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Fluency and Emerging Readers

The “What is This Word?” Question

When a child is reading orally, the emphasis should remain on fluency and comprehension. Save phonics, vocabulary, and spelling for separate times. The important question is, “What do I do in the middle of reading if a child doesn’t know a word or if the child asks for help?” Below are suggestions for encouraging the child to use context and thinking skills.

Encourage the child to start at the beginning of the sentence and insert an “uh” sound for the unknown word. Then ask, What would be a logical word that would fit in that place?” Your purpose is to get the child to think about the context of the story and sentence (Guszak).

If the child inserts an incorrect word that makes sense and does not change the meaning, let it go. Jot down the word said by the child as well as the printed word.

On the other hand, if the child says a word that does not make sense, ask questions such as, “Did that make sense?” “Do we talk that way?”

Later, analyze why the word was missed. Plan separate skill lessons to teach the skills needed to decode unknown words correctly.

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