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Reading Lesson Idea: Dealing with Long Words


Long words can be intimidating to read, to spell, and to pronounce – this lesson gives some ideas to help your student break up long words into syllables.

  • Ten to 15 multi-syllable words of suitable difficulty, or a reading selection containing such words.
  • A dictionary.
  • Student handout: Syllable Types.
  • Teaching Adults, by Laubach Literacy, New Readers Press 1994. pp. 80 and 167.
  • Define a syllable for your student – a word or part of a word and has only one vowel sound. Words have one or more syllables. Examples: cap, dream, snow, little, mushroom, hurricane, etc.
  • Make up a list of multi-syllable words (5 or 6) of suitable difficulty for your student, and read them aloud together. Tap or clap out the syllables.
  • Now look at the words as written and divide into syllables with straight lines. You might find this set of rules useful. See also Teaching Adults pp.80-1 and 165-6.
  • Discuss how the syllables you have identified fit into the types described on the Syllable Types handout, which also gives clues to pronunciation.
  • For another list of words, have your student divide at least three or four of them into syllables, with your help. You may decide to assign the rest of the list for homework.
  • Show your student how recognizing syllables can also help in spelling, especially when adding endings such as –ing and –ed to words. See "Rules for Adding Endings" in Teaching Adults, p. 166-7.
  • Teach your student how to interpret the syllabication information available for each word entry in the dictionary. Explain how this information is needed to break up (hyphenate) words correctly across lines when writing.
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