Teach Compound Words with Poems

Did you know there are actually three different kinds of compound words? Yup, there are.

The Three Kinds of Compound Words:

1. Closed form compound words:

Two (or more) individual words combined together that make a new word. (Examples: firefly, football, childhood, schoolhouse, firefighter) Usually, when people are talking about compound words, they are referring to the closed form.

2. Hyphenated form compound words:

Two or more words that go together and are connected by a hyphen. (Examples: over-the-counter, Jack-in-the-box, up-to-the-minute, part-time, single-minded)

3. Open form compound words:

Two words that generally go together, but are not connected. They are open. (Examples: full moon, half sister, real estate, living room, school bus, high school)

Teach What a Compound Word Isn’t

Some kids start looking at any big long word, and think it must be a compound word. Nope.

It’s helpful to show students examples of what a compound word is and some non-examples of what a compound word isn’t.

1. Compound words are not base words with a prefix and/or suffix. 

For instance, while the word lookout is a compound word (look + out), the word looking (look + ing) is not a compound. It’s a base word with a suffix. Prefixes and suffixes are not words, but word parts. They throw a big old monkey wrench in learning compound words for some kids.

2. Compound words are not contractions.

The word cannot is a compound word, however, can’t is a contraction.

When kids can distinguish between words that are a compound (or not) and tell why it is or isn’t, then they really, truly understand.

Examples of Compound Words:




Non-Examples of Compound Words: (Base Word + prefix and/or suffix attached)




Compound Words For Kids Who Need More Challenge

Remember, the definition of a closed compound word is a word with two (or more) words combined together to make a new word.

There are some compound words with more than two words. These can be fun to include as a learning extension for high fliers.

Some examples include:





Compound Words Help Teach Decoding

Compound words are important to teach as part of a language arts curriculum, but they’re also great for demonstrating the chunking reading strategy for decoding words. When students read, we want them looking at words as meaningful chunks, rather than as a string of individual letter sounds.

Because compound words generally are taught as word chunks combined together, they provide the perfect vehicle for teaching the reading strategy of chunking.

We also want kids to use the same problem solving when they’re writing and spelling new words, especially multi-syllabic words. Gotta love those compound words!

Teach Compound Words with Poems

Rather than teach compound words in isolation or follow up with a boring compound words worksheet (e.g. Write the correct compound word in the blank…ugh!), I think a short poem makes a much more interesting teaching text.

I never could find any that had enough compound words in them, so of course, I wrote my own. I like poems because they target a skill within a reading context. It’s important when teaching a skill to always bring it back to text.

Image of compound words poem, A Werewolf, by Lorrie L. Birchall

Compound Words for Kids

I wrote poems targeting compound words for kids in grades 2-3 in mind. The poems can certainly swing up or down as needed. I really tried to incorporate compound words kids would likely be familiar with and recognize. I did intentionally incorporate the three different kinds of compound words, with the closed form most represented.

Image of poem If I Could Be a Shark Someday by Lorrie L. Birchall

I hope you enjoy teaching compound words with some targeted poems!

FREEBIE Halloween Poem with Compound Words

Halloween Poems with Compound Words 

Compound Words Poetry can be found here. (FYI…all the Halloween poems with compound words are included in this bigger collection).

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