Does it sound right? This is another very important reading strategy that piggy-backs on a child’s knowledge of oral language – of how language works.
For example, 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, as discussed in my previous post, but also what word would fit here? What word would sound right?
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.
How did you figure it out? Did you use phonics? No, impossible – no letters there. But you still got it, you clever person! You asked yourself what word would make sense AND what word would fit in the sentence. Your marvellous brain asked: Hmm, does that sound right? Can we say it that way? Yes, we can.
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.
That’s 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!
2. The _______________ hunter killed the wolf.
It could be the “strong” hunter, or 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 here, but also what word would fit. What word would sound right?
3. Mother baked a________________ for Grandma.
What did you say? Mother baked a “pie” or a “tart” or a “cake”? How did you figure that out? 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.
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.
(Images from “Red Riding Hood” Retold and Illustrated by James Marshall)
For my next post, I’ll show you how to teach this reading strategy while reading a book with your child.