Important Word Recognition Strategies For Kindergarten, Preschool, And High School

Last Updated on February 16, 2023 by Editorial Team

Do you know that skimming and scanning improve reading capabilities by an overwhelming 28.2%?[1] A report by Mayra Yadira Chamba for Universidad Casa Grande (UCG) gives these numbers which concede that recognizing words is crucial. Be it a kid or an adult, every learner should distinguish between the terms. Since reading principles shape pupils to learn fluency, strategies for coaching words turn critical. One needs to be capable of distinguishing between ‘thought’ and ’ought’ to exhibit a bonafide teaching method.

Today many strategies come forward to teach word recognition; may it be personal or instructive, all of them are equitably potent. To understand word recognition strategies comprehensively, let us mull over these strategies in the next sections.  

Word recognition- How is it done?

Learning alphabets, words and later phrases shape the foundation for languages. Productive word recognition techniques and strategies may help students to translate spelling patterns into speech sounds, gaining rapid access to meanings. Moreover, teaching the students about sounds of letters in spellings acts as a stepping stone that enhances the early reading experience. 

Word recognition is always a crucial aspect of the English language. Proper formation of sentences or using terms is feasible only through it. The reader recognises a word through one of the following leads:

1. Instant Recognition: Full-fledged readers can mark words instantly along with their unusual speed and accuracy.  The grip would be drained if they sat back, read and analysed each word. They grasp the chief idea as they read the text. The beginners, however, need to recognise the words so they can have an easy hold over the language in general.

2. Context clues: Most people identify the meaning of the words by associating them with the other words in the sentence.  For instance, the sentence –- “The death of his father downcasted him” —- other words indicate downcast implying sadness. This way, even if the reader is unfamiliar with the word ‘downcasted’, they would still know that this word implies some negative or sad feeling. These clues may be semantic, syntactic or picture. Semantic clues imply actual word meanings. Syntactic clues are the structure of the words that imply the meaning. Picture clues are the hints from the pictorial illustrations of the word. We see this quite often in kindergarten textbooks.  

3. Analogy clues: A reader can identify unfamiliar terms by comparing them with familiar words. For instance, “fill” can be an alien world, but if the learner knows what “Will” is, they can decipher it effortlessly by associating both words or phrases.   

4. Read repeatedly: Elementary schooling often integrates the strategy of repeated reading, which can mould learners to recognize words effortlessly. This approach not only aids toddlers but is also effective for adult learners. Listing out unfamiliar terms and reading them frequently can assist.

5. Understanding word structures: The structuring of phrases and simple sentences follows word identification. However, inferring them can sometimes aid in recognising the term. Comprehending how several words amalgamate to form a valid sentence can help them to identify what the word actually means. 

Word Recognition Strategies for Preschoolers

Kids may start learning at different ages and paces. However, preschoolers are evidently bright– they pick up knowledge effortlessly. Toddlers are new to the world of words, sentences and reading in general. Therefore, they need an infallible plan of action to recognize words. Here are some strategies for these little learners:

1. Phonic Instructions

Toddlers start with learning the shape of letters and sounds they make. This lets them decode words easily. The pupils learn to sound out the words before they recognise them slowly. Once they begin identifying alphabets, focus shifts to spelling. This activity is thus often referred to as “Invented Spelling”.

word recognition strategies for preschoolers

Like any other directive, phonetic instruction also has some exceptions—A few words cannot be spelt phonetically. Words like ‘Ocean’ and ‘Sugar’ cannot be spelt appropriately using the basics of phonetics. Teachers should instruct memorising these words so that they can be recognised later. The only snag is that learners may not understand the concept of why ‘C’ is spelt as ‘SH’ in ‘OCEAN’. In such cases, context or analogy clues can be employed.

2. Word Games

For toddlers who do not like to venture out to unfamiliar places, the finest approach to make them amicable with school is indulging them in engaging games. Introducing word games can be an aberrant routine to master discerning words. Games like scrabble and word cubes can be an inordinate way out. Thanks to the advent of digitalisation, few online games can be played anywhere and everywhere. From phonic games to root word games to spelling games–-  we have talked about a plethora of games related to word recognition and understanding of words in our previous posts. 

Word recognition strategies for kindergarten

Learners in Kindergarten need a plan that pairs up delight with enlightenment. Here are some practical strategies for these young pupils:

1. The Nursery Rhymes

The rhymes that are taught in kindergarten aid in instructing words and their recognition. These entertaining lessons make toddlers master rhyming words like Humpty-Dumpty, Peter- Eater and many more. Other benefits include:

  • Rhymes develops speech and language acquisition.
  • The evolution of auditory skills is another addition. These facilitate little learners to distinguish various sounds.
  • Children learn various modulations of voices.
  • Timely repetition of rhymes teaches how language works and thus builds memory aptitude.
word recognition strategies for kindergarten

2. Expending time with TextBooks

Amidst the modern ways, textbooks are traditional yet helpful in aiding children to build word recognition skills. Textbooks for elementary schools are often drenched with picture clues. A for Apple is always escorted with a picture of an apple. These pictures can take action as gainful context clues to acknowledge words. Thus, it is an appreciable strategy to make toddlers spend time with textbooks that serve as a picture clue. 

3. Manipulatives- An exceptional guide

Manipulatives ameliorate learning by offering various clues to discover words. These are often multisensory, where all the senses are splashed out, ensuring exceptional learning. Flash Cards, Dominos, ABC cookies and Word building cubes can add to splendid manipulative take-ins. Manipulatives can be especially significant as when everyday use items are correlated with studies, they influence profoundly. Being illustrious teaching tools, manipulatives provide a visual and physical learning experience, which helps the students accelerate the learning process. 

Word recognition strategies for high schoolers

We come across new words every day. High schoolers too are introduced to new words and concepts regularly. Thus, just like nursery rhymes, there are plenty of other word recognition strategies that can be perfect for elder learners. High schoolers can implement the following strategies:

1. Bottom-Up Strategy Building 

The bottom-up strategy prioritises focus in a child. A journal by Bonnie Alco[2] shows that distraction interrupts the reading flow and takes attention away from high-level processing that engages cognitive reasoning.

The bottom-up strategy works in these lines only. This approach ensures effective learning despite a long process. Being a stepwise approach, this one emphasises starting from the bottom and then moving gradually. The conception behind the strategy is that it might become overwhelming for students if they are introduced to hefty topics at the start, and then they are pushed towards the lighter ones. This approach ensures effective learning despite a long process. Thus, it becomes efficacious when transitioned from facile to arduous. 

2. Instructional Intervention 

Instructors should focus and intervene by exposing the learners to new words. This ideally means introducing new words, which would ultimately help them recognise the words later. Starting with functional words, students should later focus on content words. 

Frequent reading encourages quick and automatic recognition, resulting in cognitive restructuring. This approach can be followed personally, but the instructor’s intervention can make it even more effective. 

word recognition strategies for high schoolers

3. Try 6 step identification technique

Who wouldn’t love a technique that uses a multisensory approach? We have discussed the various advantages and disadvantages of the multisensory approach in our previous posts. But can it be good for teaching kids word recognition too?

A student can use a six-step method to identify words they previously didn’t know of. Teachers can introduce this model until the time students can become independent readers. 

Here are those six steps:

Step 1: Frame it: Start by looking at that word. Ask yourself, have you seen it before?

Step 2: Blank It: Read the sentence without the word. Or, say “Blank” or “Dash” in place of that word.

Step 3: Begin it: Spell the word multiple times to see if you know or relate it somewhere.

Step 4: Split it: If possible, divide the word into two parts to see if you can figure out any of it.

Step 5: Read on: Read the whole sentence again to see if you figure it out from the context clue.  

Step 6: Ask the teacher or a peer, or search the word in the dictionary if you still can’t figure out the meaning.

Why activities needs to be highlighted?

Activities have always been an exceptional source of learning. Students often enjoy learning through hands-on experience. Activities for phonics can make a great impact– especially, for students of kindergarten or preschool. This is because engaging them in activities is much simpler than forcing them to study for a substantial time. Children of all ages learn better through a practical approach, which greatly results in retention and comprehension. 

Summing up 

Word recognition is a blend of phonological awareness, decoding and sight recognition. Phonological awareness is a broad concept covering various sounds in spoken words; thus, learning them is the first step towards word recognition. Decoding makes learners understand the correct combination and sound of words. Sight recognition implies interpreting the word at first sight itself. All these components can be developed personally or instructionally through various potential strategies Mull over them to what suits you best for you. 


[1] Word Recognition and Reading Skills to Improve Reading Comprehension: Universidad Casa Grande (Mayra Yadira Chamba) (2021 February)

[2] An L2 Reader’s Word-Recognition Strategies: University of Scranton, Pennsylvania (Alco B.)

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