how to teach a child to read long words
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How to Teach a Child to Read Long Words (tips and Ideas)

Teaching a child to read shouldn’t be a controversial subject, but it is. There have been debates on how to teach children to read since the invention of the written word. Long words can be challenging for young readers. Experienced readers often struggle with long or complex words as well. Sometimes, it is difficult to learn to read unfamiliar words.

An effective strategy to teach children to read long words in English is to teach a variety of reading skills. Segmentation of words, phonics, awareness of prefixes and suffixes will assist children to deconstruct and re construct more complex words into manageable chunks, allowing easier comprehension.

The Short Version Of Teaching Long Words!

Yes we are writing a short version on teaching Long words. Though we recommend you read through at least some the the points below as well if you are not that experienced or knowledgeable.

This section is a list with links to some resources that teach students in stages. Some will be suitable for your children or students, others will be a step below or above we leave that up to you to decide! However if you are in a rush jump on in.

Step One: Well if you are really in a rush then jump on this page and give me 25 dollars or so!. Its a set of 7 workbooks, 373 pages of phonics, English, and comprehension passages that cover everything from Sounds, CVC, Phonics, Syllables and Comprehension.

Step Two: If you don’t want to do that (its cool) then start here. If your students can’t yet blend letters together check out these exercises and practice Pages. They cover CVC words. I use this as the first step in learning that sounds blend together to make words

Step Three: Once a firm grasp of CVC and word blending has been taught then introducing digraphs, ,addition vowels and blends would occur. The links to example resources are in the words. However we also have a better order of phonics mega article here.

Step Four: I always move on to vowels, and a selection of vowel spelling rules at this point. Magic E, Diphthongs, vowel digraphs etc. This is for a specific purpose. I want them to start to recognize vowels easily.

Step 5: Syllable Recognition and activities: Next we look at putting some of these skills together. Syllables are a great skill to learn for the emerging reader. The ability to take apart and then put together words to make it easier to read and say is a step towards a much wider vocabulary.

The reasons why I want to concentrate on vowels, well every syllable has a vowel sound in it. Ask the students to find that, and they can start to find the syllables in words.

Now for the other factors to take into account!

Word Parts

Look for roots, prefixes, and suffixes. When students first start learning longer words, many of them are compound words or have roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Students often know what the parts of words mean and can break them into words they understand and learn the definition or pronunciation from there.

Teacher Tip: Become familiar with the prefixes and suffixes of English.

Word and Letter Patterns

Double letters, words that end in “e,” vowel pairs, consonant pairs (digraphs), and other patterns can help children read the word they are struggling to understand. Often, they already know the word; they are just unfamiliar with it in written form.

For instance, a word such as chicken may be unfamiliar in written language. Students know what a chicken is, but early readers often think it’s spelled the same way those cows do—chikin.

However, having them break the word into ch i ck e n can help them see blends and letters. “En” would also be blended to sound like en or uhn rather than een or ehn. They know the ch sound, i, ck, and en as well.

Teacher tip: There are hundred of phonics activities and worksheets here for you to help teach your children sounds and blends.


Break words down into syllables. Not all long words can be broken into roots, prefixes, and suffixes that make sense. For instance, challenging words for older readers such as facetious have the suffix tious, but face tious makes no sense to students.

Breaking it into fah / see / shus can be more accessible. You may have to help them break the word into syllables, but phonemic awareness should help them with the word’s pronunciation. Since a word like facetious is spelled differently than students may realize, once they sound it out using syllables, they may understand it more thoroughly.

Teacher tip: We have syllables resources here for free.

Stressed Syllables

Stressing syllables is a new concept for students when they begin the syllabic study. They will quickly grasp the syllable concept in many cases, but stressed syllables are exaggerated during this portion of the lesson. Learning those prefixes and suffixes can help integrate stressed sound concepts to students as well.

Types of Syllables

Syllabic breakdown is one of the most common ways to teach longer words since they cannot always be broken into clean prefixes, suffixes, and roots. After all, the word precious appears to be a prefix and suffix with no root to a new reader. There are five types of syllables students might encounter.

  • Closed Syllable: This type of syllable ends in a consonant. The vowel sound is often short, though that isn’t always true.
  • Open Syllables: As you might expect, this type of syllable ends in a vowel, and the vowel sound in the word is often long.
  • R-Controlled Vowels and Syllables: This type of syllable is when an r follows a vowel and affects the sound of the vowel. (Car, fur, word).
  • Vowel Team Syllables: As you might guess, this syllable has a combination of vowels—oo, ou, oi, ai, and other groups are vowel teams.
  • Vowel Silent “E” Vowel Rule and Syllables: These syllables usually have a long vowel sound, and the e occurs at the end of the word.
  • Consonant “Le” Vowel rules and Syllables: This type of syllable has a word that ends with a consonant before the le. Wobble, Kindle, and whittle all have this pattern.

Teacher Tip: To teach Segmenting, Phonics and Syllable use check out our bundle of workbooks, you can click the picture below or the link above to check it out.

Use the Text to Read Long Words

One of the most important parts of reading comprehension is using the text to learn new vocabulary. Students read the words in a sentence to try to figure out the meaning of new words. The context of the rest of the text might help the student decode the meaning.

They can also think about what types of words might fit there or what the word might mean. They can then think about words they know that start with that letter or group of letters that means the same thing. Keep in mind; this particular strategy must be used in concert with other strategies. One cannot always discern the meaning or word from context.

Teacher Tip: Make sure you have text at an appropriate level for your students and children. We have levelled texts in our shop in bundles. check them out here.

Nonsense Words

Some experts suggest learning nonsense words or syllables. This technique can help solidify some of those phonics concepts, and it will help students begin to put things together they may not have expected. These nonsense words can prepare students for blends they were not aware were often used.

Teacher tips: To practice this as CVC words ( to start) we have an online CVC generator that will create both real and nonsense words. Also, although not nonsense, Children and students love to try to say Dinosaur names which are HUGE! and difficult. They ( well some of them) are great to teach both syllables and segmenting.

Why do English Words have so many meanings

Teach Dictionary Skills to Read Long words

One skill many students lack is dictionary usage. They know the dictionary has words, but they do not know how to read and understand the text in the dictionary. Spend some class time learning to look up words. Parts of speech matter for comprehension, sometimes. Similar sounding words are different parts of speech and have different meanings.

Likewise, some words have many definitions. “Run” for instance, has over 100 distinct definitions. Some of those definitions are slang uses, and others are just less widely understood. A run in a pair of pantyhose and a run in the park certainly aren’t the same thing. A run at the bank is a terrible thing, or at least it was in 1930. Students should know how to find appropriate definitions, not just pick the first one.

Teacher Tips: assign a lesson to show them that a dictionary is more than just a definition book. It can offer pronunciation guides / alternative meanings and much more. You can find online and paper dictionaries on the links.

Guessing and Read Long Words

Guessing can sometimes work. If your student has tried every strategy he or she knows, encourage them to guess. The worst thing that happens is they get it wrong. Teach your children that wrong isn’t bad. It’s just an opportunity to try again.

Scientists are wrong every day and have to change their tactics or thinking. Guessing a word right or wrong will not destroy your life or education. Keep trying. Learn through error is a very effective teaching technique!

Impart the Knowledge

Teach your students that when all else fails, it is okay to ask for help. They should be dependent on themselves in the beginning, but you can choose to help them after trying several strategies. I don’t like the word can’t.

My students have to use another word, but they can request help. They can say, “I am having trouble. I have tried a, b, and c, but I am unsure of the answer. Will you help me?” They can do it, but they need an assist to learn it.

We are there to teach students to manage for themselves but now and then we just have to give them the information and let them work from there.

Final Thoughts

Your students have to employ many strategies to learn. Continue using phonics skills well after second or third grade. Students in high school and college can continue using these strategies. Challenges are not meant to break a student down, though.

Guide them through the strategies, and for incredibly difficult words, help them out. You should encourage the use of strategies first, but your students shouldn’t work beyond the point of frustration. If you follow some of the resources and ideas above then teaching children to read long words can even be fun!

Taking a break can also help. When students have been working for extended sessions, they tend to get more frustrated and less benefit. Move around, even for the big kids, as it helps brain development and learning.

Enjoy teaching this aspect and remember once those decoding skills are ingrained, your students have a whole larger world of English reading to explore!

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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