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Focus on Reading - Word Attack Skills - Linda Senjov (Head of Curriculum) and Michelle Williams (STLAN)

When children read, they will often come across unfamiliar words. The following strategies can be used to help children decode, pronounce and understand these words. It is better to guide and model, rather than tell, but do not let your child struggle too long. Give them help if they have tried some of the strategies. Tell them the word and get on with reading.
Introduce the book – make it fun – Before your child begins reading the book, do a “Picture Walk”. Browse through the book, discussing what is happening in the pictures. This allows your child to build up some prior knowledge of words they may come across when they read the text.
Strategies students should try when they come across an unfamiliar word:
Sound Out the Word - Students attack words piece by piece to begin with. They use the sound/letter relationships they know to try to work out what the word sounds like.  They may also look for familiar letter chunks in the word, rather than letter by letter e.g. ing, ed, er, ea.
Use pictures - Have your child look at the pictures on the page. This is a good strategy to make sure that what they have read matches the picture e.g. they say cat and the picture is of a cow.
Think – does this make sense? - This question should be asked continuously through the text. Once a strategy has been used, the child needs to be constantly checking that their reading is making sense. They are not really reading until they can understand the message in the text.
Have a guess - Sometimes the reader has tried all the strategies they know and have no answers. They may then guess the word, hopefully using the context and what the story has already been about.
Talk - As children read, they may need to talk about what is going on in the text to enable them to understand the message or to work out an unfamiliar word. They can also talk about what strategy they chose to use and why.
Read on - Have your child read past the unfamiliar word and look for clues to help recognise the word.
Re-read – Children should constantly re-read their texts once meaning has been lost or they have had to stop to work out unfamiliar words.  This brings back focus.
For Early Readers, ensure that your child points to the words as they read. This provides an opportunity to self-correct if the word does not look right, sound right or make sense. (Finger pointing is phased out as children become more proficient readers.)
Remember that when a child reads a word incorrectly, ask if it makes sense in the sentence. Help them to correct their own reading and always provide positive responses and praise him or her for trying.  After all, if they enjoy reading, they will read more… and the more they read, the better they will become.