Multi-Syllabic Instruction

Fluency is the ability to read with prosody.  It is this rhythmic reading that grabs our attention to a read aloud.  Automaticity of word recognition, blending and decoding takes place to ensure fluent reading.  A basic guideline is that K-1 students read one syllable words easily and efficiently.  Second grade students should be able to read two syllable words, third graders moving to three syllables and fourth to four syllables.

The problem with this basic rule is that our students do not encounter these types of words often enough for them to apply their knowledge and to become “fluent” or proficient at these multisyllabic words.

Because these words are more difficult, less recognizable and take more steps to decode—our readers often skip over these words when reading silently or wait for support when reading aloud.  For these two reasons, our students are NOT applying knowledge of word parts to decode these words and then skills to decode become “rusty” over time.

How to Explicitly Teach Multisyllabic Word Decoding

  1. Chunk the word by syllable.  The student must be taught that each syllable has at least one vowel with or without consonant sounds.  It is important to understand words are made of several combinations of chunks or syllables.
  2. Circle word parts (prefixes and suffixes).  Underline vowel sounds in the rest of the word.
  3. Think about the meaning of these word parts.
  4. Say the parts of the word.
  5. Say the parts fast.
  6. Can you make it into a real word?     OR        Can you figure out what it might mean?

Sounds easy right?  No!

We must teach several prerequisites to ensure that we are providing the skills necessary for our students to be able to accomplish this task.

What do Students NEED to Know to Decode and Understand Multisyllabic Words?

  1. Vowel Conversions:
    • Students need to know when a vowel is short or long.
    • Ex. lock and locate
  2. Vowel Combinations:
    • digraphs, diphthongs, trigraphs, and triphthongs
  3. Syllables or being able to chunk a word
  4. Prefix and Suffix Knowledge and Meanings
  5. Ability to use Context Clues

The ability to decode multi-syllabic words takes many steps and processes. It is important that at every grade level—we model and practice this process so students understand how to “attack” these words when reading independently.  Even students who we deem “proficient readers” in the lower grades begin to struggle when the text becomes more complex and the number of multi-syllabic words increase.  Our students who are less proficient pronounce fewer affixes and vowels correctly and omit or skip larger portions of letter chunks or syllables.  It is crucial we continue to ensure that all students are applying strategies to decode unknown words without just skipping them during silent reading or waiting to be rescued during oral reading.

Resources used for this Blog:

Teacher Reference Chart for Prefixes/Suffix and Vowel Instruction

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