Teach Reading With the “Does it Make Sense?” Prompt

Does it make sense?

Reading has to make sense to your child. When choosing books to use as you begin to teach reading, make sure there are complete sentences – one simple sentence per page.  And that there is a very simple story line. This helps make the reading meaningful.
There isn’t much meaning in a bunch of letters and sounds so if you’re teaching your child to read only through phonics, that is, by sounding out the letters, the reading will not be meaningful. And you’ll be severely limiting your child’s reading tool box.

Mother and Daughter Reading Together --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Phonics is just one of the tools, but the “mega-power tool” is the meaning strategy. Reading for meaning is the most powerful reading strategy that we use. When your child is attempting to read a sentence and comes to a word she doesn’t know, the most powerful thing you can ask is: What word would make sense here?  You can also add: Look at the picture.
If your child says a word that doesn’t fit, you can say: You said________. That doesn’t make sense. You could add: What would make sense? Look at the picture.  Or, think about the story.
With all of these prompts, you’re appealing to meaning. You’re teaching your child to think for herself. You’re not asking your child to “sound it out”. When a child tries to only say the sounds, meaning is lost.
So, how do you teach your child to use this strategy while reading a book? It’s really quite simple and flows naturally.

The Pictures

One of the most obvious ways to teach the meaning strategy is through the use of pictures.
To demonstrate, I’ll be using one of the books from the Super Hammy – My First Reading Series which I just happen to have written.

Super Hammy's Hallowe'en cover -sshot

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What is the “Does it Make Sense?” Reading Prompt?

So, your child is reading along and comes to a word she doesn’t know. What do you do?  

Do you tell her to sound it out? Say the sounds?  No. You ask her what word would make sense here.
Children use basically three reading strategies when learning to read:
Does it make sense?
Does is sound right?
Does it look right?
The most POWERFUL  of these is the first one – Does it make sense?  Reading for meaning.

Mother and Daughter Reading Together --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

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