Top tips for decoding

When you are decoding words, the order of the words may not always seem to make sense, but do not worry about that. You may only be able to find one part of a word but that can give you a good indication of the meaning. Extra letters like ‘o’, ‘a’ or ‘i’ between two parts of a word can be ignored.

Activity 1: Decoding unfamiliar words

This is a short activity that you could do at the end of a lesson. The purpose is to help your students realise that they will not be the only person who does not understand a particular word and to encourage them to develop strategies for guessing what the word might mean.

Write some words on the blackboard related to your topic. You could choose words from the chapter in your textbook. For example, you might choose:

  • phototropic
  • photosynthesis
  • thermochromic
  • photochromic.

Ask your students to work in pairs to figure out the meanings of the words from the following stems:

  • ‘photo’ – light
  • ‘chrom’ – colour
  • ‘therm’ – heat
  • ‘synthesis’ – make or build up
  • ‘tropic’ – turning.

If you have different words, you will need to give your students some more ‘word stems’. Use Resource 1 to help you.

2 Decoding complicated compound words

3 Scientific words with dual meanings