When we read with children, we know how to correct their mistakes, but sometimes we don’t know how to help them pronounce, understand, and retain new words. Here are some tips for teachers, parents, grandparents, and anyone else who works with children on how to teach hard Bible words.
Look for Context Clues
Help your child read the sentence that contains the unfamiliar word, and ask them to tell you what the rest of the sentence is talking about. If the page has a picture, ask the child to look at it and tell you what he or she sees. Using surrounding words or pictures as clues can help your child figure out the tone or idea of the sentence. He or she can then apply this to the unfamiliar word to begin understanding what the word means.
Look for Familiar Parts of the Word
Have your child sound out the word one letter at a time. Then have your child combine the sounds of the first two letters, then the first three letters, and so on until he or she can pronounce the complete word correctly. Keep in mind that this strategy may not be best for words that have irregular pronunciations (sight words).
Think of Synonyms
For some complex words, try defining the word using a synonym your child already knows. For example, if your child doesn’t understand the word abide, try replacing it with live. In the sentence “Jesus abides with us,” you could say, “Jesus lives with us.” Once your child understands this concept, you can put abide back in the sentence.
Use Flash Cards
Flash cards are great for sight words—the words whose pronunciation must be memorized. Flash cards also work well once your child understands what a word means and is working on memorizing it. While the front of the flash card can just have the word, the back can have the definition, a sample sentence using the word, and maybe a picture to help your child remember the meaning of the word. You can use flash cards before or after reading the passage, either to teach a word beforehand or to reinforce it afterward.
Check for Understanding
Children often need to be exposed to something multiple times before they fully grasp it, so it’s important to review passages you have gone over before to make sure your child fully understands them. You can check for understanding by asking questions such as “What happened in this part?” or “What did such-and-such character do after this happened?”
Learning how to read is hard work, but you can help children excel during the process. We hope these tips are helpful as you teach the children in your life tough new Bible words!
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Lutheran Life magazine.
Find out more about reading the Bible with kids and yourself from Lutheran Life.