Holly Swinton: dyslexia speaker, trainer, author and assessor » News » One trick to improve reading in five minutes or less

One trick to improve reading in five minutes or less

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One of the secrets of success of a programme like Toe By Toe is that it teaches kids to split up words. This is something which often gets either neglected or overlooked. Chopping unfamiliar words into syllables (those beats in words e.g. but/ter/fly) can really help accuracy.

Dyslexia teachers tend to teach 7 or 8 rules of syllable division! You can read these here  Chimp Fu is a cute app to help younger kids to chop up words, but it does use these pretty complicated 7/8 syllable division rules, so might well leave them more confused rather than less.

But my short term verbal memory can’t hold 7 items so I have boiled it down to one rule, with two add ons. It works most of the time and I can remember and teach it to others with rubbish memories.

The one rule: vowel, letter, split.

In other words, they look along the word until they find the first vowel (a e i o u + y), then they find the consonant after it and split the word there.

So hippopotamus becomes hip / pop / ot / am / us. Not perfect, but definitely easier to read. I explain it to kids that the vowel opens their mouth and the consonant afterwards closes it.

NB: Battles rage about whether to keep doubled consonants together or not (e.g. hipp/op or hip / pop), personally I don’t think it makes any difference.

The add ons:
– Don’t cut off the last letter (e.g. wal / king not wal / kin / g)
– Don’t cut off an h (otherwise you risk splitting up sh, th, ch, ph, wh) e.g. fish / ing not fis / hing

Using this oversimplified method: antidisestablishmentarianism becomes
an / tid / is / es / tab / lish / men / tar / ian / ism

Is that the perfect way to split up that word? Def not. But remember this is just for words they can’t read. This isn’t for words they can already read because that is totally pointless.

Is this approach easy? Yes.

Does it work most of the time? Yes.

Can it be built upon and improved? Yes.
Once they’ve mastered this, you might want to get them to think about using morphology (using meaning) so they look for common prefixes and suffixes:
anti / dis / establish / ment / arian / ism

Learning common prefixes and suffixes can really help:
Anti = against
Dis = opposite of
Ment = an action
Arian = someone who believes something
Ism = A belief

So, someone who is opposed to disestablishing (I.e. separating) church and state!

But wherever they are with their reading, spending a few seconds each week helping them to split up an unfamiliar word they have come across will pay dividends in the long run.

Fancy some weird words to try it out on?

Camelopard (a giraffe)

Crinkum-crankum (elaborate decoration)

Dandiprat (a young or insignificant person)

Fandangle (a useless or purely decorative thing)

Fizgig (a silly or flirty woman)

Gadzooks (an expression of surprise or annoyance)

Grimalkin (a cat)

Lurdan (an idle or incompetent person)

Poltroon (an utter coward)

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