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Is Teaching Nonsense Word Fluency Nonsense?

nonsense word activity ideas

Today I’m talking nonsense. Nonsense words, specifically CVC words. I’m sure you’re wondering, “Okay, so if they’re not real words, then why should students even learn them?” Believe it or not, nonsense word fluency does in fact serve an important purpose in early elementary classrooms. So, let’s jump right into it!

What Are Nonsense Words?

Nonsense words are words that have no meaning. They may even actually BE parts of real words. Teaching nonsense words with CVC patterns can help students decode new and larger words as their reading skills grow and develop over time. By breaking words into smaller parts to create nonsense words, students are also practicing phonological awareness. Practicing nonsense words greatly strengthens this important skill. 

Nonsense words are foundational building blocks for more advanced words that students will eventually read and decode. I believe nonsense words are essential, so I created a fun free resource for students to practice their nonsense word fluency. Check it out here!

What is Nonsense Word Fluency?

In early grades, such as Kindergarten and First Grade, nonsense word fluency is so important! Nonsense word fluency indicates a student’s ability to decode phonemes and then blend them together, thus “sounding out” the nonsense word. A student’s ability to decode also acts as a good indicator of any reading difficulties a student may currently have or may come to face in the future if this critical skill isn’t fully developed. The sooner a struggling student is identified, the sooner he or she can receive targeted intervention to overcome this challenge!

To Practice or Not to Practice?

Should students spend time practicing nonsense words? I say YES! There are many great benefits to students gaining exposure to new nonsense words. The development of this skill can be accomplished during RTI, MTSS, small group, or even whole group instruction. Students can build reading fluency with these small bits of text which in turn allows them to become strong, capable readers. There are so many building blocks to phonics instruction, but they are all equally important. Leaving a gap only creates a weak reading foundation. During practice with your students, you can identify your students’ decoding ability and address any learning gaps.

Progress Monitoring for Nonsense Word Fluency

While nonsense words may seem like an easy concept, some students may really struggle with this foundational literacy skill! That is why progress monitoring is so important when instructing CVC nonsense words. I’ve created nonsense fluency practice for the ENTIRE YEAR. The practice sheets align perfectly with both many commercially available nonsense word fluency progress monitoring programs. 

How We Practiced Nonsense Words in 1st Grade

Use the pages however they best suit your class! In my first grade classroom, I used these sheets during RTI interventions and progress monitoring. I also used them for student work samples and even homework with parents. Each page offers an opportunity for your students to read fifty-five nonsense words and to call 165 correct letter sounds. Each month, students will become stronger  readers as they practice their list of words. Make a challenge or game for students to become motivated. This is a great way, not only for students to work on any areas of difficulty, but for you to identify your students’ overall progress. Simply click and print, and you’re ready to go!

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