Strategies for Unknown Words

What To Do When Your Child Is Stuck:

We teach many different reading strategies to help children decode words and comprehend what they have read.  To help your child read at home, remind him of the different strategies that he may use to decode an unknown word.

"Frog" Strategy
When a child gets to a word he doesn't know have him "jump" over it and read the rest of the sentence.  Have him guess what word would make sense.  Many times a word that makes sense will “pop” into his head.  For example:

        Max jumped over the ----- and got out of the backyard.

 After he has guessed a word have him check the sounds.  In the example:

    “Max jumped over the fence and got out of the backyard,” if your child guessed “fence,” have him look at the word in the sentence (fence) and see if it has the same beginning sound as the word he guessed.  If it does, it’s probably the correct word.  If it doesn’t, praise his good guess and then ask him if he can think of another word with the “f” sound.  If not, tell him the word.

Frog Strategy

Picture Strategy
Look at the pictures.  Help your child look at the pictures when he is reading and allow him to use the pictures to help him read.

Picture Strategy

Highlighter Strategy
Look for word families inside of a word. Have your child highlight the word family to help her read the word. Tip: Use a transparency overlay on a book and wipe clean between pages. 

Highlighter Strategy


"Shrinker" Strategy
Shrink the word.  Have your child cover up the part of the word that he does know -- “ed,” “ing,” “er,” word families, blends (2 or 3 consonants, such as "bl," "st
r," "sp," etc) and then see if he can figure out the rest of the word, either by knowing the root word or by then being able to find a word family.

Shrinker Strategy

Rereading Strategy
When a child struggles to read a sentence or reads it choppy, have them go back and reread the sentence so that he can read it smoothly.  This will aid in his comprehension.

***PLEASE DO NOT CORRECT A CHILD IMMEDIATELY WHEN SHE SAYS A WORD INCORRECTLY.  ALLOW HER TO FINISH THE SENTENCE before asking, "Does that make sense?"  This will allow your child to develop self assessment skills instead of relying on someone else to tell her if she read the word correctly.

For example, if your child reads:  “I want to the park with my friend,” allow her to read the entire   
    sentence and then ask, does “I want to the park with my friend,” make sense?  Most likely, she will realize it  
    does not make sense and she will attempt the sentence again.  In time, your child will begin to self correct on her own.

Rereading Strategy

***You'll want to encourage your child to use the reading strategies, but when you can tell that it would be difficult to figure out the word using any of the above strategies, simply tell him the word and continue reading.***

For more information contact Liz Fisher, Certified Reading Specialist, at: