience.  As a result, a foundation develops which enhances reading skills and improves confidence.

Letters with Multiple Sounds
It is important for new readers to learn the alphabet and associated sounds, as many letters in the English language sound different in different words. Because of this, it is critical to learn the multiple sounds each letter makes. This knowledge is added to decoding skills to help readers learn to pronounce words that are more difficult.

Hearing and Playing With Sounds
A key factor in the successful decoding of words lies in the ability to appreciate sounds and rhymes. The act of rhyming allows students to focus on the individual sounds of words. Additionally, it teaches them to focus on important details by filtering out the non-essential ones. As a result, rhyming is an important foundation for learning new words and their meanings.  Beginning readers should play rhyming games and concentrate on learning to recognize when and if words follow patterns.  

Recognizing Words by Sight
Eventually, through practice, students will develop a list of words that they recognize instantly by sight. This is an important step towards becoming a master reader.  Students should be able to not only decode words on an automatic level, but also, be quick and accurate. However, this comes through daily practice and exercise; eventually the students' answers become automatic.  As this ability develops, students will be able to recognize words more quickly even if they have not been practiced yet.

Many programs rely heavily on teaching decoding skills to early readers in efforts to improve confidence level and reading skills. As a result, there are quite a few of these programs reporting a high success rate at around ninety percent.  However, there are critics that believe decoding can be laborious because of the time readers must spend mastering the strategies. In addition, critics claim that the many different sounds of a letter can be an obstacle. However, the success rate of students who have used this system speaks volumes.