There is something about those big long words that for little readers seem somewhat out of reach. Until it is revealed to them that actually they have all the skills they need . . .
When I listen to many of the children in my Grade 2 reading group read aloud, I often notice that long multi-syllabic words stop them outright or at least slow down their fluency. Yet, when we approach the word together, it doesn’t take much for them to realize that they can read it aloud by employing a few strategies.
Strategies such as:
- looking for little words inside a larger word
- removing endings and then adding them back
- asking ourselves if letter combinations look similar to another word we know (i.e. knowing the word gorgeous helped us figure out advantageous)
- applying “rules” we know like “y” at the end sounds like “ee”, rules for soft “c” and “g”, tion says “shun”, etc.
- if one vowel sound doesn’t work, try the other
- break the words into syllables
So, my job? To make sure they approach these words with the skills and independent ability I know they have!
How did we strengthen our confidence in our ability to do this independently? With some guided practice – together and then on our own!
First, we looked at a big list of long words on the board and approached them together – finding words and syllables we knew, using the strategies described above (and named by the students as we worked) and tapping out syllables.
Students then grabbed sticky notes and a picture book and began to read independently. They read and enjoyed the stories just like any day where we had picture book free choice reading ( I usually set out a large selection of new and familiar books I’ve grabbed from the library). My volunteer and I listen to different students read and discuss illustrations and plot. But, today the added job was to be on the lookout for multisyllabic words (we decided any word with four or more syllables should make the list) in the books we were reading and list them on a sticky note.
The wonderful thing for me was to watch how intent students were on finding and decoding words all on their own. Not one child came and asked me how to read a word. They just came and shared statements like:
“I found another one! Listen: un ex pect ed ly , unexpectedly! That has 5!”
“I’m finding 4 syllable words everywhere I look!”
“These words can’t hide from us right Ms. Gelson! We are finding them in lots of books!”
“Hey! We are really doing it! We can read these words!”
“I think we all got smarter today. Or . . . maybe we already could do it? Did you trick us?”
My students are exceptionally keen and hilarious, I must admit 🙂 But, they are also very competent and with this little bit of encouragement to do what they already were capable of, they are approaching words that used to intimidate them with confidence!
Now, we can spend time slowing down to talk about meaning. I would rather them stop to be sure they understand what is happening in the story or to ask a question about what a word means, rather than be held back by a word that just happens to be longer than most. We have done lessons about how to handle new vocabulary and will continue to practice this important skill.
My little readers can handle many big challenges and I love being a witness to it!