One thing that is almost certain as kids are reading aloud to us is they will come across words they do not know. Even if we pick out “just right” books for them, there will be a few unknown words in the text. (Please note: if kids have too many words that are unknown, the text is too hard for them and will cause frustration.)
Most parents come well-equipped with the “just sound it out” method, but I’d like to share several other reading strategies for unknown words…things that you can say to your child when he reads/comes to a word he doesn’t know. My hope is that this list can help you when you’re doing summer reading with your child. Make sure you download the free printable version at the end of this post!
Reading Strategies for Unknown Words
Please take into consideration that the reading strategies you pick for your reader will totally depend on his reading development. For example, if a child is reading at a third grade level, the strategy of “look at the picture” may not be appropriate for him or the text he’s reading. At this point, he has most likely outgrown that strategy.
Think about the Meaning
Encourage readers to THINK about what they are reading. After all, reading=thinking! Here are some things you can say to help them do just that:
- What would make sense in the sentence?
- You read ________. Does that make sense?
- Look at the picture to help you read the word.
- Think about what is happening in the story right now.
- Go back to the beginning of that sentence and start it again.
- Skip over the word and continue reading until the end of the sentence. Now, go back to the beginning of the sentence and start again.
Use Visual Clues from the Words
- Look at the first letter(s) of the word. Say the first sound(s).
- If the word is ____________, what would you expect to see at the beginning/middle/end of the word?
- Spell the word out loud. Look at each letter.
- We’ve seen that word before in this book. Let’s find it on the other page.
- Do you see a part of the word (word chunk) that you already know?
- Let’s cover up a part of the word and read the part we see. (For example, if the word is jumping, cover up the -ing)
- Sound it out. (This only works if the child has the word knowledge and/or strategies.)
- Do you see a prefix in the word that you know? (longer words)
- Do you see a suffix in the word that you know? (longer words)
- Can you break the word into syllables?
Relate it to Talking
- Does that sound right to you?
- Can you point to the word that sounded wrong?
- You read ______, is that how we say it?
Four More Thoughts about Reading with Your Child
1. If you know that the text your child is going to read will have a couple of “extra tricky” words for him, go ahead and pull them out, write them down, decode the together BEFORE he reads. You can even use the words to create story impressions before reading, a great comprehension strategy! When he comes across the words in his reading, you can remind him of the strategies you used before you even opened the book.
2. Please remember that the purpose of reading is to comprehend, so stopping to talk about words too many times in a text can totally interrupt comprehension. Make sure the text being read isn’t on the child’s frustration level (including too many unknown words).
3. When a child misreads a word, you need a plan. Read about one effective thing you can do when correcting reading mistakes.
4. Lastly, you can say every “great” thing to help your child read an unknown word, but sometimes he just won’t get it. Instead of spending loads of time on one word, providing multiple prompts, simply tell the word to the child and move on. Again, we want comprehension to be at the forefront, so staying too long on one word interrupts the flow of reading and comprehension.
More Resources for Reading with Kids:
- How to Choose “Just Right” Books
- What to do When a Child Misreads a Word
- Strategies for Reading Longer Words
- Comprehension Strategies: Reading Equals Thinking
- How to Ask Question to Check Comprehension
For a FREE, printable copy of these reading strategies you can use when reading with your child click HERE!
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