Meet the (Word) Family – Developing Decoding Skills Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series I explained what decoding means and why it is an important part of learning to read. Now let us imagine that you’ve used some of the other strategies I’ve shared to help your child with reading, and you’re starting to see them develop more confidence when presented with new words. How delightful! Does that mean you don’t need to do any more practice with them? Of course not! It might mean that you need to change up some of the activities you’re using though. That’s where the following list of ideas will help you. If your child has some alphabet knowledge already and is able to read simple words on their own, here is a list of things you can do to keep encouraging those decoding skills to develop.

Utilise Vocabulary Lists

A vocabulary list is simply a list of all the words related to a topic you are working on. These are often used in classrooms, but can be used at home too. A simple way to start is by using seasonal word lists. When you start a new season, brainstorm all the words you can think of that are associated with that season and then write them out. Keep referring to these words throughout the following weeks until your child becomes familiar with them. You can find some examples of vocabulary lists here.


What About Word Families?

Word families are words that have the same base word but different prefixes and suffixes added. For example, unfair, repair and armchair are all in the ‘air’ word family. This is a similar strategy to teaching digraphs, as mentioned in my last post, but often involves focusing on sounds of three or more letters at a time. (Remember, digraphs involve only two letters making one sound.) You can easily combine the use of word families with other activities, like the roll and read game I talked about previously, which I’ve done here.


Follow Along

As you begin to read more complex books with your child, make sure you are following along as you read each word. You might also ask your child to follow along for you as you read. This helps draw their attention to what each word looks like, and the letters that form it. You can use your finger to point to the words or have a special pointer to make things more fun!


Complete the Sentence

If you want to know whether your child understands the meanings of the words they are reading, having them complete the sentence with the word that makes the most sense is simple and effective. Make sure you provide a list of options first, and go through what each word says. Then, give your child a chance to sort them into the correct sentence. This way they are taking their decoding skills one step further, by then looking at the context of the word to figure out its meaning.


Stack Letters to Make New Words

Once your child is able to read simple words quite fluently, pull out those letter tiles again and try stacking or swapping letters to make new words. For example, if you start with the word ‘day’ you might then decide to swap the ‘d’ for a ‘p’ to make ‘pay’. You can keep taking turns at this until you’ve used up all your options.


Find and Highlight Key Words

Sometimes it helps to have a few key words that you are focusing on when reading a text. These might be sight words or words with the same digraph in them. Have your child point out these words in the text as you get to them. If you’re using printable readers like this one, they can physically highlight the keywords and then easily find them again later.


Set a Reading Challenge

Finally, to keep your child motivated to read, try setting a challenge! I have often used holiday reading challenges with my students, but there’s no need to wait until the holidays. Keep a list of challenge tasks handy for those weekends when your child is looking for something to do. As they read each book, they can record it on their challenge paper. You can even have a reward for them once they complete all the tasks as an incentive! (And that reward could be buying them a new book! Keep that reading cycle going!)


Now that you’re equipped with so many ideas for developing decoding skills I hope you enjoy trying them out with your child! Use the links to buy your own copies of the resources I’ve referenced. Have fun reading together!

Have a question or a request? You can contact me at

2 responses to “Meet the (Word) Family – Developing Decoding Skills Part 3”

  1. Sing, Sing a Song – Developing Decoding Skills Part 2 – The Musings of Mrs T Avatar

    […] Still after some more ideas? Stay tuned for the final post in this series: Meet The (Word) Family – Developing Decoding Skills Part 3. […]


  2. The Problem with Maths: Promoting Problem-Solving Skills – The Musings of Mrs T Avatar

    […] mentioned the use of reading challenges in a previous post, but setting challenges is a great strategy to use to build problem-solving skills in any subject […]


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