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Examining the Ayres List

When you instruct your child to add a new multisyllable word to his notebook using the OnTrack Reading Multisyllable Method of coding and explanation, you will be training him to systematically analyze every new, unfamiliar multisyllable word that he encounters. This will become obvious as we go over the explanation of the coding of the first ten multisyllable words in the Ayres List.

The First Ten Multisyllable Words in the Ayres List

Teaching the OnTrack decoding method begins with the first 2-syllable word on the Ayres ListLittle: coded as litt le - When you place litt le on the board you explain that the Main Rule would make the first chunk li, but that, using the First Exception, the phonogram tt is added to the first chunk because it is a doubled consonant. You mark both digraphs, and then ask him to read both chunks. He should say "litt" and "ul" (the sounds of the le phonogram) and should then be able to read the word.

Ago: coded as a go with a 3 above the phonogram a and a 2 above the phonogram o. You point out that the first chunk ends with the vowel sound and ask him what the third sound of the phonogram a is. He should know if he's practiced the first 50 phonograms sufficiently. Then ask him the second sound of the phonogram o. Again, should know the answer. Then have him blend the result.

Note: I differ with Ms. Spalding in that I encourage you to teach your child that the sound of the phonogram a in ago is the third sound, rather than the second sound. The actual sound in words like ago, around and about is a schwa, but the /o/ sound is closest to how we actually pronounce the word. That is, ah bout sounds much more like about than does ay bout, especially if you put the accent on the second chunk as you should.

Into: coded as in to with a 3 above the phonogram o. When you place in to on the board you explain that the Main Rule would make the first chunk just i, but that, using the Second Exception, the phonogram n is added to the first chunk because "nt" is "hard to say." (Put another way, English words don't start with the phonograms nt.) If your child knows the third sound of the phonogram o, he should then be able to read the word.

Today: coded as to day with a 3 above the phonogram o. Again, point out that the first chunk ends with the vowel sound. If you code the vowel sound with the number 3 over it, he should then easily read the word.

Note: If you want to teach your child to actually begin using the decoding strategy right away, you can write today on the board without chunking it or coding it. Then, ask him to draw a vertical line after the first chunk. If he draws it after to, just say something like, "Good, you stopped the chunk after the vowel sound," and have him read the word. Now, this next step is very important (assuming he doesn't know the word.) Tell your child to try the first vowel sound for the phonogram o. He should then say "tah day." Make sure he says both chunks and then blends the result without guessing a real word. Ask him if tahday is a word that he recognizes and then praise him for following the correct procedure and then ask him to try the second sound of the phonogram o. He should then say "toe day" and blend it to get toeday. Again, ask if toeday is a word, then ask him to try the third sound. If he's comfortable with /o/oe/oo/, he will then try "to day" and get today. When the process is finished tell him that is how he should approach any unfamiliar long word he encounters. Chunk it, apply any exceptions, read the chunks using the first vowel sounds, and then start testing second and third options for the chunks that haven't been closed by application of an exception.

Over: coded as o ver with a 2 above the phonogram o. You again point out that the first chunk ends with the vowel sound and again ask him the second sound of the phonogram o. He should easily be able to then read the word. If you have him decode it from scratch, make sure he tries the first sound for the phonogram o and says "ah ver" before trying the second sound. One of the challenges early in the process is to get your child to blend the two chunks accurately and then ask himself if he's saying a word he recognizes. Older children will often jump to an incorrect guess at this point.

Mother: coded as mo ther with a 2 above the phonogram th. (The th and er are underlined separately, but that's hard to reproduce here.) This can actually be a difficult word to decode because the phonogram th represents its second sound, so it's best to code the word and explain it. In particular, explain that the best sound for the phonogram o in mo is the first sound. Have him compare mah ther, moe ther, and moo ther and he'll understand.

Belong: coded as be long with a 2 above the phonogram e. If your child tries to decode belong from scratch, he will might get itTeach the technique of "perfect pronunciation" from the start on the first attempt because the vowel sound in the first chunk is actually a schwa. Make sure that he ends up coding it as the /ee/ sound and that he understands that this "perfect pronunciation" will help him spell the word correctly later.

Alone: coded as a lone with a 3 above the phonogram a. By now he should know that the "o dash e" is the /oe/ sound, so again ensure that he knows the third sound of the phonogram a and have him read the word. If you have him decode it from scratch, make sure he goes through /a/, /ae/ and finally /o/ for the first chunk, saying the blended result in each case. If he gets it at ay lone, have him mark it with a 3 for the third sound, as ah lone is closer to the actual pronunciation, which is a schwa.

Other: coded as ther with a 2 above the phonogram th. (The th and er are underlined separately, but that's hard to reproduce here.) If your child tries decoding this from scratch, don't be surprised if he thinks it's author on the first try. If he does say "author," tell him that it could be, but that we spell author differently. Then have him try the /oe/ sound and the /oo/ sound for the first chunk before reminding him that the phonogram th has a second sound.

Baby: coded as ba by with a 2 above the phonogram a. (The first sound of the phonogram y is just /ee/ so it needs no number.) Again, ask if he knows the two vowel sounds and have him read the word. If he decodes it from scratch, he should easily get it on the second try.

About: coded as a bout with a 3 above the phonogram a. (The first sound of the phonogram ou is just /ow/ so it needs no number.) If he knows the first sound of the phonogram ou he should again easily read the word. At this point, consider pointing out the pattern where the phonogram a tends to be the third sound when it forms the first chunk in words like ago, alone and about.

More Examples from the Ayres List

Planted: coded as plan ted with no numbering needed. Point out that the Main Rule makes the first chunk pla (stopping after the vowel sound) but that nted is "Hard to say." Therefore, the first phonogram, n,  is moved to the preceding chunk, making it plan and locking in the sound of the phonogram a as the first sound, /a/. The remaining chunk becomes ted and the two chunks easily are read as planted." And before you object and want to go with syllables, plant-ed just try saying those two chunks a couple of times and then notice how more awkward the syllable chunks are to blend than are plan and ted. The natural oral boundary is between plan and ted. And note that this word becomes trivial to decode using the Main Rule and the Second Exception.

Mister: coded as mi ster with no numbering needed. Before you assume that it must be mis ter due to an affection for syllable boundaries, notice that mi ster is easier to blend (as with plan ted) and that since the first vowel sound is to be consistently used on the first attempt, mister will be accurately decoded on the first pass. Also, bearing in mind the plant-ed objection above, note that a child trained to look for suffixes first would be quite likely to break off the phonogram er of mister as a suffix (which it is in hundreds of common words) and might decide that the word is mist er, that is, one who "mists" things.

Very: coded as ver y with the 2 over the phonogram er. Assuming your child knows that the sounds for the phonogram er are /er/err/, he will quite easily read the coded word. And if he instead tries to decode it himself, and correctly tries the /er/ sound first, he will still have it chunked correctly and if he then tries the second sound of the phonogram er, he'll easily get the word on his own. (Compare this to the tortured coding of very in WRTR for an excellent example of why this revised coding methodology is easier to understand and apply.)

Color: coded as co lor with a 2 over the phonogram or. If your child decodes color from scratch and thinks it's collar, just tell him that it could be collar but that we spell it differently. You might have to tell him the word and explain that the vowel sound in the first chunk is a schwa, but that he should think of it as the first sound of the phonogram o for spelling purposes. Also, while the second chunk of color is pronounced ler, tell your child to always "think" the first sound, /or/, whenever he is spelling color and any other words that end in the phonogram or pronounced /er/. There are a few dozen such words and putting a "perfect pronunciation" in his mind every time he spells them is an excellent way to memorize their spellings over the long term.

Dollar: coded as doll ar with a 3 over the phonogram ar. As with color, even though we pronounce it doller your child should always say the first sound, /ar/, when spelling words like dollar and collar, and wizard and hazard. Again, this process of forming a perfect pronuciation will enable him to eventually memorize the spellings of the few dozen words where the phonogram ar represents the /er/ sound.

Any: coded as a ny with no numbering. We tend to say "eny" but your child should be instructed to pronounce it with the first vowel sound for the phonogram a so that he always spells the word any correctly.

Anything: coded as a ny thing with no numbering needed. Note how easy this is to decode if your child has learned the Main Rule well by the time anything is reached. The first chunk is /a/, the second /n/ee/ and the third /th/i/ng/, or /a/ /n/ee/ /th/i/ng/, and he decodes it on the very first pass. No syllable boundaries to puzzle over, no looking for the "ing" suffix (anyth ing, how do we anyth?) He just reads the word.

Another: coded as a no ther with a 2 over the phonogram th (and th and er separately underlined.) Now, if your child is decoding this on his own, and chunks it correctly, but tries the first sound for the phonogram th, he might not recognize the word. It's quite likely that he'll recognize the word as he tries second and third sounds of the vowels in the first two chunks, but he might never realize that he changed the pronunciation to the second sound of the phonogram th, so getting it coded correctly in the notebook will make that obvious.

Seven: coded as se ven with no numbering needed. Young children tend to say "sevin" and older ones "sevun." In both cases, make sure your child understands that he should keep a perfect pronunciation of ven for the second chunk to aid his spelling of seven later.

Cannot: coded as can not with no numbering needed. This is a special case of coding because it involves a compound word. Your child can decode it from scratch as cann ot by following the Main Rule and the First Exception, but when coding it in his notebook, he should separate it into the two words represented in the compound word. Note, though, that a compound word that has a chunk with more than one vowel sound is not just chunked into two words. Thus the word everything would be chunked as e ver y thing, not every thing, in his notebook.