Blog Series

Bigger Kids, Bigger Words: Reading Multisyllabic Words

by Wendy Farone on Feb 19, 2020

  • Reading Intervention
  • Reading Science
Wendy Farone

What a great time to be an educator!

The nation is waking up to the science of reading (finally) and giving attention to what can truly help all students become skilled readers.

Many of us have worked diligently to carry this critical message of evidence-based instruction for years. Well, I believe our efforts have begun to get the attention needed to integrate excellent first instruction for all students.

The complexities of reading are many. Throughout the years, much attention has been given to K–2 reading instruction and rightly so. However, what happens when the students get bigger and the words they have to read get bigger and more unique? 

In my visits to schools across the nation, I hear a common concern from teachers. Many students in grades 3 and 4 (and beyond) are not able to read words in the academic areas. Inability to get the words off the page results in frustration and lack of comprehension for what is being read. This often appears as student disengagement, poor behavior, or incomplete assignments.

Dr. Anita Archer states, “There is NO comprehension strategy powerful enough to compensate for the fact that you can’t read the words.” (Archer, 2011). It is imperative that we continue teaching students about “decoding” or “word study” into the middle and upper grades. To do so means purposeful, systematic, and explicit instruction in syllable types, basic procedures for reading big words, and syllabification for spelling strategies (Moats & Tolman, 2019, authors of LETRS®). With these tools for approaching big words, big kids will be able to access the printed word and, in turn, comprehend what is being read.

Let’s be clear: We are not done teaching about decoding and encoding (spelling) after grade 2.

I also hosted a webinar about this topic, and there is so much to share and learn. Please listen here.

Wendy S. Farone, Ph.D., is an educational consultant with the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN)/Bureau of Special Education/PA Department of Education in Pittsburgh, PA. Dr. Farone serves as the Western Pennsylvania state lead in literacy. Her current projects include Response to Intervention (RtI), PA State Dyslexia Pilot, Pennsylvania State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP). Dr. Farone also is a national LETRS® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) trainer, a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor, and DIBELS® mentor. Before joining PaTTAN, Dr. Farone spent 14 years as a public school teacher, reading specialist, and private tutor.

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