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NYC Helpline: How To: Work with Students' Families

How Teach “Guess the Covered Word”  Allison Demas

"Guess the Covered Word” is an activity which I have seen overused, misused and often misunderstood, so I thought it warranted another look.

This activity is used to teach children to determine unknown words by cross checking meaning and visual cues. Visual cues does not simply mean a picture cue. It also refers to the letters presented.

Prior to presenting the text to the students you should cover a word which can be substituted by other words. You can use post-it notes to cover the word (these work well since they remove easily). Read the text leaving that word out. Ask for suggestions for the covered word. The students should take into account the rest of the text they have read, as well as any picture cues that may be present.

You might want to reveal the initial sound of the suggested word. Then ask what letter makes that sound. You would then reveal all the letters up to the vowel. If the word begins with a blend or digraph it is important that all the letters of that combination are displayed at the same time. Have students say the initial sound and ask if it matches any of the guesses. If it does not then you must generate some more guesses using the appropriate initial sound.

Ask what the next sound is that they hear. Ask what letter(s) they should expect to see for that sound. This would be a vowel or vowel combination. Show the next part of the word. Have students check the sounds of the letters displayed against the guess.

If the guess seems to be correct you can do one of two things. You can uncover the word in its entirety or you can ask what sound the students hear at the end of the word and what letters they would expect to see. If you want your students to practice looking through to the end of a word, do the latter.

The practical application of “Guess the Covered Word” is to show the students what they can do when they encounter a word they do not know. It’s a fun an engaging way to build your student’s vocabulary and confidence.


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