Reading - Ideas for child guessing rather than decoding

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Julie in MN
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Reading - Ideas for child guessing rather than decoding

Unread post by Julie in MN » Mon Aug 20, 2007 11:20 pm

kellybell wrote:We're a few weeks into MFW1 with my 6.5 yo. She's been doing okay but we keep having the same problem with her reading words. When it first started I figured she'd outgrow it, but she's not; it's still an issue. I figure that maybe someone else in cyber-land has dealt with this and could give me some hints.

When she reads an easy book, she usually gets enough clues from the context and pictures to read the story pretty accurately. However, when she doesn't have these clues, she simply guesses. Her guesses are "close" but close only works in hand grenades and horseshoes (thank you Mr. Urquhart my favorite high school math teacher).

Anyway, today, for example, we were reviewing some words on a previous lesson (about 22 or so) and she had the word "stone." The word is already marked with the long-o and silent e. She looks at the word and says something that starts with s like "song" or "stung." Then, I ask her to say each sound and she gets the sounds right /ssss//tttt//ooooo/ and /nnnn/. But then she can't put them together and comes up with "smoke" or "stem" or something that is half right. So she is sounding the word out but it's as if she can't remember what she just said and push all the sounds together. Other times she almost gets the word and either leaves out a sound (such as saying soap instead of slope) or adds a "n" or "m" sound (and says sand instead of sad). Some words she does fine on, but it's usually the ones she "knows" (like cat and dad).

I haven't figured out to help her make the link between saying the sounds slowly and putting them all together and just saying the word correctly. Any hints from a mom that's "been there done that?"
I'm no expert, but I tutor kids a lot older than 6.5 who still have this same problem.

It seems to me that it's more an attention issue than a reading issue. So I look at it as building up their weak area in attention to detail, rather than actually building up their reading skill.

Some kids are just not "detail oriented" folks. I interrupt with simple reminders: "You forgot the t (sound)," or "Look again -- there is no m (sound) there..." Usually such kids know exactly what I mean & easily fix the problem.

Sometimes I have to ask them to go slower (and assure them that in the long run it will help them go faster). Or have them track with their finger or a piece of paper so they don't get ahead of themselves. And the older they are, the more I need to be sure they practice reading ALOUD (where it is not as easy to slip & slide over words because your audience doesn't "see" it the way you do when you read to yourself).

Occasionally these kids seem nervous & tense; but most just seem lackadaisical about accurate reading. I actually think youngest children are classic for being "big picture, don't worry about the unimportant details" kind of folks. And surely they are a big asset to oldest children like myself who love the details & never quite get to the big picture :o) But we all must work on our weak areas, eh?!

Not sure if this is your dd, but it's my experience with a bunch of kids...
Last edited by Julie in MN on Tue Aug 21, 2007 9:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post by ChristyH » Tue Aug 21, 2007 6:17 am

I have a boy the same exact age with the same exact problem.

I try to model sounding out the word for him. Making it faster and faster so it sounds like the word it needs to be.

I could use help on this, too.
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Unread post by kellybell » Tue Aug 21, 2007 7:35 am

Thanks for the ideas. We're actually DOING those things (reminders, modeling, etc.) so your posts were good encouragement to keep up with what I am doing.

Another thing I am doing is adding listening practice. I'll write on a paper two starting blends (which cause her grief) such as "ST" and "SN" and I'll say words (snail, stop, stitch, snip, stump) and have her point to the starting sound. That helps "turn on her ears" but she still misses a bunch.

Also I think I will add is the McGuffey Readers. I always thought that MFW was plenty (still do) but I see that we are NOT going to move forward in the MFW phonics for a bit until this is ironed out. So, in addition to re-reading a lot of the Bible reader and workbook pages, I'll have her read the McGuffey material to me outloud. The fun thing is that instead of the books, we purchased (long ago, before we were MFW people!) the McGuffey readers on CD-ROM so it shows up on the computer (I'm sure Mr. McGuffey is either rolling over in his grave or simply giggling at us 21st century people) and there is a little button that you can click to hear a line read correctly (well, correctly with a Southern accent -- kind of cute -- sounds like my aunt).

Again, thanks for the pointers. We'll just work a bit each day on this roadblock and then later move on. She started MFW1st near the end of her kindergarten year, so I don't feel the pressure to do a "day" each day.
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Unread post by ChristyH » Tue Aug 21, 2007 8:07 am

Actually, I also use the McGuffey's and have had great success with them.

We stay with the same lesson until they read it very well with expression. We review all the sounds for that lesson. If they memorize it the lesson that is fine also. Most lessons only take about three days before they are able to read it well.

I could maybe send you this article someone wrote on how to use the McGuffey's well. Since starting to use them it has helped quite a bit. I use the revised ones with the blue and tan covers.
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Unread post by shera » Tue Aug 21, 2007 10:01 am

Something that has helped my ds is the PBS show Between the Lions. We get the videos from the library.

They have a segment of the show where 2 knights are running toward each other like they are going to joust. Each night has part of a word. For ex. 1 knight would have sn and repeatedly say those sounds. The other would have ail. When they crash into each other it forms the word snail.

My ds now uses his hands to sound out a word. The first part would be his left hand. When he gets that blend well we move onto the second half which is his right hand. Then he claps his hands together and he gets the word. We also do alot of the "there is no p in this word" as well.
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Unread post by GoodCat » Tue Aug 21, 2007 10:54 am

Hi Kelly,

Something that has really worked for our family is similar to what you said you were trying. We do blend ladders and then blend flash cards. But not just special sounds, but the whole blend.

ta, tu, ti, to, te They would say it with short and long vowels, then..
sta, stu, sti, ste, sto They would do these with lots of different beginning sounds and with both short and long vowel sounds.

I have two sets of flash cards. One with just one consonant and a vowel, and then another set with 2 or more consonants and a vowel.

We will do these for at least a year or two as they are mastering reading, and it has really helped

You may already be doing this, but if not, give it a try.

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Unread post by Dannielle » Tue Aug 21, 2007 1:17 pm

Hey Kelly,

I had this exact same problem last year in K with my 6 yr old. Some words he knew and could read with no problem. The words that he did not know, he would guess.

While he was guessing I would remind him that he needed to sound out the words that he did not know, but he would just keep guessing. What I finally figured out was that he didn't want to be doing school, he just wanted to get finished with school as fast as he could so he could get chores done and play.

If he took his time and actually sounded out the word, he most of the time got it correct. Don't get me wrong he did have some words that he did have problems with and we would work through them. But I am trying to find new teaching techniques for when we start 1st very soon.

I will definitely give the suggestions posted here a go.
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another thought

Unread post by Heidi » Tue Aug 21, 2007 2:27 pm

This is a little long - but, to give another thought to consider for children who continually struggle with getting phonics. My daughter had this same issue.

I had to put it off for awhile because at the time my youngest was found to need surgery, then OT. While researching and learning about my youngest, I came across some very valuable lay person's information.

If you are members of HSLDA - go to their website. Find the special needs section and then the article called, "How to Tell Why Your Child is Struggling". This article explains in plain English what all the various processing issues are, and down to earth ways to give simple home tests to rule in or out what may be going on with your child - and then lists tons of homeschool methods of how to help your child.

After giving my daughter these home tests, I had her tested by a speech-language pathologist for auditory processing delays because she "failed" alot of my home tests. All the guessing at phonics is a major symptom of this processing delay. The therapist works primarily on her language expression. She has had about 6 months of therapy and today, after follow-up tests, the therapists told me that she is working above average. She was scheduled for 12 months. She has really blossomed. It does not come easy for her yet, but - she is doing it.

At home, I worked on the reading issues for the same processing delays - and had her make "right brain" phonics cards herself since she is kinetic. For each new phonics rule learned in 1st grade - she made a new phonics card with a colored picture and the sound it makes, copying from the MFW reading chart. She held them up so that her eyes must look up at them until she could describe in detail the picutre with the colors and sound it makes with her eyes closed (so I knew she had a clear mental image like an old fashioned film strip). She went over these every day.

I also used extra readers I had on hand and then we began using the McGuffey series. As we read all the ECC books and alot of the book basket books together (at the beginning of last year, age 6 1/2), she was guessing at mostly everything and not remembering the phonics rules she knew.

I started with having her simply read aloud to us - one sentence from these books. My oldest would read about 1/2 of the rest and I read the harder stuff. We just kept plugging away. Then she began to be able to read about 2 sentences. She is now 7 1/2 and up to about 1 long or 2 short paragraphs without all the guessing - except for the really hard words. For her, it was not an attention issue.
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Unread post by Lucy » Wed Aug 22, 2007 11:43 am

Hi Kelly,

I know that you are probably already doing this but do not forget those extra games in the back of the TM to give lots of practice on what he is learning. I know this does not address the exact problem, but thought I would mention them just in case you had not used those yet.

Also sometimes it is just a matter of maturity. This is not to discount at all the the wonderful information that Heidi has given because it can be a real learning problem too.

Saying a pray for you as you try to figure it all out. I had some of the same kinds of problems with my daughter years ago and she reads well now.

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Reading - How to stop child from guessing!

Unread post by kellybell » Thu Mar 20, 2008 2:18 pm

Dannielle wrote:How do you get a child to stop guessing when reading? I am sooooo frustrated! My ds wants to guess at every word that he does not know and when he gets it wrong several times he gets mad. I have to remind him repeatedly throughout reading that he needs to sound out the words that he does not know, but he still continues to guess. I don't know how to make him put forth some effort. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

We are dealing with the same issues here with our just-turned-seven year old. I taught my other three to read with none of this.

Anyway, if it helps, it DOES get better, but we still deal with it.

Here's how we handle it:

1. When she reads to me, I lavish on the praises if she reads a tough word, sentence or page. I wait until the end of the page (or whatever) and then say, "Wow, SPLASH is a tough word and you got it the first try. That's great."

2. And, if she guesses at a word (often her guesses ONLY have the first letter right), I stop her immediately and say, "Oops, that's not right; let's sound it out." I would love to report that she is joyful and cheerful and teachable when we do this, but she usually is not. Often we have to pray about attitude and when push comes to shove, it's a 10 cent fine. Really! After losing a few dimes, she often decides to work with me on this.

3. I try not to attempt reading with her when she is tired, sick, or whatever. First thing in the AM is best, rested is best, fed is best, right after stomping in the backyard is best.

4. If she's having an "off" day I'll often choose for her an easy book to read and that means more chances for success and praise. If she's having a good attitude, then we might try something a little tougher, stopping when I get a feeling it's "too much"

It's a long process.

I also try to see if the guessing is due to laziness or simply trying to use the picture to figure out a really tough word. Usually, in our case, it's laziness.

Sigh. I'll be following this thread.
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Unread post by TriciaMR » Thu Mar 20, 2008 6:18 pm

My dd did this too. Drove me insane (or close to it).

One day I let her read a sentence however she wanted. Didn't correct her "guesses" or anything. Then, I stopped and asked her if it made sense. (A lot of her guesses would be based on the pictures she saw.)

Then I went back to the words she missed and one at a time sounded them out with her. Then I explained to her that unless she sounded them out, she would probably guess wrong and then it wouldn't make any sense and that wasn't really reading.

It took about a week of that, but finally (hoo-ray!) she stopped guessing. Now she sometimes goes too fast with new words and gets them wrong, but usually realizes it and kind of looks to me to help her sound it out.

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Here's how I dealt with this...

Unread post by Kisa in CA » Thu Mar 20, 2008 8:32 pm

I made my son say each sound or phonogram in a word before saying the word. So if the word was dog, he had to say d - o - g then 'dog'. This taught him to slow down and read each letter. He had to do this even on words he already knew. I didn't let him read freely until he could easily read each sound.

Another thing we did was to use flash cards. Again, he he had to say each sound before reading the word. The game was that he got to keep each flashcard that he got correct and I got the flashcard if he made a mistake. By the second time of playing he was getting every word correct and reading slowly and carefully.

One other thing I do is that I make him re-read the entire sentence if he gets one word wrong because he guessed.

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Unread post by Ariasarias » Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:03 pm

With my dd and even some kids I have tutored, I remind them that it is okay if they do not know a word and they are allowed to ask for help. I have found that they are guessing because it looks too hard. I remind them that we all need help and how important it is to know when and how to ask for it. If we come to a word they do not know, I actually have them say the words "I do not know that word. Can you help me with it?" As simple as this sounds, I have found that it is very hard sometimes for them to say. Once the words come out of their mouth, they seem much more teachable (most of the time :)) and then I will help them sound it out.
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Unread post by kellybell » Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:34 am

Thanks for the hints. I have taught my dd that it's fine to ask for help (in reading, shoe tying, hanging clothes in the closet, etc.) but it's so hard for her to do. It's getting better. SLowly.

And, Kisa, thanks for the hint. We do that but I worry when my dd will sound out the phonograms just right and in the right order but still get the word wrong. Oh, I can't think of a real-life example right now, but I'll make one up. Imagine seeing the printed word SNAKE. She might say /S/ /N/ /long-A/ /K/ slowly. "Yes, that's right!" and she then puts then together and says something like "Scan" or "soak" or "skate" getting the first letter right and possibly the vowel.
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Unread post by Lucy » Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:26 am

It is not unusual that a child may be able to say each sound and then not be able to blend them. Remember that it is fine for you to model those difficult words and then have her repeat it right after you. Sometimes using your finger to slide smoothly under the word as you say it showing how they do blend together. Blends can be the most difficult sounds to hear and say because they are the blending of 2 sounds or 2 sounds that run so closely together that the child has a hard time hearing them and therefore saying it.

Remember to use the games in the back of the TM to practice the new words and especially the ones that they are having difficulty with. I would review the ones that you know are more difficult before any game. You may want to play the game again at night with Dad or once again later in the day to give a bit more reinforcement.

You probably know all of this Kelly but I know that sometimes for me it is good to hear it again because I forget. Reading can just be harder for some than others and of course that makes us stress too. Hang in there all of you because they will get it!
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Unread post by Dannielle » Sun Mar 23, 2008 8:50 am

I have made my own flach cards. I even went as far as writing the blends and new sounds in a different color than the rest of the word. Although we haven't used them in awhile. I may need to take a few days and just review those again.

Now when he comes to a big word that he doesn't know, if it can be split into syllables I will do that for him. Most of the time that helps. He will not directly come out and say "I need help with this word" He will ask for reassurance on a sound though.

Just like Kelly's dd my son will sound the word out correctly, but then he guesses at blending it b/c it may sound like a word that he already knows. Sometimes he adds in sounds that aren't there. Other times he just flat out guesses and completely misses the word. For example he had the word "people" the other day, he looked at it and read it as "help." Thats not the best example, but its the freshest one in my memory. Those two words do have similar letters, but sound nothing alike.

I have also noticed that he can read a word perfectly in one sentence and then when it comes up again in the next sentence or two, he can't read it w/o help.

When he takes the time to sound out the word, and listens to the sounds that he is making, he almost always gets it right. Trying to get him to do that all the time is the hard part. I know that he struggles sometimes, but to me it just like he doesn't even want to try.
Dannielle, NC

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