When the bough breaks '

Im stuck on a word, calls your eight-year-old from across the room. Sound it out, you call back as you transfer laundry from washer to dryer. What does g-h say? You think: g in ghost or f in tough or nothing in light. Clearly, in this instance, phonicsa sounding-out challenge in itselfwont work. The English language has scores of words that do not follow the rules. As your childrens reading levels advance, they need to practice more sophisticated strategies for decoding unfamiliar words. Most words children read are actually known words that theyve heard but not read before. One of the most effective strategies is to read on and make use of the rest of the text. Say blank for the unfamiliar word and read to the end of the sentence. Then go back, read the sentence again, and most of the time your children will know the word. Sometimes, they may need to read further back or ahead more, but usually the surrounding words will provide enough clues to crack the code. Another useful tactic is looking at the pictures or graphics on the page. The labels in diagrams point to relevant information and help the reader figure out unknown words. Illustrations usually correspond to the written text and jog the readers memory. The letter arrangement of a word is telling, too. Suggest examining the word for familiar chunks or word families such as ight in might, tight, right; look for smaller words within the word; cover up suffixes like ed and ing at the end of words and prefixes, un- or re-, at the beginning. What is the story or passage about? Try substituting another word that makes sense in the sentence, such as When the branch breaks, then rereading to see if this nudges their memory. Sometimes, background knowledge or familiarity with the content helps; your child may have heard the nursery rhyme from you or another relative and remember the word. But beware. The fluency of the story or passage is very important and your child should not ruin the flow trying to figure out a few words. So, sometimes, the best strategy is for you to just walk over and tell your child the word.

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