What's the Word? What's the Topic?

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Nov. 29, 2014, 3:20 p.m.

A few weeks ago, during a small group reading observation, I watched a group of five learning-disabled students struggle with key vocabulary in a reading passage.  While the goal of the group was to develop comprehension, it was clear that these learners needed a strategy and practice for decoding new words.  Here is an easy-to-implement strategy that can be used to warm-up for reading group.

Select 4-8 important words from the text.  Make sure that the words will help your students make a prediction about the content of the text.

For each word, draw blanks on the board to indicate how many letters each word has.  You may reproduce this on a piece of paper for students. For an example, click here.

Introduce the text by giving the title and showing any pictures or graphics that accompany the text.

Begin by filling in the initial letter for the first word.  Ask students to give the sound of the letter.  If the word begins with a blend or digraph, provide all of the letters in the onset. Ask students to predict what the word might be, given the onset and the length of the word.

Gradually add the other letters to the word.  Have students blend the sounds together as the letters are added.  Always emphasize the sound of the letters, not the names of the letters.

Have students use their background knowledge of the text topic and the letters to predict the mystery word.

Once the students have guessed the correct word, ask them to help you finish spelling the word correctly on the board and on student papers.

When all words are completed, have students make predictions about the information or events that will occur in the selection.

This strategy takes less than 5 minutes and provides guided practice for decoding words and making predictions.

Postcards from New York City

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

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Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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