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Break the “Word Guessing” Habit

Little girl word guessing

Does your child guess at unknown words instead of sounding them out?

The “word guessing” habit can stand in the way of learning to read. In this post, you’ll learn why kids guess and how you can solve the problem.

Why Do Kids Guess?

Kids don’t guess to annoy us or because they’re lazy; they may simply be using the process that seems most logical or intuitive to them.

Some kids guess because they have been taught to guess. Believe it or not, guessing is taught as a reading strategy in many schools, so previous teachers may have encouraged a student to look at the pictures or use context clues to see if he could figure out what the unknown word was.

Guessing is common among children who have been taught with the whole word or sight word method. They are accustomed to looking at the beginning letters and shapes of the words instead of paying attention to each phonogram in the word.

Some kids guess because they don’t know what else to do. They haven’t been taught phonics or strategies for breaking down multisyllabic words.

The 4 Types of Word Guessers

What type of guesser is your child?

  1. “First Letter” Guesser: This child looks at the first letter and guesses what the word is. For example, if the word is heart, the child looks at the H and says horse.
  2. “Word Shape” Guesser: This child looks at the first and last letters of the word and at the basic shape in the middle of the word, and takes a wild guess. For example, if the word is maple, the child says maybe. Both words begin with M and end with E, and the words have a similar shape in the middle.
  3. “Picture Clue” Guesser: This child looks at the pictures to help him guess the word. For example, the child may come across a sentence like The scary dog barked at the cat. The child doesn’t know the word scary, so he looks at the picture of the angry-looking dog and guesses the word angry.
  4. “Context Clue” Guesser: This child uses context clues to guess the missing word. For example, the child may come across a sentence like The farmer bought grain for his cattle. The child doesn’t know the word cattle, but the first letter is C, and based on the context she guesses the word chickens.

What’s the Solution for Word Guessing?

The All About Reading blending procedure is the best solution that I have found for word guessing.

I’m a strong believer in figuring out the simplest solution for solving reading problems, including word guessing. The method I’m about to share with you is highly effective, and it has worked for every child I’ve used it with. This free download provides an illustrated summary of the blending technique.

word guessing graphic showing the blending procedure download

Here are the basic steps:

With this method, your child will develop the good habit of looking at each phonogram, starting at the beginning of the word, and then progressing through each phonogram in sequence. It won’t take long before your student will transfer this blending skill to printed words and you won’t need the letter tiles.

Practice this blending procedure for a few minutes a day, five days a week, and soon you’ll be able to say adios to the word guessing habit!

Do you have a child who is a word guesser, or did you manage to escape this bad habit?

break the word guessing habit pinterest graphic
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Sarah

says:

My daughter seems to use several guessing techniques, although she will sound out the words once I get her to go back and really look at the word. Otherwise she reads quite well.

Joyce

says:

My daughter struggles with the blending! Names are hard too, so she is a name guesser too, if it starts with A, the name is Alice :)

Amy

says:

My son is 8 and has always been a struggling reader. He’s been through 3 months of vision therapy and we’ve been using AAR for the last 2 years now and I’ve definitely seen an improvement in his word guessing. He used to do it a lot more often. He is mostly a first letter guesser. Now I notice him do it when he starts to get really tired. It’s a good clue for me that it’s time to take a break.

Kylie

says:

I am so right there with you, Amy. My son is 8 and does vision therapy here at home. I’m finally seeing him improve in the fluency, but once he gets going it’s easy for him to just start guessing words that he thinks would make sense in that spot. Sometimes having an 8 year old who struggles feels really lonely.

Ashley

says:

My son is only 4, but he is a context guesser. He likes to try to finish sentences while I read to him.

My daughter is a context clue guesser, as well.

Rebecca

says:

I have a first letter guesser and 2 “blended” guessers–they combine several guessing strategies and phonics… I’m one of those who always thought it was laziness!

Kristina

says:

My 1st grader could really use this, it would solve the word guess habit he’s adopted. Fingers crossed!

Robin

says:

This is excellent. I have a teaching degree, and in my elementary language methods class, we were taught that all the ‘clues’ add up to reading. Through my home schooling, I have re-taught myself how to teach with phonics. Still, I have a guesser right now, who still struggles with some basic words and I haven’t been very creative with strategies for not guessing. I just say don’t guess, slide through each sound. Thanks for this help. She will love it.

Joanita

says:

My daughter is a picture guesser. Thank you for the tips.

Dalena

says:

I have a first letter guesser and a picture guesser. I’m homeschooling my children due to christian beliefs and the fact that public school just wasn’t helping in their reading progress. It would be so wonderful to win a level set, to try with my kids. Thanks for all the helpful info as well.

Amy Osborn

says:

My youngest is a context clue guesser.

Dawn Gray

says:

My son is a word guesser. We love the tiles and the All About Reading program. We just started it and he is excelling now. He does still guess at the words, just to hurry and he looks at pictures to help him guess, if there are any.
Thank you for this post. That is exactly what I’ve been doing with him to stop the guessing. I always say “sound it out” and we look at each letter and make the sound and then blend them together.

Jennifer B.

says:

My just turned 6 year old is a first letter guesser. He isn’t really reading anything except some sight words and he is just NOT interested in reading. He is done with public school kindergarten in a week and we’ll be homeschooling him after that. I have my work cut out for me! Your program sounds wonderful!

debbie

says:

My daughter has just started sounding out her letters but she definitely looks to the pictures for clues!

Krista

says:

My 4 year old is a first letter guesser.

Amanda

says:

picture if those are available or first letter if reading a page with no pictures

Brooke

says:

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen my daughter use all of those methods at one time or another. That’s what they were taught to do in kindergarten at her school. It’s a habit that we’re still trying to break, but we are making progress.

Christy MAREZ

says:

My child is a picture guesser.

Katie

says:

I am about to finish the first set with my youngest son. I tried it with my middle dyslexic son but he couldn’t get into it. My youngest son is doing great with them though!

Andrea

says:

My older daughter usually sounds out words, but sometimes she’ll be lazy and become a first letter guesser or a shape guesser. My son hasn’t really started reading at all yet (he’ll be 4 in July), so he would be a picture guesser for the whole story. :-) He likes making up his own story based on the pictures in the book.

My 5yo is a first letter guesser. She does know how to blend, but I’m having a hard time getting her to move from going through each blending step every time to simply reading the whole word. It just hasn’t become second nature to her yet.

Amie

says:

My son is a word shape guesser; this has begun to happen more often now that he is reading multi-syllable words…he just skips through some of the syllables without really looking at them.

Missy

says:

My son is getting better at sounding out words but has some differentiating when it is a long or short letter sound sometimes.

Tara

says:

I think my son is a first letter guessed and sometimes a word shape guessed. We are planning to start all about reading 1 this summer so hopefully he won’t need to guess anymore!

Kristina Best

says:

My oldest is a first letter guesser and my youngest is a picture guesser.

Hillary

says:

My older son is a first letter guesser. My younger is a picture guesser and word shape guesser. Both of them were taught to guess the word when they were in public school. I have started homeschooling in the last year and we are using AAR and AAS as part of our curriculum. We are slower breaking the word guessing habit!!

amber

says:

I have 6 children. 5 reading… 4 of them are guessers… and all different kinds!

Faieza

says:

My saughter is a first letter guesser

Missie

says:

My little boy guesses at many words but mostly names within stories.

Kerrie

says:

My daughter is a first letter and sometimes a picture guesser. We are working on getting out of it. Have passed level 1 reading!

Katherine

says:

I guess my son is a word shape guesser. Although, he just turned 5 and is reading pretty well. I’m so proud of him! AAR would be such a blessing!!

Raquel

says:

My daughter is a picture guesser. She’s always trying to look at pictures first.

Kemile

says:

i wonder if a child can be a mixture of all the above because at some time or the other she uses one form of the guessing game. we are working on destroying the guessing habit but the progress sometimes seems slow, for which i think a little boosting up will help. My child is 5 yrs. old and I think she is a level 1 reader or starter.

Amy

says:

My 7 year old son is a picture guesser for sure. Would love to have Level 2 . :)

tammy bigney

says:

Love this product

tammy bigney

says:

My girls are a mixture of both

Christie

says:

Both of my kiddos are context guesser…..cannot wait to start program!

Karyn

says:

My eight-year-old daughter still guesses at words sometimes, usually just using the first letter of the word. She wasn’t taught phonics systematically in her previous schooling, so I am hoping that All About Reading can help her!

Janell

says:

My child is a first letter guesser

Penny

says:

My daughter is a whole word guesser.

Kristy

says:

I have a picture guesser and a word shape guesser too

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