What is concept of word? Why is it important?

What is concept of word? Why is concept of word important when teaching beginning reading?

One of the things that I always look for when helping one of my students learn to read is whether or not the student knows and understands ‘concept of word’.   What is ‘concept of word’?  Why is it important that a student understand ‘concept of word’ when learning how to read?

Concept of word simply means that a student understands that each little group of letters in a sentence is a word, that words are separated by a space, and that and each word has a meaning and is a spoken word.

So, here is an example – Read the following sentence:

See the red hat.

If a student understands concept of word, the student sees 4 words in that sentence.  The student can count these words.  If you read the sentence to the student, the student can point to each word in the sentence and know that each written word is a spoken word.  When a student sees and recognizes a ‘group of letters’ as a word, the student is seeing and understanding ‘concept of word.’    Once the student understands concept of word, the student begins to be able to break down the word into different sounds – (beginning, middle, ending) sounds – thus, helping the student learn to read the word by sounding out, or recognize the word -if it is a sight word.

Concept of word is a fairly easy concept for most students, but, students who struggle with reading may have difficulty with this concept.  Each day in Mrs. Karle’s Learn to Read for free program, Mrs. Karle works with the students on concept of word by teaching the students to use a pointer, or their finger, to point to each word as they read.  After she has finished teaching the students for the day, she has the students read the previous day’s reading and circle all the words that they know.   The circling of the words the student knows allows Mrs. Karle (or, you, the student’s teacher!) to see whether or not the student understands where each word begins and ends.  In other words, the circling of the words shows you that the student understands concept of word.  It also shows the student that he/she knows many words!  This gives the student confidence that he/she knows how to read, and encourages the student to keep reading.

Look for more ideas on how to help your student learn concept of word in upcoming blog posts!

If you like this post, you will like

Kindergarten Teaching Ideas

Reading Resources Bundle
Teach and reinforce letters and sight words with this AMAZING bundle!
25 Days to Reading Success: Read at a first-grade level in 25 days
Read at a first-grade level in just 25 days!
Handwriting Patch Curriculum
Teach a child handwriting AND drawing using our handwriting curriculum.

Madreen Karle is a master first grade reading teacher with over 30 years of classroom experience. She taught reading in a special needs and English as a Second Language classroom. After retiring she wrote a reading program to help others learn how to teach reading. She is a trusted educator and author of 5 books to help teach children to read and write. In addition to her books, she is a mentor for 3 websites that give reading teacher tips (Mrs. Karle’s Sight and Sound ReadingMrs. Karle’s Reading Patch, and Mrs. Karle’s Handwriting Patch). Through her teaching she learned that confidence was the key to learning to read. A child who is not confident at reading does not like to read and struggles to read. Mrs. Karle created “sunshine moments” to help teach children how to grow their confidence and learn to read.
Meeghan Karle Mousaw (Madreen’s daughter) has her Master’s in Special Education. She has 8 years experience teaching children to read online. In addition, she developed a curriculum to teach children handwriting called The Handwriting Patch. With the Handwriting Patch learning is fun because children learn to draw and learn handwriting at the same time. In 2019 The Handwriting Patch curriculum became an amazon best seller the first year it was released, helping thousands of kids learn handwriting with a unique, fun method. She is mom to 6 kids, each with differently learning abilities and struggles.
The Reading Patch was established by the creators of Mrs. Karle’s Sight and Sound Reading. Together they have been featured on the NBC media outlets and Parents Magazine online. Over the last 8 years in their online platform, Madreen and Meeghan have worked tirelessly with teachers, homeschoolers and parents looking to help children learn to read to become a trusted authority in teaching children to read and advocating early literacy skills. They often partner with other educational experts to deliver the most current information to the Reading Patch community.


  1. Tammy @ theultimatelinky.com says:

    I could see this being a problem. I guess when I taught I instinctively did this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *