Multisyllable Instruction

I have two recommendations for the multisyllable phase of reading instruction.

The first is to use the curriculum presented by Romalda Spalding in The Writing Road to Reading, throughout. As I said earlier, it's a complete reading and writing curriculum. I honestly wish it were used in every grade school in the United States because I suspect it would raise reading skills by at least a grade level across the board if that were done. I believe it to be the best reading curriculum ever devised for full classroom instruction.

However, Ms. Spalding's curriculum is not well suited for a quick remediation of phonics skills. Most struggling readers have had some phonics instruction in the lower grades and starting over with an extended phonics program is likely to be frustrating for both the child and the parent or other instructor. Furthermore, in many cases the phonics instruction was fine but the children with vision problems just had trouble absorbing it. Especially in those cases, a quick review of phonics might be all that is needed. Ms. Spalding's curriculum is anything but a quick review.

The Best Curriculum for Multisyllable Instruction

As strongly as I feel about the quality of the Ms. Spalding's curriculum, I feel equally strongly that the OnTrack Reading Multisyllable Method that I developed and used repeatedly with my young clients at OnTrack Reading is the best you will find among all the current programs available. I saw child after child, almost all of them used to struggling with reading, become increasingly confident of their decoding abilities just a few lessons into the multisyllable work in our sessions.

The method is so simple, and so straightforward, that a young child easily understands it and, more important, quickly makes the decision to use it when faced with an unfamiliar multisyllable word. This is key. The child has to be convinced that it makes sense to change from an old strategy, usually based on guessing, to a new, unfamiliar, strategy. For that to happen they have to experience immediate success with it and that success has to be repeated over and over in the context of actually reading.

The OnTrack Reading Multisyllable Method does that. Children quickly learn how it works and just as quickly become convinced that it's a strategy worth taking a chance on. In my reading practice, I watched the confidence of child after child grow rapidly as they progressed from easy two-syllable words to three-syllable and then four-syllable words over a span of six to ten lessons.

And It's Free!

Yes, it's absolutely free for the taking. Granted, it's also a component of the OnTrack Reading Advanced Code Phonics Workbook that I sell, but the entire multisyllable curriculum is available free here on my website.

You're probably wondering why it's free. I wanted to make it readily available because it works, and it's so simple that a parent can easily work with a child and get that child decoding multisyllable words if they follow the detailed instructions. Eventually I'd like to see a few thousand parents do exactly that and have teachers asking them how come their child could read those long words all of a sudden, words that his teachers had been struggling with program after program to get him to decode (or probably memorize, or look at prefixes and suffixes, or dig out little words in the big words, or find the root word, etc.) Most methods pale in effectiveness compared to the simple approach you'll find here, and if you use it perhaps it will eventually gain widespread adoption.

What Does OnTrack Reading Get Out of It?

Thats another good question. Here's what you'll find once you get into the multisyllable instruction. Your child probably won't know exactly what you mean by a vowel sound, for starters, so when you tell him to "stop each chunk after the vowel sound and try the first sound" he won't know what you mean. But if you purchase the workbook (at a very reasonable fee for a full advanced code phonics program) you'll quickly be able to cover that concept. Now, what's the "first sound"? That's another easy lesson in the workbook.

How about the third sound of the letter "o" in the words do, to, who and prove? Here, your choice is to tell him the information a few times until he starts to remember it, or, if his code knowledge is pretty shaky, move quickly through the workbook teaching him the advanced code in a more systematic manner.

In short, the Advanced Code Phonics Workbook teaches the foundational information your child will need to use the multisyllable method. It will also teach him the underlying code in most one-syllable English words, and probably help him become a better speller besides.

Again, though, if your child is already reasonably comfortable with one-syllable words and understands that a letter or digraph often has more than one possible pronunciation option (and knows approximately what those options are) then you can probably take the multisyllable information right off this website and teach it to him without purchasing anything at all.

A Huge Advantage of the Method - It Reinforces the Code

What I noticed as I worked with my young clients is that, once we got into the multisyllable work, each and every attempt at decoding an unfamiliar multisyllable word would reinforce the code knowledge already covered, or else would introduce in context some code that we would soon be covering. This made the need to learn the Advanced Code clear to my clients; they could see that all that advanced code "mapping" was going to pay off when they needed the knowledge in tackling longer, unfamiliar, words. And, as almost everyone is aware, we really learn something when we're forced to actually use it. Otherwise, that old adage, "Use it or lose it," quickly comes into play.

How to Proceed from Here

I'm assuming you're here because you want to help a struggling reader. You've already been made aware of my concern for both his nutritional needs (vitamin D3 and Omega-3's) and his vision needs (a visit to a developmental optometrist) and now you want to address his reading skills, code knowledge, and multisyllable strategy. (If you just got to my site, be sure to check The Diet Piece and The Vision Piece for the nutrition and vision information, respectively.)

Administer the four Assessment Tests first. If your child performs poorly, go through the entire Advanced Code Phonics Workbook, because he needs the practice on the skills, or needs to learn the code, or both.

If he does fine on the Assessment Tests, but misreads longer words, go to the multisyllable lessons in the phonics section and teach them. They're freely available to you, as I said earlier. If you find later that your child really does still need to learn the code, back up and order the Advanced Code Phonics Workbook and go through as much of it as you think necessary to build up his code knowledge.

The Potential Outcomes

If you've taken care of your child's nutritional needs and likely vision needs (or at least had an evaluation done, so you know there are no needs,) you should find that the phonics instruction goes smoothly. Hopefully, you will end up with a ready, willing, and able reader at that point.

However, there's always the possibility that something more is getting in the way of your child's learning to read. Now we get into areas that, frankly, I have had little to no experience with so far. Those areas are exercise, and auditory, respectively. I'll say a little about both in the next two sections; just be aware that these are areas outside of my personal experience so the information I provide will be limited in scope.