ParaPro Reading Study Guide: Classroom Skills

Intro Paragraph

Sound Out Words

The questions in this section will revolve around phonics and the student’s ability to “sound out a word.” A student must be able to recognize a short vowel and long vowel sound. For example, in the word “hat,” the “a” has a short vowel sound. But in the word “hate,” it has a long vowel one. Vowels squeezed between consonants in three-letter words are going to have short vowel sounds.

Look at the example below:

Example 1

In which word is the vowel used as a long vowel?

  1. Bet
  2. Hot
  3. Bite
  4. Step

In all the examples but letter C, the vowel letter is surrounded by only consonants and are short vowels. The “i” sound is used in the word “Bite.”

Knowing long and short vowel sounds and consonant rules can also help you with questions concerning rhymes. The biggest mistake students make is they are unaware of all the short and long vowel sound rules.

Look at the example below:

Example 2

The boy broke his ankle and had to be placed in a boot for support.

What word rhymes with boot?

  1. Flute
  2. Hot
  3. Pot
  4. Date

Option A is correct. Hot and pot have short vowel “o” sounds while Date has a long vowel “A” sound.

Break Down Words Into Parts

Knowing a word’s root can help you figure out what the word means. For example, if you’re familiar with what the word “disassemble” means but you know the word “assemble” means to put something together and the prefix “dis” means “not or opposite,” you can figure out that the word “disassemble” means the opposite of assemble, meaning to take apart.

Questions in this section will ask you to figure out a word’s meaning based on its root word.

Here are some common prefixes to be aware of:

  • “Dis” = To remove or reverse
  • “Over” = Too much
  • “Anti” = Against something or opposed to it
  • “Inter” = Between
  • “Mid” = In the middle of something
  • “Post” = After
  • “Re” = To do again
  • “Un” = Remove or reverse

Here are some common suffixes to be aware of:

  • “-ify” = To make or become (i.e. Justify means to make right)
  • “-able”/“-ible”  = Capable of being (i.e. edible means capable of being eaten)
  • “-ism” = Doctrine or belief (i.e. Pacifism means belief in peace)
  • “-ship” = Position held (i.e. Ownership means holding possession)
  • “-tion” = State of being (i.e. Opposition means one’s being against something)
  • “-ate”/”-en” = To become (i.e. Regulate means to become under the control of authority; enlighten means to become educated on something)

There are hundreds more, and the more prefixes and suffixes you know, the more definitions you can unlock.

Look at this example:

Example 3

Knowing the prefix “Sub” means below, what is the best definition for the word Subterranean?

  1. Something that’s discolored or disjointed
  2. Lying or operating underneath the earth
  3. An unusual being from outside of the planet
  4. Being extremely powerful or potent

The answer here is option B. Being underneath the earth means being below, which is what the prefix is for “sub.” The other options don’t match what the prefix is.

Another key part is knowing compound words, which is when two words join together to make one. Common compound words include “toothbrush,” “keyboard,” “daydream,” and “Eyeball.”

Administrators will provide a sentence or passage and ask you to determine which of the options given is a compound word. Always ask yourself “Are there two words within one?” Look at the example below:

One of my favorite activities to do on the weekends is going to the movies. I enjoy relaxing, eating popcorn, and having my favorite soda. Sometimes I just go by myself so I won’t be distracted by my friends.

Example 4

Students are learning about basic compound words–these are words made up two words and conjoined together to make one. Which of the following words would be a compound word from the passage?

  1. Activities
  2. Popcorn
  3. Favorite
  4. Distracted

The answer here is option B. “Pop” and “corn” make up the word popcorn, making this a compound word. The other options don’t take two words and combine them into one.

Decode Words or Phrases Using Context Clues

Now that we have looked over root words and knowing how to decode them, we will have to figure out the meaning of these words when they’re actually in context. We learned in Part A, section 4 how to figure out context clues. Not only can we determine a word’s meaning based on the words around it, but we can also figure it out based on its root.

Look at the example below:

Example 5

Before he passed away, President George H.W. Bush wrote an autobiography detailing his own life in the Oval Office.

Reading the sentence above, what would be the best meaning of the prefix “Auto”?

  1. Self or from within
  2. Against or opposite
  3. To be in the middle
  4. To Remove

The answer is option A. Even if we don’t know what “Autobiography” means, by looking at the context clues, we can figure out the meaning of the root “Auto.” If George Bush wrote something where he details his own life, it means he’s talking about himself in it. This means of the four options, option A makes the most sense–meaning self or within.

Distinguishing Between Synonyms, Antonyms, and Homonyms

It’s important to know going into the text what synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms are:

  • Synonyms are words that are alike, such as help and assist.
  • Antonyms are words that are opposite, such as dark and light.
  • Homonyms have the same sound but have different meanings. Sometimes these words are spelled identical, such as rose (a flower) and rose (to rise up). Mail and male are spelled differently but also have the same sound.

By knowing the difference between these three, you can go into the questions with confidence. Many students are familiar with antonyms and synonyms but are not familiar with homonyms. In order to successfully differentiate between all of these, you must be familiar with examples.

Let’s look at the following example:

Example 6

Students are working in pairs and thinking of synonyms. Which is a pair of synonyms?

  1. Bravery and Cowardice
  2. Break and Brake
  3. Bait (noun) and Bait (verb)
  4. Bossy and Controlling

The answer is option D. Being bossy is the same thing as being controlling making this a synonym. Bravery and cowardice are opposites, making these antonyms. Break and break are homonym examples while rose and bait and bait are also homonyms.

Test administrators may also present a question in the opposite way where they give you the words in a question or a sentence and ask you to determine what type of device it is. Look at the example below:

Example 7

My favorite time of year is Spring. I spring out of bed every day and watch our flowers bloom outside.

Spring and spring in these sentences are examples of what kind of words?

  1. Synonym
  2. Homonym
  3. Antonym
  4. Acronym

Option B is the answer here. These are homonyms, which are words that have the same sound but different meanings.

Alphabetize Words

The questions in this section will test you on your ability to put words in proper alphabetical order. This may sound easy to some students as they will think to themselves, “I know the alphabet.” However, the easier something may seem, the more the administrator will try to trick you. So be fully aware of this.

The following are some tips for properly alphabetizing words:

  • Don’t be caught off guard by two-word states (or words) versus one. For example, if you’re given the example to alphabetize West Virginia vs. Wyoming, still look at “We” coming between “Wy.” Also, the same with New Mexico vs. Nevada (Nev comes between New. Ignore the “Mexico” part).
  • Use your scratch paper if you need to. You’re going to sometimes be asked to alphabetize words like “except”, “excel,” and “exercise” where the first few letters are the same and you have to go down the line. Write these words on top of the other, cross out the “ex” in each word, and start going down the line with the next letters and compare those.
  • Be aware of the abbreviation rules. For example, abbreviations like Dr., Mr., and St. should be treated as if they’re spelled out. So Dr. should be treated like “Doctor” and Mr. should be treated as Mister.
  • If you come across numbers and words, be aware that numbers should always listed before words.

Look at the following example:

Example 8

Students are given a list of words and asked to alphabetize them in order. Which sequence is alphabetized correctly?

  1. Accent, Accept, Accelerate, Access
  2. Accelerate, Accept, Access, Accent
  3. Accelerate, Accent, Accept, Access
  4. Accent, Accelerate, Access, Accept

This example might make your head dizzy. But the easiest way to break this down is to write them in order one on top of the other. If you do this, you can eliminate “ACCE” and then compare the fifth letter in each word. These letters are all different. Option C goes from L-N-P-S, making this the correct alphabetical order.

Now the administrator can throw you another curveball and change up some of the words a bit more so it’s more than just the fifth letter in each word that is different.

Example 9

Which sequence below is alphabetized correctly?

  1. Accelerate, Accent, Academy, Accost
  2. Academy, Accelerate, Accent, Accost
  3. Academy, Accelerate, Accost, Accent
  4. Accelerate, Accent, Accost, Academy

This can also give your brain a headache because, unlike the first example, now you have some words with the same first five letters, some of which diverge after two and another after three. The correct option here is B with “Aca” coming before “Acc” so you know “academy” has to come first. With Accelerate and Accent, just like the first example, the “l” comes before the “n.” However, the fourth letter in “Accost” comes after the “e” in Accelerate and Accent, making that word last.


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