Term of Art: Word-Attack Skills

“word attack skills: The ability to read a word using phonetic, structural, or context cues. Word attack skills using phonetic cues require a child to understand the sound-symbol relationship. Phonetic word attack skills can be assessed by asking a child to read nonsense words (such as ‘thrump’).

Word attack skills using structural cues require individuals to identify prefixes, suffixes, and roots, or to break up a word by syllables. These skills are assessed by asking a child to divide a word into syllables (such as com/pre/hend) or break a word into meaningful word parts (such as un/happy).

Good readers use contextual cues when they rely on the context of a sentence to decode a word. Poor word attack skills are one of the most common reading problems among children with a learning disability; therefore, poor word attack skills are often improved by using phonics-based word attack instruction.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

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