Decoding Words


Our Decoding Words lesson plan teaches students some decoding skills and improves reading fluency. Students learn about phonics and word analysis and how to apply these skills to their reading in order to enhance comprehension. Students will learn helpful ways to learn how to pronounce and define new words as well.

Included with this lesson are some adjustments or additions that you can make if you’d like, found in the “Options for Lesson” section of the Classroom Procedure page. One of the optional additions to this lesson is to have students use interactive websites to learn how to pronounce unfamiliar words.

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What our Decoding Words lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Decoding Words develops decoding skills and improves reading fluency. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis in decoding words. This lesson is for students in 1st grade and 2nd grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, the only supplies you need are the handouts. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can pair students for the activity, find a word or sentence for the lesson opening, and copy the handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. Several of the suggestions for optional additions are for the activity worksheet. One of these suggestions is to add additional words to extend the activity. You can also add some “nonsense” words or you can have your class complete the activity together, aloud.

During the lesson itself, you can use current subject-matter content to help demonstrate word decoding. You can also complete the practice worksheet as a class, instead of having students complete it on their own. You can create a list of common sounds as an additional resource for students to use during this lesson. If you think it’s necessary, you can also pair struggling readers with students who are higher level readers. Students can use interactive websites to learn how to pronounce unfamiliar words. Finally, you can explain to students that certain letter pairs can represent either one or two sounds.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. It notes that this lesson is just one of many that can be used to help students gain reading comprehension skills, and that it’s a good idea to pair it with some other lessons as well. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


Letters and Words

The Decoding Words lesson plan includes three pages of content. The lesson begins by explaining that there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. However, there are thousands and thousands of words that you can make from those letters. We have over 170,000 words in the English language! There are words that you know how to pronounce and what they mean, words that you know how to pronounce but don’t know the meaning of, and words that you don’t know how to pronounce or know the meaning of.

The words in this last category are words that are unfamiliar to you. There are also words that you know the meaning of, but don’t know how to pronounce, which can be confusing! The lesson lists some common words that students will likely know both the meaning of and how to pronounce, like cat and dog. It also lists some words that they likely know the meaning of but might not know how to pronounce, like curiosity and embarrass. We read many words every single day, in magazines, books, on web sites, on signs, and in many other places!

A good way to start learning new words is to look at pictures that correspond to certain words. Pictures can help you figure out the meaning of the word. You can then figure out how to pronounce it. However, you will often not have any picture clues when reading. To figure out the meaning of a new word, you can look it up on the internet or in a dictionary. However, a faster way to figure out a word’s meaning is to learn how to decode words. Decoding words is a useful skill that teaches you how to read a new word according to certain rules or “codes”.

The Secret Code

Next, students will discover that they can learn to read new words not with a secret code, but by putting certain letter sounds together. Letter sounds are the sounds that a letter makes in a word. Some of these sounds are made with two letters, while some are made with three or more. Learning these letter sounds is the secret code that you can use to learn new words!

The lesson includes some examples using the common words from earlier in the lesson. One of these examples is the word cat. The first sounds in the word cat is c (k-sound), the second sound is a (short a-sound), and the third sound is t (t-sound). This word, like many others, has three sounds. If you join the individual sounds found in a word together, you can crack the code of how to pronounce it! You can use this method of decoding words to learn to pronounce many of the 170,000 words in the English language.

Five Steps in Learning New Words

Finally, students will learn the five steps for learning and decoding new words. You can use these steps to learn to pronounce new words, read similar words, and figure out the meaning of the words. You will not always need to use all five steps — you might need only one or two!

The first step is to start with sounding the first letter of the word out. Do the same with the other letter sounds in the word, and then blend them together and try to say the full word out loud. Read it aloud to see if the word makes sense out loud and in a sentence. The second step is to break the word into chunks of two or three letters. For example, you might notice that the word catastrophe begins with cat. Look out for prefixes, suffixes, endings, or other entire words inside of longer words. Read these chunks of the word altogether, and see if the word makes sense.

The third step is to consider if the whole word or part of the whole word looks like another word you already know. If it does, the new word might have a similar meaning to the word you already know. The fourth step (which you should move on to if you haven’t figured out the meaning and pronunciation using the first three steps) is to read the whole sentence again to look for clues that will help you determine the meaning.

The fifth step is to read other sentences in the text besides the one that contains the unfamiliar word. If the word appears in other sentences as well, do those sentences have information that can help you figure out the meaning? You can also think about the word in the context of the subject of the book or text.

These five steps can help you figure out the meaning and pronunciation of unfamiliar words. However, there will be times when using these steps will not teach you the meaning. In these cases, you can use a dictionary or ask someone else for help! The more you read, the more words you will learn, and the easier decoding new words will become. By using decoding, you can learn many new words and learn new things about many different subjects, like science and history!



Students will work with a partner to complete this activity. They will use the decoding skills that they learned during this lesson to learn how to pronounce various words. They will practice saying 20 words and will mark whether they think pronouncing that word is easy, medium, or difficult. Next, they will circle any words that they already know the meaning of.

Students may also work either alone or in groups of three for this activity if you’d prefer.


For the practice worksheet, students will first place the five decoding steps in the correct order. Next, they will read 10 statements that include nonsense words. They will decode each nonsense word to learn how to pronounce it, and will also use the clues in the rest of the sentence to figure out its meaning. They will write the meaning of each word down on the worksheet.


The homework assignment asks students to complete three short exercises. For the first exercise, they will read 15 words and write down how many different sounds make up each of them. Next, they will read a paragraph and write down the meaning of five underlined words (these words include volcano and mesmerized). Finally, they will decode 15 words with the help of an adult family member or friend. They will learn the pronunciation and meaning of each word.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. No answer key is provided for the activity worksheet, as students’ answers will vary. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


1st Grade, 2nd Grade


Reading, Video

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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Susanna H.

Some of the words to decode were too difficult for my student. Need to go down one level lower and work on phonics more. Other than that, this is an excellent resource.

Tiffany A.

Decoding Words

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Sharon L.

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Decoding word

This gave me some great ideas for an assessment

Jodi P.

Decoding help

I purchased this packet to use with my students who have been identified as having characteristics of Dyslexia. This is a very good product and definitely meets the need. Thanks