Unknown Word Strategies

What do you do when you come across a word you don't know?

Finding out what strategies your students use

It is important to know what strategies your student use most often, what they sometimes use, and what strategies they rarely, if ever, use. Use the 10 question survey below to analyze your students' responses.

*Please note that you will have to remake this using your own login on Survey Monkey to use the results, but they do allow you to use already created survey's as your own, once you create a login.



Skip the difficult word.

Read on to the end of the sentence or paragraph, then go back to the beginning of the sentence and try again.

Read on.

Reread inserting the beginning sound of the unknown word.


Subsitute the unknown word with a word that makes sense in it's place.

Look for a known chunk or small word.

Use a finger to cover part of the word, looking for chunks or smaller words within the unknown word that you do understand in order to work towards building a basis of understanding of the unknown word.

Break it down.

Read the word using only the beginning and ending sounds or read the word without the vowels.

Use visuals.

Use picture cues included with the text to help deduce the meaning of the unknown word.

Use background knowledge.

Apply your background/prior knowledge to the context to try to create meaning.


Predict and anticipate what may come next in the sentence.

Cross check.

"Does it sound right?"

"Does it make sense?"

"Does it look right?"


Monitor yourself as you are reading, self-correcting as needed.

Write it down.

Write down the words you don't know on a post-it to look up later.


Reread the passage several times to make sure meaning is being made appropriately.



Allyssa Massarelli / Literacy Strategies/ December 2013