How do I help my child…

figure out a word when we read together?

Here are some strategies to use when decoding unknown words:
1) Have your child look at the picture. If the word will give your child help with the word, tell your child that the word is something that can be seen in the picture. If not, the picture is a clue your child can use.

2) Suggest your child look for chunks in the word. Chunks are little pieces of a word that are familiar like it in sit, at in hat, and in stand, or ing in jumping.

3) Ask your child to get his/her mouth ready to say the word. Show your child how to shape his/her mouth to say the first letter sound of the word. Sometimes that beginning sound is all it takes!  Be sure to look at the sounds that end the word too.

4) Ask your child if the word looks like another word s/he knows. For example, if your child knows the word car, star, far, hard and jar are similar words. Look for similarities together.

5) You can suggest your child go on and read to the end of the sentence. Many times the other words in the sentence will help him/her figure out the unknown word.

6) If your child says the wrong word while reading, ask questions. Some good questions to ask are:

  • Does that make sense?
  • Do the sounds in that word match the sounds of the letters in the word?
  • Does it look right to you?

7) If none of this works, tell your child the word. Tell him/her how you were able to figure out the word, which strategy above worked. Then, be sure to revisit the word so your child sees it again.

Author: Jennifer C. Walts, Ed.D.

I am a retired educator and School Improvement Specialist.

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