No More Sound it Out

kids reading

We’re working as a school on improving our ability to grow students as readers. One of the ways we are doing this is by pulling students into small groups each day and reading with them. We use books that are just a little bit harder than they are able to read independently. We call this Guided Reading. This is a powerful structure wherein students are introduced to a new book, set up to read it successfully through an introduction, maybe some tips about the structure of the text or word work, and then set off to read independently as teacher carefully looks on. Individual students whisper read a part of their book to the teacher as she listens in. They stop at some point to retell what they have read to a partner. Again, teacher supports by listening in. We know we can grow our readers in this way.

Today I had opportunity to sit with several young readers and to learn from them. I sat with A.  He began to read. He read really well. When he got to a part that puzzled him, or a word that he didn’t know he did something so smart!  He looked at the picture, made the beginning sound for the word, then looked some more at the picture. Alex was able to sort out a number of words in this way.

Several other children who sat with me got stuck when they came to words they didn’t know. Even “simple” words.  Words like “Mr.”.  Try sounding that one out.

So often readers are taught to “sound it out”.  Trouble is… there are so many words you just can’t do that with. AND once you work so hard at sounding out all the discrete letter sounds you’ve forgotten what you were reading about at all.  We have found it far better to ask our students to stretch out the sounds of an unknown word.  In this way, rather than saying each sound – d  i  f  f   i  c  u  l  t – they stretch one letter sound into the next.  Dddddiiiiffffiiicccuuullltttt.

And even this powerful strategy is only one of the many we teach our young readers.  We also teach them “word attack” strategies such as these:

  • Look for a word you know inside of the unknown word.
  • What part of the word do you know?
  • What word would make sense there?

By teaching and practicing these and other reading strategies with our students we empower them and help them to know they can indeed read stronger than ever before. They can understand the world in a far deeper way because they are readers!


For more on reasons to teach strategies other than “Sound it out”, check out Adventures in Literacy’s blog post here.



About Be Strong. Be Courageous. Be You

Principal at the School at the north end of Los Angeles Harbor where AWESOME happens. Working to make the world a little more wonder-full.
This entry was posted in Child Matters, Learning, reading, SOL2016, Students First, Teaching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to No More Sound it Out

  1. elsie says:

    Here, here, for no “sound it out!” When kids put meaning first, if they would think what word would make sense and look right, they will be further down the road of reading. “Sound it out” makes my skin crawl!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. writintime says:

    Excellent post! Providing the strategies that move readers forward is so important. I love that you are looking beyond ‘sound it out’ and will check out the blog you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tara Smith says:

    Meaning first…yes! Great post, Dayna.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. franmcveigh says:

    This is such a critical topic for our young readers. So many words just are not “sound-out-able”. They defy all rules.
    you (would be /u/
    said (would be sed)
    some (would be sum)
    would (would be wood)
    have (would be hav)
    Such an important post! Thanks! 🙂


  5. jarhartz says:

    Love this and the fact that you wrote in a parking lot. Something about loving what you are doing makes all things possible.
    This year, I have to privilege to learn with an ELL who is very new to English. Love learning his approach to early literacy learning. It’s fascinating the way he a takes on such a challenging thing. He impresses me every day. Appreciate this post. Thank you.


  6. Glenda Funk says:

    I teach high school, and I want you to know how helpful your post is for me and my students. I’m telling them to stretch their words. Thanks for stretching my reading knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • daywells says:

      Awesome! I think there is so much to sharing across k-12 and even college. Some of the best learning conversations I have had have been Elem to HS or college. After all we all teach people!


  7. julian says:

    that is great that you are teaching kids how to talk


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s