How Nonsense Words Can Help Children Learn to Read
Nonsense words are words that follow phonics "rules," but they're not actual words. Here are some examples of nonsense words:
- flike (rhymes with "bike")
- spoat (rhymes with "coat")
Some reading assessments and phonics programs have students working with nonsense words like these.
This can seem counterintuitive - because the whole point of teaching phonics and reading is so that children can decode and spell real words!
However, nonsense word activities are actually very valuable. Here's why: they require students to use their phonics knowledge to decode.
If you have a word like "hat," some students will say the sounds and blend: /h/ /a/ /t/, hat. But some kids will just read the word instantly, because they've seen it before.
Immediately recognizing a word isn't a bad thing - we want our kids to become fluent readers. However, if kids are over-relying on memorization and don't have strong phonics and decoding skills, what happens when they encounter a new word? Well, they're going to struggle with it!
That's why our students need opportunities to practice reading nonsense words - they likely won't have seen these words before, so they'll be required to apply their phonics and decoding skills.
Nonsense words are an important part of the blending drill in From Sounds to Spelling. Once students begin decoding words, many lessons include quick practice in blending to read both real and nonsense words. In just a few minutes a day, students strengthen their abilities to apply their phonics learning to their reading.
To see examples of this, you can download sample weeks of the phonics program at this link.