When I first started teaching, nonsense words seemed like… Well, they seemed like nonsense to me! I truly did not understand why I was using nonsense words to assess phonics skills. Don’t worry; I totally get why now and actually encourage it, but that’s a different blog post for a different time. Teaching context clues with nonsense words is a fun lesson so read more below!
A few years ago, I began teaching context clues with nonsense words and it was a true game changer. My very first lesson was about a “woompapa“. I prepped my lesson by thinking of something very common that all my students would more than likely be familiar with. Then, I made up a word and created a very short, simple story and wrote it on anchor chart paper. I sat my students on the rug in front of the paper (the paper was hidden) and told them all about this new thing that I had and how it was called a woompapa! They laughed. I laughed too because it’s such a silly word.
Why does it work?
Teaching context clues can be really tricky! There’s a lot of different factors that go into doing so. I have felt that beginning the context clues reading unit with simple, short stories with made up words works because it is easy to look for their schema. When we dove into this story, we brainstormed different things people keep by their bed, what wakes people up, what our cell phone could be used for, etc. It is teaching students to really figure out what a word means.
Nonsense words aren’t intimidating
Some real words can be intimidating for a first grader. The books that these words are in can also be intimidating for a first grader. When you tell your students that you made up this word and that you are going to use what you already know to figure it out, that takes the intimidation away.
Ready to try it out?
If you’re ready to teach context clues with nonsense words, I have a free passage for you! Leave your email below and it’ll be sent right to your inbox! If you are teaching context clues, make sure to check out our full reading unit!
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