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Tackling Those BIG Words

I've noticed that skilled readers in the early grades (grade 1 to 3) and struggling readers in the junior grades (grades 4 to 6), have something in common. When a big word comes along, they aren't sure how to tackle it.


Early Intervention & Prevention (grade 1 to 3)

As soon as students can read cat or fog, students can start to explore multisyllabic words. Specifically they can explore what we call "Rabbit Words". Rabbit words follow the VCCV (Vowel, Consonant, Consonant, Vowel) pattern. The word Rabbit is a VCCV word and we can teach students to break apart these large words into two or three manageable chunks. For example:

Rabbit = rab + bit

Basketball = bas + ket + ball


If the child can read it in a single syllable word, we want to give the child practice reading it in a multisyllabic word and we want to show students how to break big words into smaller chunks.


Responsive Intervention (grade 4 to 6)

When a student is struggling with reading multisyllabic words we need to go back to counting syllables and dividing written text into syllables. This is the similar to the early intervention in primary grades. This process helps students orthographically map all the sounds in the words and helps students notice sounds that end near the end of the word.


I also like to include morphological instruction in my responsive interventions. With the students being older, their vocabulary is typically much more developed and they may recognize more suffixes and prefixes in spoken English. Oftentimes, suffixes are misread because the student is not breaking the word into meaningful chunks. Suffixes are a morpheme and are a meaningful chunk. When we teach students to break words into parts, noticing high frequency suffixes and prefixes can increase student comprehension and decoding accuracy.


Here are some catchy songs by Mike and Carla Siravo that can help your child break those multisyllabic words.


Closed Syllables

"I'm going to break my words into syllables and I won't skip long words no more"


Open Syllable


Consonant le Syllables



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