My granddaughter can read small words, but she stumbles over bigger words when we read together. How can I help her?

Here are some tips to help with bigger words:

  • If you are reading for sheer enjoyment, anticipate the words she might not know and say them quickly, so she can keep reading and not lose her thought.  Don’t worry that she might not be learning new word attack skills in your reading session; she is learning other aspects of reading such as fluency and comprehension which are often hard to learn when she stops to consider every new word.  Also, if she is tired or ornery, this kind of reading lesson gets her to read without causing frustration.grandparent reading with grandchild.
  • But if you are reading with your granddaughter to help her decipher words, and if she is in a receptive mood, you might cover parts of the word (usually syllables) and then uncover them, so she can join them together.  For example, if the word is “continent,” cover the “tinent” part with your thumb and let her say “con.”  Then cover the “con” and the “ent” parts and let her read “tin.”  If she mispronounces “tin,” pronounce it correctly.  Then cover all but the “ent” and let her figure out those four letters.  If she can put it together, fine, but if not, you do it while covering and exposing parts of the word as you say it.  Then move on to another word.  The goal should be to teach her a method of figuring out words, not mastering every word you encounter in a particular lesson.
  • If you own the book, and don’t mind marking it, you could highlight every word she can read correctly.  She will see that the number of words she can read far outnumbers the few she can’t.  You might ask her what she notices about the words that are not highlighted.  She might say, “They are long,” or “They have lots of letters.”  Tell her there are ways to figure out those words just like there are ways to figure out three-letter words, and you will work with her on those long words.
  • A good place to begin is with compound words.  They can be easy to decipher if the child looks for small words inside big words.  Try some with her such as “pancake,” “popcorn” and “forget.”  Make a list of such words and let her be the detective, discovering the small words inside the large words.  Have her circle each of the small words and then pronounce them together.  Some words you might use are:compound words are small words inside big words
  • Some longer words have pronunciation rules that are easy for a child to remember.  For example, if a six- or seven-letter word has double consonants in the middle (biggest, kitten, flabby), that means the word usually has two parts, or syllables, and the first syllable ends between the “twin” letters.  (Use the word “syllable” since this is a term your granddaughter will need to learn anyway.)  Phonics books sometimes refer to these words as VC/CV or CVC/CVC words since they generally have short vowel sounds in both syllables.  You could practice a handful of those words, writing them on notebook paper for your granddaughter to pronounce.  Choose words whose letters follow the rules of phonics so she is not confused.  Have her draw a line between the double consonants and then pronounce each syllable.  Some words you might use are:"twin" letter words have double consonants in the middle.
  • Some other six- or seven-letter words have one vowel near the beginning, another vowel near the end, and two or three consonants in the middle.  These are a variation on VC/CV or CVC/CVC words with twin conconants.  Show her words like “contest,” “nutmeg” and “insect.”  Explain that the words have two syllables, and that the first syllable ends between the two consonants.  Have her draw a line between the middle consonants and then pronounce each syllable.  Some words you might use are:two syllable words with vowels in the first and last syllable

Our blog will have more on how to teach multisyllabic words in the near future.  Let us know if you find this information useful or if you have particular problems teaching your child reading.  We will investigate for you and offer the best advice we can find.  –Mrs. K and Mrs. A

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