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Using context to read an "unknown" word - are you for or against?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Msz, Mar 28, 2012.

  1. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I think context is part of reading, without it we wouldn't know whether the word is read or read ... but it is pretty useless strategy for beginner readers trying to work out unknown words.
  2. cariad2

    cariad2 New commenter

    I teach children to always use phonics to work out unfamiliar words and not to use guessing as a primary strategy - whether it is guessing from context or from pictures. If they have sounded a word out and it doesn't make sense, then they sound the word out using an alternative pronounciation of that grapheme.
    This is in Reception, btw. Already, we've come across words such as he, me, and she which don't make sense when the children first sound them out. So we've learned "if the short sound doesn't work, try the long sound". "oo" was one of the first digraphs children learned, and as we use Jolly Phonics, they learned both the short and long sound. So they have to choose a pronounciation, sound out the "oo" word and if it doesn't make sense, then try the alternative pronounciation.
    So, this is a very long-winded way of saying that I encourage children to use context, but only to support their use of phonics. I wouldn't go back to the strategies that we used years and years ago of basically encouraging children to guess at words, because we were giving them books that were beyond their phonic knowledge.
    I use context (and picture clues) to aid comprehension once words have been decoded.
  3. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I have no objection to any strategy. If it helps them read the word then I don't give a stuff what they do!
  4. cariad2

    cariad2 New commenter

    The trouble with guessing, is that they can think of a word which is similar to the word on the page eg some letters in common, makes grammatical sense, but which is still the wrong word.
  5. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I did say "helps them to 'read' the word". If reading around the sentence does that, then great. I didn't advocate random guessing and never would.
  6. When children try out different alternatives for graphemes they need to use context as a check, as some mention above. At other times they can use context to tackle unknown words, checking them against their phonic knowledge. Pupils who are having a go at words containing graphemes which they have not yet covered or cannot remember (it happens) will find context particularly useful alongside their imperfect phonic knowledge. Context and phonic knowledge work together.The trouble with ignoring context is that a child might decode a word correctly, through guessing a possible phoneme, but nevertheless be incorrect.

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