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Teach Students How to Fluently Read Multisyllabic Content Vocabulary

(2011)

Dysfluent readers are so consumed with word identification that they cannot focus on extracting or constructing meaning from the text. Here are some activities to develop students' fluency skills, so that they may move on to access content. See also Develop Fluency Using Content-Based Texts.

How to get started

Many middle and high school students have never had instruction in how to divide multisyllabic words into parts (syllables) to make them pronounceable, Unfortunately, most of the "meaning" or content words in middle and high school texts contain more than one syllable. Therefore, even if your students have the appropriate vocabulary and background knowledge to understand a word, their inability to decode and pronounce it prevents them from accessing the text. Although you probably won't have the time to embark on a full-scale program to teach this skill, there are several simple things you can do on a daily basis to increase the likelihood that your students will learn how to fluently identify the vocabulary of your discipline, To that end, choose five to eight key words each week and follow these steps:

  1. After you have identified the key words, look them up in a dictionary to see how they are divided into syllables.
  2. Write out the divided words on chart paper or poster board.
  3. At the beginning of a week or unit, point out the list of words to students and tell them that to become a historian, scientist, mathematician, musician, and so forth, they will need to know how to identify the important words of the subject quickly and accurately. Assure them that you will help them to do so.
  4. As you run your hand or a pointer under each new word, say it slowly once, so students can hear the various parts of the word, and then blend the parts together and say the word quickly.
  5. Practice the list together one or two more times, and then move your hand or pointer around to prompt students to say the words with you.
  6. Provide a sheet of flashcards for each student with the syllabicated words on one side and a student-friendly definition of the word on the reverse side.
  7. Review the words once or twice every day for both pronunciation and meaning. When you say the word in the context of an explanation or discussion, run your hand or the pointer under the word to affix the sounds and corresponding spelling firmly in students' minds. Even bright students who may know the meanings of words can have problems pronouncing them correctly if they have not had the benefit of instruction in earlier grades. Here's the strategy recommended in the following resource:

    • Look for word parts at the beginning and end of the word and vowel sounds in the rest of the word,
    • Say the parts of the word,
    • Say the parts fast, and
    • Make it a real word.

A resource to get you started

Archer, A.L., Gleason, M.M., & Vachon, V. (2005). Rewards: Multisyllabic word reading strategies. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.

McEwan, E.K. (2007). Raising reading achievement in middle and high schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

The strategies recommended in this article may be somewhat helpful. But there's a more efficient way to help students zero in on the exact pronunciation (and recognition) of multi-syllabic words. It's summarized on this web page: www.thewordworkshop.com/method.html.
Posted by: Nancy Lewkowicz  |  February 01, 2012 03:29 PM
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