Word Identification Beyond Second Grade

Based upon recommendations in publications such as Becoming a Nation of Readers (Anderson et al., 1985) and common practice, the foundations for word recognition are laid down in kindergarten, the most important phonics skills and many word-part skills are taught in first grade, and the major word-identification skills discussed in this paper are reviewed and extended in second grade.

By third grade, however, word identification demands change as students begin to encounter greater numbers of longer, multisyllabic words. Even if students can arrive at a pronunciation of some words, their meaning remains unknown. At third grade and beyond, students can be introduced to some simple rules for dividing longer words into pronounceable units; however, syllable generalizations are very unreliable, so teachers need to model a flexible approach to breaking larger words into chunks. Students also need to be taught how to use a dictionary and its phonetic respellings to arrive at accurate pronunciations of unknown words.

Students need guidance in modifying their word-identification strategies to use the various context clues discussed earlier, along with word parts that carry meaning (prefixes, suffixes, base words), to infer the meaning of unknown words. Beyond the earliest grades, considerable emphasis must be placed on strategies that unlock word meaning as well as word pronunciation.

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