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Beginning the Multisyllable Program: 2-Syllable Words

The two lists of two-syllable words at the top are used in the OnTrack Reading Multisyllable Method. The first list contains 85 words on six pages separated into chunks according to the Main Rule and Three Exceptions. The second contains 90 words on two pages presented as normally appearing words.

Note to New Arrivals: The rest of this page consists of instructions for using the word lists for those using the OnTrack Reading Multisyllable Method. Use the index on the sidebar to access the entire program if you found this page using a search engine and want to learn more.

Using the List of Chunked Words

The prerequisite for use of this list is simple. Your child should be able to look at the beginning chunk of each word and just say it, without having to first say each separate sound in the chunk. If he can do this, he is comfortable enough with one-syllable words to begin on multisyllable words. Just be aware that many of the errors that your child might have commonly made on one-syllable words will again resurface at this higher level of difficulty. That is, he will again mix sounds around in words, add sounds that aren’t there and omit sounds that are there.

Follow the instructions and complete the first page. Your child should be saying the entire chunk, rock, when he writes it, and not be saying each sound separately. At first, this will be difficult if your child has spent several sessions practicing saying each sound separately as he writes it, as is done in the OnTrack Reading Phonics Program when learning the spellings of the various sounds.

At this point, do not explain the Main Rule and the Three Exceptions. Just have your child read the chunks, combine them and say the word, and then have him examine each chunk for spelling before you cover it. Your child then writes one chunk of the word on each line, saying the complete chunk as he writes it. None of the words on the first page require your child to use the strategy of trying a different option for the vowel sound. He should be getting the correct result in every case as long as he is using the First Vowel Sound.

When he gets to the chunk le in cattle just tell him that whenever he comes across the digraph le at the end of a word he should say /ul/ (pull without the /p/) . He will run into it again in rattle and then in marble on the first page.

Except for marble, every one of the words on the first page utilizes one of the Three Exceptions to the Main Rule, but don’t get into this. The purpose here is to expose your child to chunks that contain only First Vowel Sounds.

You can continue on to the second page of chunked words if your child has no trouble with the first, but don’t do more than one or two pages at one session. Instead, if all went well, move on to the second word list containing two pages of whole words.

Using the "Read/Chunk/Spell" List

This list has three purposes. First, it is used for reading (decoding) practice. Then it is used for chunking practice. And finally, it is used for spelling practice. It is called the Read/Chunk/Spell list as a reminder of its uses.

By the time you use this list, your child should have completed the worksheets on doubled consonants and markers that were discussed earlier. Explain the Main Rule to your child and go over the First and Second Exceptions, which he should understand if you remind him of the worksheets. Don’t worry about the Third Exception just yet. You won’t need to apply it until the second page when your child reaches the word hundred.

At the first session, just do the ten words in the first column. Follow the directions, checking off the words he reads on the first attempt. Then have him chunk each word that he correctly read by drawing a vertical line between the chunks. (Skip the ones he missed for now.)

In the first ten words, every vertical line belongs immediately after the vowel spelling. Here are the correct chunks for the first ten words (obviously they aren’t syllables):

pur-ple, slee-py, or-bit, flow-er, base-ball, curr-ent, grea-ter, lone-ly, pla-net, sur-vive

Here is how you handle each word depending on what your child says or does when chunking it.

purple: If he says pur, but draws the line after pu, tell him he split the vowel sound right in half. If he tries to make the first chunk purp, tell him to stop after the vowel sound (like the rule says.)

sleepy: If he tries to make the first chunk the syllable sleep, tell him to stop after the vowel sound.

orbit: Same approach as the first two words.

flower: On the initial pass (when he's reading the words), if he chooses the /oe/ sound for the vowel sound, use this as the first opportunity to introduce the strategy. After he says floe-er, as in blower, he might self-correct. If not, immediately point to the ow and simply say, “This can be /oe/; what else can it be?” If he knows, he’ll get flower. If he doesn’t, tell him it can be /ow/ and let him proceed.

baseball: If he draws the line after ba or bas, tell him he split the vowel sound and indicate the a-e in base.

current: If he draws the line after u or ur, again tell him that he split the vowel sound and have him place it after urr.

greater: If he goes with great, tell him to just stop after the vowel sound. If he then splits the ea, correct him. Also, if he first says the /ee/ sound and comes up with greeter, use this as another opportunity to teach him the primary strategy. Simply say, “It could be greeter, but we spell greeter with two e’s. What else can this be?” (Indicate the vowel sound with your pencil.) If he comes up with /ae/, he’ll usually get the word. If he can’t come up with /ae/, just tell him that sound and let him proceed.

lonely, planet and survive are handled similarly.

Now, on the third pass through the list your child will be examining the words he couldn’t figure out. Flower, baseball, greater and lonely are key candidates for this honor. Flower and greater might be hard because your child doesn’t know the code well enough to try more than one option. Baseball and lonely are special cases, in that the vowel sound in the first chunk of both words is split (a-e and o-e, respectively) and your child might miss this. Try pointing out the a-e in baseball and see if he then picks it up in lonely. If he misses it again just point out the o-e spelling of /oe/.

A few examples of this type of word are spread throughout the word list because your child will likely need some exposure to them if he is to easily pick them out. Otherwise, you might find him chunking a word like lonely as lo-ne-ly, with three chunks. Eventually they won’t be a problem, but such words are likely to be difficult at first until your child starts to become better aware of such words.

Spelling Practice

Take a minute to explain to your child how you write longer words while saying them chunk by chunk in your head (which you almost certainly do.) Tell him that saying each individual sound would cause you to lose your train of thought, but saying the whole word at once would make you get lost in the spelling of the word.

Then have your child circle about three of the last ten words covered on the whole word list and you circle a couple more that you think he should also try. Have him examine each chunk for unusual spellings, going over all of the circled words. Then conceal the word list from him and give him a spelling test. Have him write each word with a small gap between the two chunks so you can see the boundaries he’s setting. Not only will this help his spelling, but it will accustom him to writing the chunks exactly as he’s saying them.

Pacing of 2-Syllable Instruction

If you are using the OnTrack Reading Advanced Code Phonics Workbook, and following the detailed instructions on working with the four threads within the curriculum, you will see that the 2-syllable word lists can be started before your child learns all of the code. In fact, working in 2-syllables will help cement his knowledge of what he’s already covered because, by its very nature, this approach always has him concentrating on vowel sounds and their spellings, as well as their various pronunciation options. In other words, this work gives context to the earlier work where he was just learning random bits of code.

Spread the work on the word lists over several sessions. Go at a pace of about one page of chunked words per session and ten words from the whole word pages. You should finish the chunked words a few sessions before you finish the pages of whole words used for reading, chunking and spelling. In fact, you can move on to 3-syllable chunked words before finishing the 2-syllable work on whole words.

Intended Results

If you are using the workbook, this is the point in the OnTrack Reading Phonics Program where it all starts coming together. Done correctly, any habitual guessing can be overridden by a more effective strategy. You might even note the first time your child has the “light bulb” experience, when he actually tries one option, takes the time to realize it’s not a word and then, instead of guessing, or adding sounds, or ignoring sounds, he just tries the second vowel sound and actually gets the word. If you see this happen, point out to him how well it worked compared to what he has been doing, and keep pushing that same encouragement at him every time you see him succeed at a higher level of difficulty.

And, as you are doing that, and watching your child’s confidence in the strategy grow daily, also realize that this strategy has him continuously practicing the various options for each of the ambiguous vowel and consonant spellings. In a relatively short time, he will not only understand what you mean when you tell him ch can be /ch/, /c/ or /sh/, but he will be able to tell you and anyone else that this is the case. This method builds code knowledge, and particularly vowel code knowledge because of the emphasis on locating the vowel sound spellings in each unfamiliar word your child encounters.

The next page, 2-Syllable Chunking Explained, goes over some of the chunked words and describes the implications of chunking them in the manner described.