How to Use French Decodable Books to Teach Your Students to REALLY Read

Have you ever had this problem while using levelled, non- decodable books during guided reading with your French primary students?

Your students are reading along, using their sight word knowledge, and then they get to the end of the sentence. There, they see a huge word that is something that they have probably never said before – like « hippocampe » or « anguille ». A long, complex word they’re just not familiar with yet in French. A word that is full of sounds they don’t know, and they can’t even look at the picture and figure out.

Or, maybe you’re like me, and frustrated by the fact that we are basically expected to teach our students to take their eyes off the words, look at the picture and guess instead of reading in the first place!

This problem has been driving me crazy for a few years now. So, this year, I decided to create something that would help me solve it! This blog post is all about my brand-new, one-page, no-stapling-required decodable practice books.

Struggling with your French primary students learning to really read with their current levelled readers? Why not try a new way to teach them to read words -- these one-page, no-stapling-required decodable mini books for French sounds!

Yes, part of what makes reading so great is that our students can learn new words and increase their vocabulary – definitely. But, when the new vocabulary words in our students’ books are not words that they’ll ever actually be able to decode on their own in maternelle, what is the point of them?

I find it so frustrating when I give my students books that are supposed to be at their “level”, but feature tons of words that are way beyond their ability to decode.

This year I was finally so frustrated about this that I decided to come up with my own solution!

(You may have actually seen the beginnings of this solution come into play last year, when I created my vowel sound blending books and my son composé blending books. But this year, I knew I could do even better and go even more back to basics!)

A Big Problem With Reading

This year I had a couple of students who just COULD NOT blend letter sounds together to create words no matter what I tried. They just wouldn’t keep their eyes on the words or look at the letters on the page at all. They just looked at the pictures and guessed, page after page.

I suspect that a big part of this was because in Maternelle they had learned to get through their levelled readers by using memorized sight words and guessing at what came next.

So, even once they were in première année, they looked at the picture and said whatever they felt like saying. Half the time, it wasn’t even in French!

I knew I had to find a way to help these students realize that reading actually involves looking at the words on the page… sound by sound, left to right, and then putting the sounds together.

And, once that was mastered, I wanted to help them see that sometimes, letters can make more than one sound, or a bunch of letters might work together to make one single sound.

I also wanted a solution that would be even easier to prepare than my regular homemade guided reading books. I was hoping for little-to-no stapling or cutting.

My solution?

My « Je peux lire » French decodable books!

Struggling with your French primary students learning to really read with their current levelled readers? Why not try a new way to teach them to read words -- these one-page, no-stapling-required decodable mini books for French sounds!

What These French Decodable Books Are

These books are folded, decodable, one-page mini books that will allow your students to practice reading syllables, words, and sentences. Each book features one target French vowel or consonant sound.

I’ve created mini books for 18 different vowel sounds. There are 11 vowels, four nasal vowels, and three semi vowels – and 17 consonant sounds.

By learning how to read these French decodable books, your students will learn all of their French sounds and how to blend them together with other French sounds to create words (and then sentences!).

Each book requires just one piece of paper to create. This is such easy prep – there is no stapling or cutting required to make these books!

These books also don’t have any pictures in them, so you shouldn’t run into students guessing words as much as when there are pictures.

Struggling with your French primary students learning to really read with their current levelled readers? Why not try a new way to teach them to read words -- these one-page, no-stapling-required decodable mini books for French sounds!

Students will begin by reading syllables (blending two sounds together), then move onto words (blending a few sounds together). Finally, they’ll use their phonics knowledge to read the sentences on the last page. Without picture support, your students will need to use their letter/sound knowledge and ability to read from left to right to find success with these books.

These are all skills that we want our students to master when reading any book!

Note: of course we want our students to understand what they are reading as well! When your students are reading the sentences to you, I do suggest that you ask them a simple question about each sentence. For example, if they read “Ali va à la plage”, you might ask “Qui va à la plage?” or “Où va Ali?”, just to be sure they are paying attention to what they are reading.

Why I Love These French Decodable Books

I love these books so much because they teach students proper reading habits.

Of course, decoding is not the only thing that you need to know in order to learn to read. But, learning to decode will help prevent our students from relying on guessing by looking at the pictures when reading. So, let’s start with books like these first!

It is so hard to undo the habit of guessing, looking at the sky, looking at the teacher, looking at the ground, looking at anything but the words on the page once students believe that guessing is how you read! So, let’s prevent that habit from ever beginning.

I also love how systematic this makes your reading program, because you’re working on one target sound at a time. Also, within each book, we start small and get bigger (syllables → words —> sentences). So, all students should be able to find success with at least one of the pages in the book, even if they aren’t all the way ready for the sentences yet.

Struggling with your French primary students learning to really read with their current levelled readers? Why not try a new way to teach them to read words -- these one-page, no-stapling-required decodable mini books for French sounds!

At this point I should mention that these books are most effective with students who have some knowledge of French sounds. This is because they will be blending consonant and vowel sounds to decode syllables and words.

Each page has a target sound, but of course there are other sounds as well on each page. This will allow students to practice blending them together.

So, I will use these after I have gone through the whole alphabet with my students.

How to Use These French Decodable Books

You can use these books in a variety of ways!

Some teachers have been using them as independent literacy centres, and others have been using them with small groups. You can also use them whole-group with your students when you are teaching them a new sound.

These books are great for silent reading, reading with a partner, or just reading independently any point in the day.

I suggest printing them on coloured paper to really make them pop! The black letters look extra sharp against Astrobrights paper, which is my favourite kind.

I do suggest sending these books home for extra practice, as well. If your students have their own reading bags, you can just slide them inside and they can practice with their parents at home. This will also help parents learn their French sounds – especially if French is not their first language.

Sending these books home will also help parents support their children as they learn to read, because parents will easily be able to see how reading works. We start with syllables, move into words, and then transition into longer sentences one sound at a time.

Since each book only takes one page to create, even though there are quite a few books included in the bundle, you should still be able to easily prepare them for all of your students.

Another tip would be to ask parents or older students to help you fold the mini books for your students so that you’re not doing all the folding on your own.

Where to Get These French Decodable Books

You can grab these books in my TpT store HERE or in my online shop.

They are available with consonant and vowel sounds separately, or bundled together. If you want to review all of the sounds that I’ve created books for, the bundle is definitely the way to go because you can save over 20%!

(Enseignons ensemble members, you would have received these if you were a member in May 2022.)

If you want to try one out before purchasing the whole resource, great news! I’ve got a free sample for you to see, right in this blog post.

Just click HERE, enter your name & email address, and I’ll send it your way. You’ll just need to click the confirmation link that will be emailed to you first. Then, a page will open up for you to download your freebie.

You can print it out, fold it up, and try it with your students to see if they are ready for this kind of decodable text.


Hopefully these French decodable readers can help you avoid the struggle of having your students look at the sky and saying whatever comes to mind when you pass them a levelled book.

We all want our students to become successful readers, right? So let’s teach them how to decode words, syllables and sentences from left to right, sound by sound, while looking at the words on the page. NOT by relying on the picture!

Otherwise, what will happen when our students move into reading books that don’t have pictures?

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