Make It Match!

Many of us are being challenged with the idea to reembrace the words “sound it out” If you have been teaching reading for a while, you might have been taught to redirect kids to the print last, to use other cues first. Somehow it got misrepresented and turned into you should never say sound it out. Many of you probably found unique ways to say it instead.

           Look at the first letter. Now say the next sound.

           Say it sound by sound.

           Say each letter’s sounds.

In my training, I was asked to avoid only relying on the phrase but never to eliminate it. If you have taught reading, you know that focusing on other cues: meaning, syntax, and visual cues, does help readers solve words. We are finding out, however, that beginning readers need to make sounding out the word the first thing they try. Some of you might have been taught to use MSV or meaning, syntax, and visual cues in the order presented.

Therefore, direct students to use meaning first and visual cues (print) last. I was taught to use the cueing systems interchangeably. I present students with different strategies that use specific skills, and then when they are stuck on a word, I ask them what they can try. They would use MSV in varying orders. If they guess a word based on meaning or just the first letter, I would say things like:

  • Let’s check it and see if it matches or make it match.
  • Put your finger under the word and say the sounds
  • Check it with your eyes. You must make what your brain suggests match what your eyes see.

I may have been a step ahead of some, but not ultimately where I needed to be. Students need to practice attending to the print first and then checking the words using meaning. Using the cueing systems of MSV is not wrong. We just have to prioritize. Beginning readers must attend to print and then bring in other information to check the word. I will still be using my prompts, but I will be starting with something like

  • What word did you say that didn’t sound right? Go back and find it and sound it out.
  • Go back to the word had. (the word is really (has). Say had, how many sounds are in had? (3) What is the third sound in had? Check the word and see if it matches.
  • We have to make what our brain suggests match the letters in the word we see. Check to see if the letters match up with the sounds in had.

I had a student confusing the words on and no. They hesitated after saying “on” as “no”, and actually went back and read the sentence again incorrectly.

Here are the two sentences on the page from the book:

Is the cap on a mat?

No! It is not on the mat.

 I said to the student say no.

What is the first sound in no?

Now put your finger under that word.

Say the sounds. Can that word be no?

We do not want readers overly reliant on picture cues and unable to stretch out CVCC words or multiple-syllable words when they reach level D and up.  

We want students to be able to stretch whole words out. They need to be able to do this with words they will encounter when there is no picture support available. When we teach them to rely too much on the picture, their attention is more on the picture than the word. They need to attend to the print first.

So do, continue to use the cueing systems. Beginning readers must first look at the print, say the sounds of the letters represented, and then think about meaning and syntax. So do not stop using MSV but make adjustments using what we are learning about how we learn to read. When kids have strong oral language skills, have heard the word, and attempt to match the spelling to the sounds, they are more likely to figure it out using MSV. On the other hand, beginning readers often have a more limited vocabulary and have heard and seen fewer words. Therefore they need to rely more on the print(V) and pull in the M&S to help support. Maybe we should start thinking of it is VMS.

You might also have to adjust the text you use to help make this adjustment. I will take a look at some different texts in my next post.

Author: Troy F

Reading Specialist & NBCT in Literacy. Academic Coach for online Graduate classes.

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