I’m going to be honest here, I’m not 100% sure I have a definitive answer to that question. This is one of those items that I truly see both sides to the argument.
On one hand, being able to decode words according to phonics rules and to recognize chunks inside of words are both important skills. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a student is decoding correctly when they have a high vocabulary and have a lot of sight words.
I have recently learned another reason that teaching nonsense words is important. The words that we think of as nonsense, often become syllables within multi-syllabic words. With that added information, I lean a little more on the side of nonsense words being important, but not so important that they need to be skilled and drilled into every child.
On the other hand, reading is all about making meaning out of the text and there just isn’t any meaning in the words dop, lum and vab.
However, with my new knowledge- dop is the first syllable of dopple and lum is the first syllable of lumber.
I’ve discovered that nonsense words is something that people tend to feel very passionate about.
For me, the argument is moot because assessing students on nonsense words is a state mandated assessment for me. I may not like it, but I have to do it.
Since I have to do it, I need to prepare my students for it. That means lots of phonics instruction and teaching how to decode words and chunk parts of words.
I choose to do this through word families. When I teach and practice word families, I use real words and nonsense words. This gives students practice decoding, practice chunking AND practice with nonsense words.
When I taught Kindergarten, I started working on word families around November or December, based on where my students were. I created this CVC Fluency packet to use in small groups. Every week, students would work on one word family. We would practice blending the words and sorting them into Real Word or Nonsense Word categories. Then we would play the board game to practice chunking the words.