Word Identification Strategies and Skills

As noted above, there is substantial evidence to suggest that word identification skills should be taught directly rather than waiting for children to discover them on their own and that such skills should be taught early. The research also indicates that effective readers are also strategic; that is, they learn how and when to use combinations of word identification skills (Adams, 1990; Anderson et al., 1985).

Children who overuse context clues and fail to attend to letter-sound associations may misidentify words, and that could cause them difficulty in constructing meaning for a passage (Simon & Leu, 1987). Conversely, children who do not effectively use meaning clues often sound out nonsense words or are so slow and laborious in word identification that they cannot simultaneously draw meaning from the words that they are reading (Biemiller, 1970; Samuels, 1985). Only when children are taught a combination strategy for quickly and accurately identifying words do they move toward becoming efficient, effective readers.

Learning Word Identification Strategies and Skills

In a literature-based reading program, skills and strategies are learned in part from the reading of authentic literature. In addition, the literature is used for modeling strategies and skills, enabling developing readers to see the relationship between the skills and strategies and the literature (Bridge, Winograd, & Haley, 1983; Trachtenburg, 1990).

In the earliest stages of instruction, the shared reading model is the framework for teaching word identification skills. After a selection has been shared to promote interest and comprehension, it is read again with a focus on language patterns, including elements such as repetition, rhyme, and sentence patterns. These elements provide important clues to word identification. The selection may be shared another time to allow children to focus on interesting words; these words serve as the starting point for directly teaching decoding skills (Holdaway, 1980).

As children begin to read more independently, continued practice with authentic literature provides many opportunities to strengthen word identification skills (Bridge et al., 1983). With varying levels of support, such as teacher-guided reading, cooperative reading, or independent reading, children are encouraged to practice these skills in more challenging texts.


Go on to Fluency in Word Identification
Back to When to Begin Phonics Instruction


Reading/Language Arts Center | Professional Development
Education Place | Site Index

Copyright © 1997 Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms and Conditions of Use.