I have made a discovery this year as I have been working with children who are learning to read multi syllable words within text. Many of my students have learned to find a ?little? word they can read within the bigger word that they do not know. For students who have experienced delays in learning to read, this is not a dependable strategy.
For example, today I had worked with one of my 6th grade students on applying syllable rules to reading multi syllabic words. After sorting words by syllable type and decoding the words, we read a passage to practice this skill in context. The first word in the title was ?stranger.? He read it as str?anger, emphasizing the word anger defined as rage or hostility. I felt like a failure. The first word in the passage, the title, and he couldn?t decode it. Even more damaging, he now thinks this passage will have something to with someone getting angry thereby altering his comprehension of the selection.
I resorted to a strategy used by James Brodie when trying to figure out how to teach a student something. He always says to ask the child what they are thinking. Ask them, ?How did you get that?? So, I asked him what he was thinking when he was trying to figure out this word. He said, ?I found the word ?anger? inside the big word. So, it must be str?anger.? He explained to me how he had previously learned this strategy and used it a lot for ?finding the word I know in the word I don?t know.? The old strategy trumped the new syllabication strategy we had been working on for three weeks. Wow!!!
My new caveat: It would be best to teach children, from the beginning, about recognizing specific, reliable phonics patterns for decoding words. This would help avoid the difficult task of changing an over learned pattern that is inefficient at best. For example, in the word stranger, it would be better to point out to the student that the first part of the word is stran, a C (blend) + Vowel+ Consonant word. This pattern, if taught to automaticity, will cue the student to read the syllable stran? correctly. Then, cue the student that the second syllable in this word has an r?controlled vowel?ger.
Words Their Way by Donald R Bear, Marcia Invernizzi, Shane Templeton and Francine Johnston is a wonderful program for teaching phonetic patterns to children, especially for those kiddos for whom learning to decode has been a particular challenge.