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2-Syllable Chunking Explained

As you have your child tackle the six-page list of 2-syllable chunked words over a span of several days, he will be getting exposure to the concept of properly chunking words using the Main Rule and the Three Exceptions.

Do not get into explaining why the words on those six pages are chunked the way that they are. Just be aware that every example follows the chunking strategy, so by examining the words and decoding them, your child will be getting implicit instruction in how he should chunk unfamiliar words in print. You will be providing the explicit chunking instruction when he is working on the list of unchunked words.

Chunking Logic

You, however, should understand the logic behind the chunking method, so here is why various words are chunked the way they are:

sing-er: The reason the digraph ng is added to the first chunk is because of the Third Exception. We do not say the /ng/ sound at the beginning of words. In child language, nger is “hard to say.” 

vall-ey: Because all (and oll) can be exceptions to the general tendency for doubled consonants to follow First Vowel Sounds care was taken to make sure the first exposure actually was a word that fits the rule. Your child is probably already familiar with words like taller and falling, where the letter a represents the Third Vowel Sound, and this example forces him to realize that there really are words where it’s worth trying the First Vowel Sound.

co-met: Your child will easily read this word using First Vowel Sounds and he will not be bothered at all by the way it’s chunked. You, however, might be quite uncomfortable and would rather see it chunked com-et. Just remember, your child did easily read the word and he will have no way of knowing whether a leading syllable should be open or closed in an unfamiliar word. This method will train him to try all viable options in a systematic manner.

ha-bit, fi-nish, li-ver: Again, these examples all expose your child to chunking after the vowel sound, and if he’s using the First Vowel Sound, as he should be, he will easily read all of these. Your job is to keep reminding your child to stick to the First Vowel Sound on the first attempt.

Strong Cautionary Note: If you find that you cannot resist the urge to tell your child that it is all right to say hab-it, fin-ish, and liv-er and to write the chunks that way, then you need to stop using these word lists and this method because all you will do is confuse him. You will be mixing two methods of teaching your child to attack unfamiliar words. Remember, the purpose of the list of chunked words is to expose your child to words already chunked in the manner that he will be expected to chunk new words that he encounters. While no explanation is necessary at this point, consistency is absolutely necessary.

show-er: If your child starts with the /oe/ sound for the digraph ow, and pronounces shower to rhyme with lower, just point to the ow and ask what else it can be. If he doesn’t know, simply tell him, and let him proceed.

sher-iff: Unless he already recognizes the word, your child will probably choose the more common /er/ sound for the first chunk. After he blends the two chunks and doesn’t get a word, tell him the digraph er can also be the /err/ sound and let him proceed.

ho-ney: This word purposely precedes the word joker in the list because your child is likely to say the /oe/ sound when he sees the chunk ho. If he does, tell him to say the First Vowel Sound, and he will get the word. Do not get hung up on the fact that we tend to say hu-ney. Your child will get it if he says the /o/ sound.

jo-ker: If you’ve been consistent in your instruction to this point, and if your child doesn’t already recognize joker as a word, he should try the First Vowel Sound, /o/, in the first chunk. Then, when he says jocker, ask him if jocker is a word, and finally point to the letter o and tell him to try the Second Vowel Sound. Of course, he might also quickly make the new attempt on his own, which is the desired end result.

mi-nus: Note that mi-nus is preceded by mi-ster. This is intentional. The first word trains your child to use the First Vowel Sound, which works in the case of mister, and the second word trains him to blend his first attempt and see if he recognizes a word. Many struggling readers will at this point say "mi-nus…minutes!" adding a sound to the word as they leap to a guess. When shown that there is no /t/ sound in the second chunk, some will then change the first chunk’s vowel sound to an impossible option and say menace. At that point, indicate the letter i and tell your child that it is never /e/, then ask him what the Second Vowel Sound is and have him proceed. This is the point at which your child might still struggle, even after he’s clearly saying both chunks accurately, in that he might find it nearly impossible to blend the result without letting the /t/ sound slide back into the second chunk. This behavior is caused by his guessing habit, which you are trying to eventually overcome by teaching him a more reliable method.

su-per: By the time you’ve reached this word, your child should say supper if he’s unfamiliar with the word. Just tell him that supper is spelled with two p’s, point to the letter u and ask him to try the Second Vowel Sound. Even though that sound is /ue/, not /oo/, he will almost certainly recognize the word then.

re-sting: Frankly, this is the word that probably concerns parents and teachers the most. You might insist upon chunking it rest-ing, especially those of you who teach prefixes and suffixes as a multisyllable decoding method. Yet, if your child has become somewhat confident in the method by this time, he will just say the two chunks and recognize the word, because it will sound exactly like resting to him, even down to the location of the natural pause between the two spoken syllables.

The sixth page has several words where your child will have to try Second and even Third Vowel Sounds before he can recognize the word. Show him that by approaching each word in an organized manner, he will eventually get to a result that he recognizes. And remember, just because it takes him three or four attempts to recognize the word pa-sta does not mean that this will have to occur every time he encounters the word in the future. Eventually it will become a sight word along with every other word he reads fluently. What you are teaching him is an organized method of deriving the correct result when he’s on his own faced with an unfamiliar word.

If you’ve read through most of these examples, you should by now realize the amount of information your child is expected to implicitly absorb over the six pages of chunked words. It’s a lot. And that is why you want to have him tackle just a page or two at a time and spread the work over several days or even weeks. You are trying to change his behavior, and that will take time, consistency and practice.

Moving Up to 3-Syllable Work

Your child should finish the six pages of chunked words well before he finishes going through the two pages of unchunked words. You should do about ten unchunked words every time you finish a page of the chunked words, so you will still have about thirty words left on the second list. At that point, it is fine to move up to the 3-Syllable Word Lists and begin work on reading the three-syllable chunked words. However, hold off on working on three-syllable Read/Chunk/Spell list until you've completed the two-syllable Read/Chunk/Spell list.