A helpful decoding skill for new vocabulary is to determine whether or not the word is a compound word. If students recognize that some words are made up of two words strung together, it can help them easily pronounce and understand these (often long) and unfamiliar words!
The Common Core State Standards for Grade 2 requires students to “use knowledge of the meaning of individual words to predict the meaning of compound words (e.g. birdhouse, lighthouse, housefly; bookshelf, notebook, bookmark)” (L.2.4d). Although this standard is for 2nd Grade, recognizing compound words can be very useful for younger grade levels as well.
WHAT IS A COMPOUND WORD?
A compound word is made up of two or more words that, combined, create a new word. For example, the word “baseball” is made up of two discrete words, “base” and “ball.” There are technically three types of compounds: a closed compound, like “baseball,” has no spaces or hyphens between the words. A hyphenated compound, like “merry-go-round,” contains hyphens to create one word. Open compound words, like “ice cream,” contain a space between two words but are considered as one word with one meaning. For the purposes of teaching compounds words at the lower-elementary school and for decoding skills, it’s best to focus on teaching closed compound words.
COMPOUND WORD ACTIVITIES
The best way for students to understand the concept of a compound word is to expose them to many examples. Write individual words, such as “book” and “day,” on different index cards. Place them in two columns on the white board and ask students to make compound words out of the individual words. For example:
- Can you add note and book together to make “notebook”?
- Can you add note and day together to make “noteday”? (no)
- What about “eye” and “glass”? What about “eye” and “day”?
- Is Miniboy’s name a compound word? Which two words make up his name?
- Why do you think “Miniboy” is named the way he is?
- Is “strawberry” a compound word? Why do you think “berry” is combined with “straw”? [The Oxford Dictionary speculates that "straw" either refers to the stalk of the strawberry or the yellow straw-like spots on the berry.]
- Is "bushes" a compound word? Although "bushes" can be divided into "bush" and "es," which makes the word plural, emphasize that it is not a compound word because "es" is not an individual word on its own.
Knowledge of compound words wil help students decode new words, leading to improved pronunciation and reading comprehension!