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Saturday, December 8, 2012

How Kids Learn Words

The order in which children learn to look at words is no secret.  It is not a random sequence that depends on the words to which he/she is exposed.  Here are the three stages of word learning:

Level 1:  Sound

A student understands that sounds are put together to make up words.

Level 2:  Pattern

A student is able to look at several letters at a time and memorize a group of letters.  Many sight words are gained at this time  (If a child is not at this stage, it is bad advice to tell a parent to go and work on a child's sight word knowledge).  Trying to memorize sight words would be an inefficient use of time.  I will be discussing this in greater depth in the next few posts.

Level 3:  Meaning

A student is able to relate a word's spelling to its meaning.  In the word "pleasure", you do not hear a long e sound.  A student at this level is able to understand that it comes from the word "please" and relate the spelling of the two words.  

Reading and Spelling

I often tell teachers, parents, and students, that I do not teach word study so that students will be better spellers, I teach word study so that students will be better readers. Watching a child spell a word can give me a window into their mind. 

Looking at the way a child misspells a word, gives me a clue to the patterns in words that they do not know solidly. So I know that when they read, they are not noticing those patterns, or not reading them quickly. This can create readers who rely on context too heavily, or readers who have to slow down and sound out the pattern that has not been mastered. 

Improving a student's knowledge of spelling creates more fluent readers. This, in turn, will increase their reading level, because they will be able to focus on the meaning of the text at a higher level. In addition, when students reach the "Derivational Relations" stage of spelling, they are increasing their vocabulary knowledge dramatically because knowing one Greek or Latin root can help them figure out many words, not just one.

Feel free to email me with any questions or leave comments.  I love comments :)

Next Post:  Why repetitive teaching of letters and sounds to beginning readers is not an efficient use of your time.  

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