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How to explain syllables...

 
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terraling



Joined: 16 Nov 2012
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:32 am    Post subject: How to explain syllables... Reply with quote

Hi Debbie

I live in Spain and am using your programme with my boy (nearly 5) and will start soon with my girl (3, but very keen to copy her brother).

Sharing the school-run with a 3-year old Spanish friend, the three of them in the back seat unprompted started breaking down words (actually in Spanish, not that that matters).

My children were breaking the words down into phonemes, but the Spanish girl was breaking them down into syllables.

I wanted to explain the difference to them but was stumped. Any tips?

The dictionary definition of syllable is very unhelpful: "an uninterrupted segment of speech consisting of a vowel sound, a diphthong, or a syllabic consonant, with or without preceding or following consonant sounds".

My youngest naturally started with an onset-and-rime type method, and syllables feels a very instinctive way to break down words -- I just don't know how to explain them to a child.

Thanks for any help.

-Nigel
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debbie



Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2448
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2012 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Nigel,

What a very good question.

I would describe syllables as the number of 'beats' or 'chunks' in a word.

Then, provide some examples of words with one beat ('girl', 'boy') and two beats ('sandwich', 'basket') and three beats ('umbrella', 'elephant') and so on.

If you focus on 'jaw' movements, these usually reflect the number of beats, or syllables, in a spoken word.


Onset and rime is about splitting up a one syllable word into two parts - the onset (the beginning of the word) and the rime (the end) such as 'cr-ack' and 'p-ot'.

Educationalists and researchers have made much about the natural way that young children split up spoken words in terms of whether our teaching methods for reading should reflect those natural tendencies. Thus, the question was raised as to whether children should be taught with whole printed words and large units of sound such as syllable chunks - rather than the smallest units of sound - the 'phonemes'.

Young children don't tend to split spoken words up into the smallest sounds (the phonemes) unless they've actually been taught to do so - or they have already started to learn, or be taught, about links between letters and sounds.

We refer to the playing around with different sized chunks of words as 'phonological awareness'.

Thus, phonological awareness is at the levels you have described:

1) syllable chunking
2) onset and rime
3) splitting a word into its phonemes (showing that the child has 'phonemic awareness')

In Spain, children tend to be taught early reading by syllable-sized units - whereas in England we are teaching children synthetic phonics in the early years which goes straight to the phoneme-level units of sound - both for reading purposes (decoding) and spelling purposes (encoding).

Of course the alphabetic code for Spanish is much simpler than the English alphabetic code.

Interestingly, a number of teachers of Spanish-speaking children have described to me that the kind of synthetic phonics teaching the children receive for teaching them the English language has transferred across enabling the children to write stories in their Spanish mother tongue.

Breaking words up into their various units of sound is all good language play - but the kind of reading and spelling instruction promoted through programmes such as Phonics International is based on phoneme-level instruction from the start.

The ability to break up a spoken word into its syllable beats, or chunks, is an important step for spelling multi-syllable words. First work out the 'syllables' then, for each syllable, work out the individual sounds - then consider which spelling alternatives (letters or letter groups) to allot for each sound identified per syllable.
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terraling



Joined: 16 Nov 2012
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:54 pm    Post subject: Thanks! Reply with quote

Hi Debbie

I only just noticed your reply now.

Thanks so much for such a detailed response, I'll be better prepared the next time it comes up.

Although I've been doing phonics-based work with my boy in English for a year or so, in the local schools in Spanish they are still doing very basic letter work and learning to write each other's names etc. But his Spanish reading is very fluid, reflecting how much simpler the language is, and his teacher is amazed at how proficient he is in written Spanish, all thanks to the work we've been doing in English following your course.
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debbie



Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2448
Location: UK

PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent news!

Do keep in touch with further developments.
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Debbie Hepplewhite
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