Tuesday, February 7, 2012

We Don't "Sound Out"

Children are not sounding out. They are using specific reading strategies to form words, jog memories, and correlate pictures and text, but children hardly ever use the technique of "sounding out." According to a study performed by Catherine Compton-Lilly, a professor at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, children and parents both cite sounding out as their main reading strategy. Children claim that when they come to a word they are unfamiliar with, they sound out the word until they get it. When children ask parents for help on a particular word, parents are urging their children to sound out the word. When Compton-Lilly watched her children struggle with words out loud, she noticed, over and over again, that children were not sounding out. They are using specific strategies, but the times that "sounding out" is used are few.
Some other strategies that children suggest that "good readers" use include:
- go back and try again
- he thinks in his brain
- they ask their friend can you help
- try the first letter or the last letter
- spell
- look at the pictures.
These strategies are children explaining complex and effective reading strategies. Picture cues, peer help, dividing words into parts, retrying, first and last letter help, and thinking about context clues are all wonderful strategies for reading unfamiliar words. Instead of using these phrases, teachers and parents continue forcing children to think of "good reading" as a process of  sounding out. We have been taught this way, and we usually do not know any other techniques to suggest to our children, so telling them to "sound it out" becomes the most practical and easy suggestion. Well, instead of producing readers, we are creating frustration. Children cannot look at a word and simply "sound it out." They need a method. A great way to end this cycle of forcing children to "sound out" words is to educate our parents on true reading techniques.
Some great techniques to research and educate parents about include:
- Looking at the pictures
- Dividing the word into parts
- Trying again
- Asking a peer for help
- Looking for familiar parts in other words
- Looking at the first and last letters for the whole word meaning
If teachers and parents can cite these suggestions, instead of demanding children to "sound it out!" we might have better success with all readers, regardless of ability, culture, or any other demographic.

Remember! We don't sound out!

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