Tuesday

Separating Words by Syllables Can Help a Child Sound Out Words

When a more than one syllable word comes up in a story a child is reading you can teach a child to use phonics rules for each syllable in the word. An adult helping a child read can show the first syllable of the word. Then the child can attempt to read the first syllable using phonics rules.
I've been volunteering at my children's school as a parent reading tutor. I work with two children twice a week. We have a program to follow and books to choose at our students' reading levels. I bring and use a few of my own phonics books and include some ways to teach reading I've found through research and experience. Working with a child one on one gives me an opportunity to see what works to teach reading, and try out new things.
I've taught the students I tutor some simple phonics rules. When a more than one syllable word comes up in a story a student is reading I've been tapping the number of syllables on the table. I don't do this for every word. It's one strategy I've been trying on a few words and it's been working like magic. My goal is to have these children take words apart by syllable and use phonics rules to give sounding out longer words a try.

Here's an example showing how a word can be read differently depending on where syllables are spaced.

Here's metamorphosis separated correctly.

Following rules for syllables:


met - (short e sound) When a vowel is alone between two consonants it will usually make a short sound.


a - (a makes the "uh") All vowels can make this sound. It is called the schwa sound.


mor - (or has a special sound) Special letter combinations have their own sound.


pho - (ph makes the "f" sound, long o sound) When a vowel is at the end of a word or syllable it will usually make a long sound.


sis - (short i sound) When a vowel is alone between two consonants it will usually make a short sound.


Here's metamorphosis separated differently.


Following rules for syllables to read metamorphosis a different way:


me - (long e sound) When a vowel is at the end of a word or syllable it will usually have a long vowel sound.


ta - The a could make a long sound or the schwa sound "uh".


mor - (or makes a special sound) Special letter combinations have their own sound.


phos - (short o sound) When a vowel is alone between two consonants it usually makes a short sound.


is - (short o sound) When a vowel is at the beginning of a word or syllable it usually make a short sound.



I use my fingers or a child's fingers to finger frame one syllable at a time. Here are pictures showing finger framing a word by syllables.
The vowel sound for this syllable should be short if it follows the CVC (consonant vowel consonant) rule.
It follows the rule. It would be read differently if it was separated like this. pro / mise

The vowel sound for this syllable would be long if it followed the silent e rule.
It doesn't follow the rule.
It would be okay to follow the phonics rule when sounding out this word and change the vowel sound to short when it didn't make a real word. If a child tried to break this word apart on his or her own and tried pro / mise. The vowel would make a long o sound to go along with the CV pattern phonics rule. Sometimes if a reader works hard on a word it's best to start at the beginning of the sentence to get back into the flow of the story. It's hard to make sense of reading when there is a lot of stopping and starting and sounding out. If a child is having to stop and sound out more than one in ten words, the book is at frustration level. Easier books should be chosen.

Separating words by syllables and making the sounds that follow the rules gives a new reader a starting point to sound out a word. I've taught the students I'm tutoring phonics rules. I've taught them to be flexible when reading:
vowel sounds can change,
sometimes letters work together to make new sounds,
some letters are silent,
but letters can't be added that aren't there.

Teach and practice some phonics rules, check if a child can hear how many syllables in a word, and give reading longer words by syllables a try.

Resources to teach phonics rules:

Resources to practice hearing syllables:

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