I learned a lesson on encouragement the other day. Edric was having a lot of difficulty learning syllables. I can’t blame him. He’s just moved past decoding words. For a while, we were at the stage where he might read a word such as “tree” by sounding out each of its sounds as in ‘tuh-err-ee.’ I taught him that this is a ‘cold’ reading of the word, and then I would ask him to do a ‘warm’ reading and he would read it fluently as “tree.”
When we moved to syllables, though, he got confused between a syllable and a cold reading of the letter-sounds. Which makes perfect sense if you think about it. The word “tree” has one syllable but three letter-sounds, so naturally he thought the word had three syllables.
I really wrestled in my mind with how to teach him the difference between these two concepts. His books and teaching guides weren’t helping. I was getting frustrated.
We were practicing the word “under,” and he was reading it as ‘uh-n-der.’ Then he would say that there were three syllables in the word. We tried the whole ‘tapping the beat of the word out on your knee,’ but that only seems to work with kids who have an innate musical ear. Edric is musical, but still a bit too practical for that style. Finally, I was about to give up, when his two older brothers, Leighton and Caedmon, suddenly started to chant the word like they were cheering it on to finish a race: “un-der! un-der! un-der!” They clapped in time with the syllables.
Edric’s eyes lit up, and he began to chant along with them, finally answering correctly “Two! Two syllables!”
Now, whenever I have to ask him how many syllables there are in a word, I just ask him to “cheer on the word” and he gets it.
It makes sense. All he needed, after all, was a little encouragement.