Get 6 lists with 376+ nonsense words, aka pseudowords! The words are organized by syllable type, and they are perfect for practicing decoding, sorting, or even use as a quick assessment! Read all about using nonsense words with your students and grab these 6 free pseudoword lists.
What Are Nonsense Words/Pseudowords?
Pseudo is a Latin base meaning false. A word sum would look like this:
Pseudo (means false) + Word (means word) = Pseudoword (means false word).
We also call pseudowords nonsense words because they aren’t real words – they’re nonsense and have no meaning!
👉 Nonsense words are made up words that follow predictable spelling patterns. Because they follow predictable spelling patterns, they can be decoded!
👨🏽🏫 Why Use Nonsense Words?
If you think about it, multisyllabic words are often made up of nonsense syllables! Take the word volcano. It’s a three syllable word made up of 2 nonsense syllables and one real syllable: vol/ca/no.
Why is this important? Explicit practice reading one-syllable nonsense words correctly will help kids correctly decode longer, multisyllabic words!
👉 For more syllable practice, check out our popular Syllable Bundle with anchor charts and practice worksheets!
Nonsense words also give teachers insight into what phonics concepts students have mastered.
For example, let’s say you want to give a CVC or closed syllable word assessment to your students. If you use nonsense words (like fab), students have to decode the word using the knowledge that closed-syllable words have short vowel sounds.
If they read făb as fābe, then you know that students need additional practice with CVC words as they have not mastered the CVC pattern or closed syllable type.
Using real words could skew this information. Because your students have come across many CVC words in text, they are able to recognize some instantly and not necessarily decode them based on the pattern. That means nonsense words can serve as a more valid assessment tool.
Using the Nonsense Word Lists
Use the word lists for practicing decoding, sorting, or even as an assessment!
Nonsense words are great for decoding practice. Students are forced to rely on phonics features only, not context or familiarity. David Kilpatrick, in his book Equipped for Reading Success (2016), states that using nonsense words “reinforces letter-sound skills and blending.”
This eliminates the ‘guessing work’ that is often associated with balanced literacy.
We want to teach our students the English language has rules, and many words follow predictable patterns that can be decoded.
Noticing patterns in words is an important part of reading. Use the words on these lists to sort according to whatever phonics features you’re working on.
You could use as a closed sort where you tell kids the categories for sorting. For example: “We are going to sort nonsense words into open and closed syllables today.”
Or you could use as an open sort where kids have to look for similar patterns or features to determine the categories to sort.
For example, you can give your students a few words from the the Closed Syllable and VCe Syllable list. Kids will have to notice the different patterns in words and should sort accordingly.
👉 Tip: Because these lists include SO many words, we suggest cutting portions of the list and only giving kids a few at a time. This also allows you to practice on multiple occasions, using the same worksheets.
Use these lists as a quick, easy, and valid assessment tool. Provide a list to students and ask them to read the words.
You can quickly see if your students know phonics skills, syllable types, and if they can blend those sounds together to read words.
Use these word lists as an informal assessment and have kids quickly read the words. We suggest having them read left to right, since many are organized by vowel sounds.
Nonsense Word Examples
📃 Download the six lists at the bottom of this post. Otherwise, all 376 words are listed out below for you!
Closed Syllable Nonsense Words
|Short A||Short E||Short I||Short O||Short U|
👉 For more practice, get our list of 80+ closed syllable words!
Open Syllable Nonsense Words
|Long A||Long E||Long I||Long O||Long U*|
*Remember, long U can say /oo/ or /ū/.
👉 For more practice, get our list of 64+ open syllable words.
VCe (Magic E) Nonsense Words
|Long A||Long E||Long I||Long O||Long U*|
*Remember, long U can say /oo/ or /ū/
R-Controlled Nonsense Words
👉 For more practice, grab yourself two free lists of over 150+ R-Controlled Vowel Words, organized by 1 and 2 syllables.
Vowel Team/Diphthong Nonsense Words
👉 Learn more about the Vowel Team Syllable Type!
Multisyllabic Nonsense Words
🖨️ Download & Print
We’d love to hear about your experience using these word lists!
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