Decoding is the ability to translate a printed word to speech through application of the alphabetic principle. This is also referred to as “sounding out” a word. As students become more proficient at decoding, they move from letter by letter decoding to onset and rime decoding.
The onset refers to the consonants before the vowel in a syllable (i.e. b in “ball”). The rime, also known as a phonogram or word family (not to be confused with rhyme), refers to the vowel and consonants that follow the onset (i.e. “all” in ball). Once students are adept at recognizing a variety of rimes, they will begin to utilize analogies in order to read unfamiliar words (i.e. if a student can read ball, she can read stall)
Examples of the Alphabetic Principle
The alphabetic principle is the knowledge that letters and letter combinations represent sounds in written language.
In the word “pitch”, a student would recognize that the “p” represents the /p/, the “i” represents the /i/ and the “tch” represents the /ch/.
In the word, “ridge”, a student would recognize that the “r” represents the /r/, the “i” represents the /i/ and the “dge” represents the /j/.
Examples of Onset and Rime
Decoding is the cornerstone of skilled reading. Early reading success is contingent upon sound-symbol association (the alphabetic principle) and the ability to accurately blend sounds into words. Fluency is another important component of decoding. Reading words with accuracy and fluency leads to increased comprehension.