How to Sound Out Words
Never Allow a Student to Guess at a Word’s Identity (from Teacher’s Guide)
If a student encounters a word that he does not know how to decode, he must sound out the word. Sounding out a word refers to the process of decoding a word by identifying the sounds of each individual letter in the word and then blending those sounds together. A student sounds out a word when he does not know the identity of the word. There is a specific sequence of steps to follow when using this sounding-out procedure. When a student is sounding out a word, have him perform the following steps, and insist that this sequence of activities be systematically followed.
Procedure To Follow When Sounding Out an Unknown Word:
Step One: Always begin by identifying the vowel sound. (See last two paragraphs below.)
Step Two: After accurately identifying the vowel sound, identify the consonant sound that immediately follows the vowel sound.
Step Three: Blend together the vowel sound with the following consonant sound.
Step Four: If two consonants follow the vowel and do not join to together to form a consonant team, isolate the vowel sound and the first consonant that follows the vowel. Blend those two sounds together. Next isolate the sound of the second consonant following the vowel. Blend the sound of the vowel and the first consonant with the sound of the second consonant.
Step Five: After the vowel sound and all consonant sounds found after the vowel have been blended together, have the student identify the sound of the consonant letter that comes immediately before the vowel.
Step Six: Blend together the consonant sound with the sound of the vowel and the consonant letter or letters that come after the vowel.
Step Seven: If two or three consonant letters come before the vowel and do not join together to form a team, start with the consonant closest to the vowel. Identify that consonant’s sound and blend it with the sound of the vowel and the consonant letters that follow the vowel. Next isolate the sound of the next adjacent consonant letter. Blend that letter’s sound with the sound of the rest of the word that has already been decoded. If a third consonant occurs before the vowel, isolate that letter’s sound last and then blend its sound with the rest of the word.
Teach students always to begin sounding out one-syllable words by identifying the sound of the vowel within the syllable first.
Researchers have discovered that syllables can be subdivided into two component parts. Onsets are that part of the syllable that consist of whatever consonants occur before the vowel; rhymes are that part of the syllable containing the vowel and whatever consonants follow the vowel. Researchers have further identified the fact that students are more easily able to decode a word by being taught to isolate the onsets and rhymes within words. Thus by teaching students to start the decoding process by isolating the sound of the vowel and any subsequent consonants which follow the vowel, you are in effect teaching students to subdivide a syllable into its most basic component parts.
When sounding out a word, your student is being asked to perform two tasks simultaneously: 1) to associate a specific sound with a specific letter and 2) to blend smoothly one sound to another. Either of these two skills can individually be difficult for some. Blending for someone to whom this concept is foreign can be particularly challenging. However with persistence your student will learn to perform both of these skills automatically.