What do a milkshake, a mailbox, and a notebook have in common?
Actually, nothing … except that they all happen to be compound words.
Most of the time, compound words are easy to tackle if we think of them as two smaller words that are combined to form a new word.
But compound words can cause confusion for beginning readers and spellers, so here are some practical tips for teaching them.
Teach your child how to look for the two smaller words in the compound word.
One easy way to do this is with letter tiles. Build a compound word such as bathtub using the tiles.
Explain to your child that the word bathtub has two smaller words in it, and invite him to find those two smaller words. Letter tiles are great for this activity because your child can separate the compound word into two words, like this:
Suddenly, longer words are no longer scary! See why I love letter tiles so much? You can practice this concept with fun words like sandbox, anthill, backpack, and windmill. This is a wonderful method for helping students visualize the words that form compound words.
Here are two activities from All About Reading Level 1, Lesson 40, that you can download and use with your child.
Cut out the branch and the birds. Lay the birds on the table and mix them up. Have your child should select two matching birds and set them on the branch side by side. Then have your child read the resulting compound word.
Cut out the knife and the foods. Have your student pretend to cut each compound word between its two smaller words. Read each smaller word, and then the compound word.
Spelling compound words can be a bit trickier than reading them, so the next step is to strengthen your child’s visual memory.
When your child is spelling, it isn’t always clear when he should combine two words into one. This process is made more difficult by the fact that there are actually three kinds of compound words:
In All About Spelling and All About Reading, we focus on closed compounds, and help your child recognize common closed compounds by building his visual memory. The Practice Sheets in All About Reading and the Word Banks in All About Spelling are excellent tools to do just that.
Here’s a downloadable sample from All About Reading Level 1.
For concentrated practice reading compound words, download the sample and have your child read across several lines of words each day.
Of course, reading word lists isn’t all that exciting. Reading a short story about a sassy cat, on the other hand, is a much more engaging way to practice reading compound words! Here’s the first story with compound words that beginning readers encounter in All About Reading Level 1.
The more familiar your student becomes with compound words, the easier it will be for him to succeed when it comes time to spell them.
And that leads us to a tip for teaching children to spell compound words:
To increase your child’s awareness of compound words during spelling dictation, provide prompts such as “This next sentence has a compound word.” After your child sees closed compound words in print a number of times, he’ll begin to get a sense of when to combine two smaller words into one.
The bottom line when teaching compound words is practice, practice, practice! But make practice a joy by incorporating letter tiles, activity sheets, short reading selections, and spelling dictation “hints.”
What are your favorite ways to practice compound words? Let me know in the comments, and then download our free printable Banana Splits game.