The Importance of Nonsense Words & How to Teach Them!
Are you using nonsense words in your phonics instruction? If not, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle to support your students reading! These silly words should be a daily part of your phonics instruction. They are an important piece of the puzzle to help students read fluently.
What are Nonsense Words?
Nonsense words are made up words that follow phonetic (sound) patterns.
A consonant vowel consonant nonsense word would be “lib”. Students can say each letter sound, then say the whole word.
Why Are Nonsense Words Important?
Nonsense words are important because they force the student to focus on the individual phonetic sounds in a word. Also, while by themselves they are fake words they are often hidden in larger words!
Check out these silly words hidden in bigger words!
Not only does practicing nonsense words support phonemic awareness (knowledge of sounds), but it also increases students confidence when reading. Most children will recognizing a word as “fake” before they attempt to read it. This takes away the pressure of getting it “right” when reading because the child knows the word doesn’t exist!
Why Practice Nonsense Words?
These silly words are vital to phonics instruction because it forces the reader to use their letter sound knowledge to read the word instead of memorization. This guarantees the reader uses their knowledge of phonics instead of memorization.
Reading fake words force students to examine the letters in the words instead of relying on context or picture clues to solve words. The nonsense word fluency strategy is rooted in science and encourages the systematic, explicit teaching of phonics.
Nonsense Word Test
Nonsense words are a key part of most phonics assessments. If you see the key “NWF” on an assessment that means “nonsense word fluency” or how quickly the reader can read a list of made up words that follow predictable phonetic patterns.
For assessment, these phonetic words are often presented in isolation and the reader is asked to read as many words as quickly as possible.
The best thing about these type of assessments is it gives the teacher a clear picture on the readers phonetic knowledge.
With one NWF test you can answer the following questions:
- Does the reader have strong letter sound knowledge?
- Can they blend sounds together?
- Consonant Blends?
You can gain insight into the readers knowledge of virtually any phonetic skill which allows you to target your future small group instruction!
Nonsense Words Fluency Practice
Nonsense words are a must have in your classroom because they are so easy to practice! It can even become a staple in your classroom management strategy. It’s my go to time filler whenever I have a few minutes.
Finished early before lunch? Let’s play real or fake! Write a word on the board and have students show a thumbs up or thumbs down to identify if it is a real word or a nonsense word.
Another great silly word activity is find the real words! Write a group of words on the board: some real, some fake. Then ask students to come up and erase the nonsense words until only the real words or left. If you have enough time and brain power, have the remaining real words form a sentence for students to put together!
Nonsense Words Worksheets
Every time I sit down with a group of kids for small group instruction, I make sure to work in some nonsense word fluency practice. Some of the most effective tools I use are nonsense word sorts, and my students love finding secret words in these silly word mazes!
While I normally shy away from worksheets, every tool has it’s place – right? I use silly word activities for both independent and guided work. Worksheets are great for formative assessments and for me gather paper data on students progress. While anecdotal notes and checklists are wonderful tools, worksheets with student work speak differently at a meeting – especially with an important skill like nonsense word fluency!
Nonsense Word Generator
Thinking of fake words that follow phonetic patterns can be so hard! As adults, we’ve had so much practice reading and writing real words that creating a new word can be out of our comfort zone. Who do you know with a creative, fresh mind? Your students! Your students are the perfect source for creating words.
Rhyming Nonsense Words
One of the favorite games in my classroom is creating nonsense words through a rhyming game. I give my students a real word, like “cat” then I say “any word goes!” and they truly give me any word! Bat, lat, dat, rat, quat, zat…look at all those silly words! I write down the words as we play and save them for my small group instruction.
If you want to add some silly word activities into your small group instruction, be sure to check these out!