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Do You Really Know How To Teach Multisyllabic Words?

Teach students to decode multisyllabic words with effective strategies! Learn syllable patterns, prefixes, suffixes, and other techniques.
Teach students to decode multisyllabic words with effective strategies! Learn syllable patterns, prefixes, suffixes, and other techniques.

As teachers, we do a lot of work helping students learn to decode words. These decoding skills are essential for reading fluency and comprehension. This is true for single-syllable words — CVC words, VCC words, and CVCC and CCVC words. It’s also true for multisyllabic words. 

Basic phonics lays the foundation for decoding skills, but students need strategies for tackling longer, multisyllabic words. 

Get the FREE scope and sequence! 

The scope and sequence provides a good progression from basic phonics, to multisyllabic words and incorporating prefixes, suffixes and roots.

Let’s dive into strategies for teaching multisyllabic words!

Teach students to decode multisyllabic words with effective strategies! Learn syllable patterns, prefixes, suffixes, and other techniques.

Identify syllables and syllable patterns in multisyllabic words

Syllables are smaller sound segments that we use to break up words. For example, the word word is one syllable and multisyllabic has 5 syllables. Sometimes students struggle with longer, multisyllabic words because they don’t know how to decode the whole thing. Breaking it into syllables helps. 

Teach students the 6 syllable patterns to help them start to decode words: 

  • Closed syllables—end in a consonant and often have a short vowel.
    Examples: bas – ket, sub – ject
  • Vowel–Consonant–E syllables—Have a long vowel, a single consonant, and end with a silent e.
    Example:  cup – cake (closed + VCe) 
  • Open syllables—Have a long vowel sound without a consonant after it.
    Example: to – tal (open + closed) 
  • Vowel team syllables—include two or more vowels that make one sound or a vowel plus consonant that creates the sound.
    Examples: foil, draw, walk, coat, suit
  • R-controlled syllables or Vowel-r syllables—Have a vowel followed by the letter r (er, ir, ur, ar, or). Vowel-r syllables can be tricky for students. You may need to provide extra practice.
    Examples: perform, surfer, mirror
  • Consonant + le syllables—Have a consonant followed by -le at the end of the word. Students need to know that if a C-le syllable is combined with an open syllable — as in table, you don’t double the consonant. If a C-le syllable is one that is combined with a closed syllable, you do double the consonant, as in babble.
    Examples: settle, twinkle, cycle

Don’t waste time coming up with multisyllabic words to use in your lessons. These multisyllabic word lists for teachers have you covered. These multisyllabic word lists for students provide loads of words for students to practice their decoding skills. 

Teach students to decode multisyllabic words with effective strategies! Learn syllable patterns, prefixes, suffixes, and other techniques.

Teach prefixes and suffixes

When you teach students to recognize prefixes and suffixes, they can start to pick apart longer words. Knowing prefixes and suffixes helps students both break down the sound and find the meaning of words. 

Introduce common prefixes and suffixes and their meanings with examples of words students will know. 

Some common prefixes to teach: de, re, anti, un, mis, pre. These are found in words including decode, reset, antiracist, unlock, misunderstanding, preheat. 

Some common suffixes to teach: ment, ly, less, ship, tion, ing. These are found in words including shipment, coldly, heartless, friendship, invention, thrilling. 

Have students circle prefixes and underline suffixes to help them decode multisyllabic words. Show them that some words have both a prefix and a suffix. For example, repay has the prefix re; payment has the suffix ment; and repayment has both the prefix re and the suffix ment. 

Teach students to decode multisyllabic words with effective strategies! Learn syllable patterns, prefixes, suffixes, and other techniques.

Teach other strategies for decoding multisyllabic words

Students need a variety of strategies to help them spell, pronounce, and understand the meaning of words. In addition to teaching syllable patterns and affixes, show them how to use chunking and morphological analysis. 

If you’ve introduced syllable patterns and prefixes, students can chunk words into sounds and syllables. You can create grids and have them write one syllable in each square or have them write each on a separate sticky note or note card. If students are overwhelmed by longer words, practice by uncovering one chunk at a time and having them read the chunk itself and then all of the revealed chunks until you have revealed the whole word. 

Morphological analysis involves looking at the different pieces of a word, including affixes and bases. This helps students understand word meaning. As you work through different words, students may begin to see patterns in how different word parts fit together and notice that pronunciation may change in some cases. 

Decoding multisyllabic words takes practice. These phoneme packs provide done-for-you activities that you can use in the classroom or for homework to give students plenty of opportunities to decode multisyllabic words and use the different skills and strategies they’ve learned. In addition you can use multisensory reinforcement to help them truly learn these skills!

Teach students to decode multisyllabic words with effective strategies! Learn syllable patterns, prefixes, suffixes, and other techniques.

 

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