Reading words require kids to decode, or figure out, the word.
Sight words are words children need to know without decoding, just by a glance. Those must be practiced and memorized.
When your child comes to a non-sight word, a word he doesn’t know, he needs strategies to decode that word. Most of us parents automatically say, “Sound it out.” But is that the best strategy for figuring out a word? No, it isn’t.
Phonics rules are important but they don’t always work for figuring out (decoding) a word. So, we need other strategies besides “sound it out” to help our kids read words. These are called Word Attack Strategies.
Ready for some better word attack strategies?
Decoding Strategies (Beyond “Sound It Out”)
“Look at the first letter. Do you know a word that starts with that letter? What is that letter’s sound?”
“Be sure the ending looks and sounds right.”
“Cover the last part of the word with your finger and say the first part first. Now cover that part and say the last part. Can you put the two part together?”
Find a Small Word
“Can you find a word you know in that word?”
Stretch It Out
“Read with your finger and say it slowly.”
Use Picture Clues
“Use the picture clues to figure out what that word might be.”
Skip It, Go Back
“Why don’t you keep reading until the end of the sentence, the period, and then go back to the word and try again.”
Ask for Help
“Do you need help? Have you tried all your strategies?” *It’s fine to tell kids words – don’t make the suffering go on and on and on! Just remember to keep a balance of both helping and having the child figure it out.
Does It Make Sense?
“Hmm, that word you read doesn’t really make sense to me – does it to you?”
1 Strategy at a Time
Work on one strategy at a time.
Use a sticky note with the strategy as a bookmark reminder or use this printable bookmark with the strategy starred to remind you and your child of the strategy.
What if a child makes a mistake?
Sometimes kids aren’t paying attention to if the words they read make sense — have meaning. (Okay, a lot of times.) Gently remind your child that what she read needs to also make sense.
“Does it make sense?”
“Try that part again.”
“Think about the story.”
“Does that look right?”
“Read that again and check to see if it looks right.”
“Are you making it up or really looking?”
“You got the first part right, now check the ending.”
3 Positives, 1 Correction
Try not to over-correct your child. Work on one thing and LET THE REST GO. I’m serious. One correction and three positives. Or more than three. 🙂
One more reminder: Make the positive comments meaningful. So “good job” is not very meaningful because it’s too vague but “I loved how you made your voice sound like the character” is meaningful and specific.
“Wow! You made sure that ending was just right.”
“You found that tricky part on your own and fixed it.”
“I like how you used a chunking strategy to read that word.”
Books for Parents and Teachers:
Catching Readers Before They Fall by Pat Johnson and Katie Keier
Book Love: Help Your Child Grow from Reluctant to Enthusiastic Reader by Melissa Taylor
Games for Kids:
Letter magnets – play with the letters to make words
Sticky notes – label things around your house with their words and write simple notes to your child using short words they can read.
Does this help get you beyond “sound it out”? What questions do you have?
Download my "can't put 'em down" book lists for your kids ages 3 - 13.
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