The Teacher Tip

Going Beyond “Sound it out”

September 7, 2017

Adapted from When Kids Can’t Read--What Teachers Can Do by Kylene Beers

For many struggling middle school readers, word recognition is not the problem. However, for some it is, and unless their word recognition deficits are addressed, those students will not be able to improve in other areas of reading proficiency—fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary development. Many teachers advise their students to “sound it out.” Unfortunately, sounding out words doesn’t provide the targeted support that a struggling reader needs. 

Try this: To determine where to begin instruction, find out
  • how many high-frequency and sight words students can quickly identify;
  • whether students can read single-syllable words but not multisyllabic words;
  • if students can read multisyllabic words and, if so, are they looking only at the first few letters and guessing or do they read the entire word, just very slowly; and
  • what students know about letters and sounds.
To learn more about When Kids Can’t Read--What Teachers Can Do, and to download a sample chapter, visit

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