All About Decodable Texts: What They Are & How to Use Them!

Are you tired of watching your young readers struggle with reading like they’re trying to decode hieroglyphics? For years, I used mostly leveled texts in my guided reading groups, before I learned about the power of decodable texts.

When students are learning to read, they need decodable texts!

Think of decodable text like a superhero sidekick for early readers. Batman has Robin, Iron Man has Jarvis, and early readers have decodable text. It swoops in and provides a phonetically controlled safety net to support students in applying phonics skills they learn. 

Providing your students with text they can read is the best way to help your students develop their decoding skills. So, grab your capes and let’s dive into the world of decodable text!

What are Decodable Texts Anyway?

Decodable texts can be passages, readers, and chapter books. Each of these texts is written with a focus on a particular phonetic pattern or word family. It’s phonics instruction in context!

Decodable texts should include mostly words that include phonics skills students have learned, as well as the new focus skill. This avoids students having to guess or rely on picture cues and context to decode. Instead, it teaches students to focus on the text and apply their phonics skills.

Since decodable texts are, well, decodable, they make texts easier to read, which makes them great for both early readers and struggling readers.

How Are Decodable Texts Different from Leveled Readers?

Decodable texts are different from leveled readers. Leveled readers are designed to provide challenges for students at different reading levels, and they may include a wider variety of words, more complex sentence structures and vocabulary than decodable texts.

With leveled readers, students may rely on illustrations and context to determine any unfamiliar words since they often include words with skills students haven’t yet learned.

Leveled books have a strong focus on comprehension and fluency at the reader’s level. Decodable texts have a strong focus on phonics at the reader’s level, so kids can apply the skills they are learning to decode.

Decodable texts and leveled readers are not the same and they are not interchangeable. Each serves a valuable but different purpose in the teaching of reading.

Why Use Them?

Here are just a few of the benefits of using decodable texts for small-group reading: 

  • Decodable texts allow kids to practice a specific target skill (This strengthens their orthographic mapping and reinforces explicit teaching!)
  • Kiddos can really read these texts without relying on pictures and/or context to guess at words.
  • They often increase independence! And I’m sure you’d love knowing your students are actually reading their texts, rather than just flipping through the pictures, when they’re not working with you.
  • When kids can actually read the texts they are given, this boosts confidence and motivation.

How do I Choose the Best Decodable Texts?

Choosing decodable text is going to be more simple than you might expect!

Here are a few things you’ll want to consider when choosing the best for your small groups: 

  • The decodable text should match your skill order. After all, they’re only decodable if students have learned the skills to decode them.
  • You can start with super simple text, like sentences before moving on to short paragraphs, and then books. Over time, increase the length.
  • You also want to choose decodables that have enough of the focus skill for ample practice, but still make sense. No Rob lobs the rod on the log stories, just to get short o words! Remember, we always want our students to understand what they read, so decodable texts have to be comprehensible.

Although phonics skills are essential to decodable texts, it’s important to include comprehension and fluency within these lessons.

How Can I Best Utilize Them?

Before reading a decodable text, explicitly teach the high-frequency words that will appear in it. Since these words won’t be decodable for your students or follow your focus skill, it’s important to introduce them before getting into the text.  

You’ll also want to pre-teach any “story words,” or non-decodable words that are used to make the text more interesting. 

Read the text together with your students, correcting any mistakes. Or have them try the first read on their own, then read together. Then, have students whisper-read the story to a partner. 

After reading the text, discuss for comprehension, and follow up with a simple writing activity to apply the focus skill! I like to use sentence dictation, where I give students a sentence to write about the story, incorporating words with the phonics skill, as well as new high-frequency sight words.

Bonus activity: Skill hunt! Have students hunt through their decodable text and highlight their focus skill. TIP: If you don’t have paper decodables to write on, you can cut up a transparency sheet into squares and have students place them on top of the book pages to mark on!


Finding decodable texts can be hard, especially if your school doesn’t provide them for you. If you need decodable texts that are easy to implement, fun to use, and incorporate all of the above skills, check out my Phonics & Fluency pages. They will walk you through the entire lesson with your students from targeting the phonics skill sound to reading it in context, incorporating comprehension, and writing!

Watch the video below to see a sample lesson, then grab the freebie below!

Grab this lesson FREE!

Check it out in my TPT store or my Tejeda’s Tots Shop!

Decodable texts are a powerful tool when teaching your students to read. When kids apply phonics skills in text they can read, it increases fluency, comprehension, and confidence. These Phonics and Fluency Lessons include all key components of a small-group lesson, making it easy for kindergarten and first-grade teachers to use in their classroom.

Remember, using decodable texts with early readers just makes logical sense! By using them, kids practice a specific target skill which strengthens their orthographic mapping and reinforces explicit teaching!

If you have any questions about or tips for using decodable texts with your students, please leave them below!

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