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Figuring Out Written Words: Practical Ideas for Parents

Children can use what they know about letter-sound matches to decode (figure out) written words.

They can do this by saying the sounds of the letters and by smoothly putting the sounds together (blending) to make words.

Being able to decode words helps children to read new words on their own. Good readers learn to decode so quickly and easily that they do not have to use pictures to help them figure out words and what they mean.

Here are some activities to try:

  • As you and your children look at a new word, touch each letter and say the sound, moving from left to right through the word (for example, say the sounds /s/ /u/ /n/ and blend the sounds to make sun). Begin with short, easy words such as hop, mat, or cat.
  • Play games: Write words on cards and place the cards upside down in a stack. Take turns choosing a card and blending the sounds to form the word seen on the card. Use the word in a sentence.
  • Write words on pieces of paper and hide them throughout the house. Have your children go on a treasure hunt looking for the words. As they find the pieces of paper, have them blend the sounds of the words. Reward your children with a treat.
  • Take packaged and canned goods from the kitchen and have your children sound out words on the labels, such as corn, bread, and beans.
  • Have your children sound out words on your grocery list.


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Adapted from: Beginning Reading Instruction: Practical Ideas for Parents. (1996). Texas Education Agency.

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