Teaching Reading – Does it sound right?

Does it sound right?  This is a very important reading strategy that piggy-backs on a child’s knowledge of oral language – of how language works.


When a child is reading a sentence and comes to a word he or she doesn’t know, the brain is searching for suitable possibilities.  We ask not only what word would make sense here but also what word would fit? What word would sound right? Is it correct grammatically?


Let’s look at how this works.

Complete these sentences:

1. ________ hunter killed the wolf.

2.  The ____________ hunter killed the wolf.

3.  Mother baked a _______________ for Grandma.

Did you use phonics to figure it out?  No, impossible – no letters there. But you still got it! You asked yourself what word would make sense AND what word would fit in the sentence. Your marvellous brain asked: Does that sound right? Do we talk that way?

Let’s look at the possibilities:

1. __________ hunter killed the wolf.

It could be “the” hunter or “a” hunter, or “our” hunter. We know which type of word, which part of speech, is possible in front of a noun such as “hunter”. We know it instinctively. Your child will use his or her knowledge of oral language to figure it out.

2. The _______________ hunter killed the wolf.

It could be the “strong” hunter, the”good” hunter, or the “brave” hunter.  Why? Well, they’re adjectives, and we know that an adjective can come before a noun such as hunter. The brain is asking not only which word would make sense, but also what word would fit. What word would sound right?

Red Riding Hood 2

3. Mother baked a________________ for Grandma.

What did you say?  Mother baked a “pie”, “tart” or a “cake”? Your brain was searching for a word that would not only make sense but also sound right. You knew it had to be a noun and a singular noun.

In all of these examples, you used your knowledge of how the English language works. You know English grammar and that only certain kinds of words can fit. You know the order that words have to come in – we call that syntax. We can say “the big, brown dog”, but not “brown, the, big dog”.  That doesn’t sound right. We can’t say it the way.

When your child is reading and is trying to figure out the next word, the word she ultimately choses has to, not only make sense, but also sound right.  As adults, we do this without thinking, but when a child is learning to read, it must be taught.

Red Riding Hood (Images from “Red Riding Hood” Retold and Illustrated by James Marshall)

So, when your child is reading a sentence and comes to a word that she doesn’t know, don’t ask her to “sound it out”.  Instead ask: What word would fit? What word would sound right?  And does it make sense?  

To demonstrate how to teach the “Does it sound right?” strategy, I will be using one of my Super Hammy – My First Reading Series books,  the chilly Super Hammy Makes a Snowman.

Let’s say your child begins reading this sentence (pointing under each word) and says: “Super Hammy is make a snowman.”  How do you respond?  This is the scenario:

Your child reading: “Super Hammy is make a snowman.”
​You:  “Super Hammy is make a snowman?  Does that sound right?  Do we say Super Hammy is make a snowman, or do we say Super Hammy is making a snowman?”
Child:  “Super Hammy is making a snowman.”
You:  “Right.  Now read it again with your finger.  Did that sound right?”

This is also one of the big reasons it’s very important for your child to have a good grasp of oral language before beginning to read. So, read to your child, sing to your child, recite poems and chants, and talk to your child. Lots. I mean LOTS!


Super Hammy – My First Reading Series is a great set of books to use to teach reading – for preschool, kindergarten and even grade one.  A Super Hammy ABC poster is also available.


To purchase Super Hammy books now click HERE!

Super Hami is also available in French.  Cliquez ICI!


“The things that make me different
are the things
that make me ME.”

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