5 great reasons to read words OUT of context

5 Great Reasons to Read Words OUT of Context

The following guest post is written by Becky Spence of This Reading Mama. Becky is a busy homeschooling mama of four littles, and she constantly shares super content on her site.  I’m always in awe of her.  Do take a peek!


  • 5 Great Reasons to Eead Words OUT of Context:

It is important to “marinate” young children in books. You may have even seen the poster that lists the top 10 ways to help kids become better readers ~Read, Read, Read… But as important as it is to read words in context (within the text), it is also a good idea to pull words out of their context and ask readers to study them. This is especially true for young readers and struggling readers.

Here are five great reasons to read words out of context:

1. The Reader Relies too Heavily on Context

Have you ever noticed your reader using the picture or the context of the sentence to figure out unknown words?

This strategy is a normal part of literacy development (and is encouraged when kids are young), but it can develop into a problem if those young kids grow into older kids who are not equipped with proper strategies to decode unknown words. In this way, relying too heavily on context negatively impacts fluency and comprehension.

2. Focusing on Word Patterns

Teaching phonics by patterns is my absolute favorite way to teach phonics. I love to use words sorts because they are hands-on, developmentally appropriate, explicit, and flexible. To prepare a word sort, words are pulled out of context and studied by the pattern that they share (for example: rain, braid, train, and maid all share the AI pattern). Other word patterns, such as AY, are compared to the first pattern. This way of teaching phonics is so effective because it equips readers of all ages to look for patterns as they read (a.k.a. reading by analogy), the strategy proficient readers use.

3. The Reader has Memorized the Book

Sometimes, our children pick up books and “read” them to us. We begin to wonder, “Does she really know the words or has she just memorized the book?” This is especially true of early reader books with predictable text. Pulling the words out of context helps readers slow down and really focus on the words. One of my favorite activities to help young readers do this is writing down the words from a few sentences in the book (or the entire book, if it’s shorter), cutting them apart, and asking your young reader to re-build the sentences.

rebuilding sentences from an early reader


My son (at age 4), an early reader, loves doing this on our pocket chart. We rebuild sentences from texts quite a bit. He even likes to make a game out of it! (If you have an early reader, my Reading the Alphabet curriculum has this activity built into every lesson.)

4. Building Fluency

When readers recognize words by sight (within one second of seeing the word), they are more fluent readers. When readers are more fluent, their minds are freed up to focus on the meaning of the text–the purpose of reading. It’s a chain reaction. Am I saying that we should teach all words by sight? Absolutely not! (refer to reason #2). But some words are better learned by sight, especially those common words that kids see all the time in reading, such as the, of, have, etc. Teaching words by sight words does not need to be boring or even include flash cards. It can be fun and interactive! When you can make it multi-sensory, all the better!

5. Supporting Readers Before and After They Read

Sometimes, certain words need to be pulled out of context and introduced before reading. This is especially true of:

1-longer words that the reader would not know or have the strategies yet to figure out on his own or

2- words that, while the reader can figure them out, he does not understand the meaning.

To do this, I glance through the book ahead of time and jot down about three to four words that jump out at me as being difficult words. I jot them down on a dry erase board or piece of paper. Before my second grade son reads the book, I display and read those words to him. We discuss the meaning of the words and/or the features of the word.

Words can also be pulled from the context of the book after reading. For example, if your child continuously read a word incorrectly (without changing the meaning of the text), jot that word down. After your child finishes reading, display the word from the text and the word he said instead side-by-side and talk about each word. For example, if your child read steps instead of stairs, talk about what a good mistake he made because these two words share the common feature of st. But be sure to go a little further in the word. Explore how the middle and ends of those words are different. Doing this helps readers slow down and focus on the patterns within words.


While there are some great reasons to read words out of context, please hear me shout it from the rooftop that kids need to be taking what they learn out of context AND applying it to real reading and real writing (in context)!

The ultimate goal of reading and writing words out of context is to help readers comprehend and create texts in context. That sounds like a great goal to me!



Becky Spence a homeschooling mama of 4 little blessings. She is the author of This Reading Mama, where she shares reading and writing activities as well as free literacy curricula and printables. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google +.


Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Becky,  for sharing your reading expertise with us!


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