+ How to Improve Reading of Multisyllable Words

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Many students who read successfuly at the single-syllable word level find themselves struggling when they encounter multisyllable words.  They lack the strategies needed.  Advanced word study interventions usually include instruction in word recognition and word analysis.

Successful readers are able to

  • read multisyllable words and use strategies to figure out unknown words
  • make connections between letter patterns and sounds and use this understanding to read words
  • break unknown words into syllables during reading
  • use word analysis strategies to break difficult or long words into meaningful parts such as inflectional endings

Struggling readers often

  • may read single syllable words effortlessly but have difficulty decoding multisyllable words
  • may lack knowledge of the ways in which sounds map to print
  • have difficulty breaking words into syllables
  • often don’t use word analysis strategies to break words into syllables

Teaching Word Study

Interventions should cue students to the orthography of words: the letter patterns and structural features associated with predictable speech sounds.  Students learn how to identify and break words into syllable types (e.g. “r-controlled” and “vowel-consonant-E”), and to read by blending the parts together. 

For example, the word mumble divides into a “closed syllable” (mum-) and a “final stable syllable” with consonant-le (-ble).

To be effective, provide information about word meaning and structure as well.  Teach the meanings of individual prefixes, suffixes, inflectional endings, roots and important vocabulary.  Difficult words can be broken apart into smaller known units. 

For example, in the word “transplanted,” students would break the word into three segments: trans-, plant, -ed.   A student can associate the known base word “plant” with the prefix trans- (across) and the suffix -ed  (happened in the past).

Using word analysis strategies, students can read unknown words part by part, and use known meanings, or semantic features, of the smaller chunks to assist them in decoding the longer word. 

Recommended Instructional Practices:

  • Teach students to identify and break words into syllable types.
  • Teach students when and how to read multisyllabic words by blending the parts together.
  • Teach students to recognize irregular words that do not follow predictable patterns.  These are called “sight words” — they don’t play fair.
  • Teach students the meanings of common prefixes, suffixes, inflectional endings, and roots.  Instruction should include ways in which words relate to each other (e.g.
  • ‘”trans”: transfer, translate, transform, transition).
  • After teaching students how to break words into word parts, ask them  to combine word parts to create their own new words based on roots, bases or other features.
  • Teach students how and when to use structural analysis to decode unknown words.

Note: The five regular kinds of syllables are open (e.g. the word “no”), closed (the word “not”);  silent E (the word “note”),  vowel team  (the word “neat”), and  R-controlled (the word “north”).  In addition there are many “final stable syllables,” and one of these is the “consonant-le” syllable.  There are also “patterns” (sometimes called “families”) which are not regular but occur in many words (e.g. ing/ink in “sing” and “sink” and  ild/old  as in “mild” and “mold”).   And, of course, those words that “don’t play fair” at all — sight words like “said”  or “enough.”

 source: I’m not sure where my source pages come from.  I printed them out some time ago, from an attachment  in one of Kevin Feldman’s  literacy newsletters.  They have no heading or date.  If someone recognizes this material, tell me.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


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