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Decoding Words to Reading Sentences


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DS (a preschooler) has been decoding individual words with increasing fluency for about 6mo now, however he is having a hard time moving to short, 3-5 word sentences. By the time he reaches the end of a sentence, he has forgotten the beginning. Is this something that will sort itself out over time, or should I be concerned?

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It will sort itself out over time. One thing that I do is read behind the child, so if they are decoding word-by-word the sentence "The fat man sat on the mat" it sounds a lot like this.


"The......fffaat....maaaaan.....saaaat....oooon....the....mat" so during those .... parts, ***I*** might reread the sentence up to that point so that it's clicking for them. Then, once they have decoded it through to the end, I have them read/say the whole sentence all together. But in PreK, your son may be too young, he may not be. Give it a try.


Also, have you see the Sight Words by Sound list? If not, I highly encourage you to begin working on the sight-words that your son can currently decode and work on building familiarity/fluency with them. Have you tried out the I See Sam books? The first 50 or so books are 100% free online, the series is a lot like a phonetic version of Dick and Jane and can do tremendous things for a budding readers fluency.



Edited by mom2bee
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Also, just focus on phrases of just 2-3 words. Let him gain fluency and stamina with 2 and 3 word phrases/sentences, then work on extending it to 4-5 words and build up the stamina gradually. The most important thing is that he gain fluency decoding words.


Once he's decoding/recognizing familiar words within 3 seconds or less, then he is ready to begin chunking as he reads.

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I'll just let him keep working on individual words then. He balks at readers - I think he finds seeing several words on a page intimidating. If I cover up all but one word, he is fine but if I give him a card w/ 3-4 words he starts the "I can't..." routine. I have been "filling in" the sentences he reads (like in your example) but wasn't sure when I should expect him to begin keeping those words in his mind. I'm sure he'll let me know when he is ready 😊

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Yeah, I wouldn't push readers with him if he is reluctant and given his age.

I would make word strips with 1-2 words per strip that can be arranged in sentences/phrases for him to play with or use to label pictures in books.


The kid

has a

big cup

is a

big kid

bad dog

the cat

is not

is not a

has not

had a



can run

can not

run and


on to

on the

big cot

bad pig

big log



Spend some time every day or other day reading couplets and making funny sentences/phrases, maybe matching certain phrases to a book or a playset that you have around the house. That way, he could create sentences/phrases and read only 2 words at a time and build stamina for reading words.


As he grows more familiar with and fluent at reading 2-words at a time, you can add in some 3-word phrases for him to play with as well and onces he's reading 5 words with more comfort, you can try introducing readers such as I See Sam or Bob Books.

Edited by mom2bee
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Ooh, your examples make me think of Silly Sentences (a game he loves)! I can't believe it hadn't occurred to me to have him build his own as reading practice!


We have plenty of premade readers to choose from once he gets there... but being goofy is much more fun 😉

Edited by Expat_Mama_Shelli
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The short phrases Idea reminded me of Progressive Phonics----If you haven't seen them, they are free, downloadable books that contain silly stories.  The trick is that the stories have some words for the kid to read, and some for the parent.  It made a HUGE difference in helping my kiddo gain confidence for multi-word phrases and eventually long sentences.  

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I think AAR does a wonderful job of helping bridge the gap using their fluency sheets. 

They gradually build a sentence like this:



Sam had

Sam had a fat

Sam had a fat cat.


Reading over the first words again each time definitely works to help them build fluency with short sentences.

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