I've learned a lot about teaching phonics from workshops and materials developed by Reading Horizons. I've simplified some of their ideas to teach adult literacy students strategies for sounding out multi-syllable words:
1. Identify the vowels - Before teaching multi-syllable words, students should understand how to identify vowels. (See last month's blog post for ideas on teaching vowels!) Write a multisyllable word on the board and have a student mark the vowels with a dot or small x.
2. Cut the word into syllables - Look at the first two vowels in the word. How many letters are between the vowels? If there are two, cut between the letters. If there is only one, cut to the left. Make a line where you should cut the word, then form a box around the syllable. Continue cutting between the other vowels in the word.
3. Teach easy multi-syllable words first - I've created a multi-syllable word list that progresses from simple words to more phonetically difficult words. The first groups of words contain simple closed and open syllables; the more advanced lists introduce syllables with blends, extra sounds, double vowels, soft c and soft g, -y endings, and -tion endings. It has worked well for my students to practice one set of 8 words per week, with a "spelling test" at the end of the week. A Post-it Note matching activity can make the words accessible to even the very lowest level students. Several activities and strategies for teaching multi-syllable words are described in the Teacher's Activity Guide for abc English Book Two. How do you help your students learn to read and write multi-syllable words?