C-a-t. Caaaaat. Cat.
For those of us teaching our students and children to read, the sounds above are so exciting to hear! We jump for joy, give them as much praise as possible, and instill in them how proud they should be for learning to read.
Fast forward a few months and these same actions are less exciting, and a little more monotonous.
Hearing our students continuously sound words out can make reading tedious, uneventful and laborious…for everyone involved. If we tire of hearing them read sound by sound for every word, can you imagine how they feel having to do it? It is a great start to reading, but needs to be faded out.
Below I will provide some tried and true tips and tricks to help your students and children increase their reading fluency, and stop sound by sound decoding by using the chunking strategy.
One of the very first things students need to do after learning to decode words by blending individual sounds together is to recognize chunks in words. We want them moving from c-a-t to c-at. It is much quicker for children to read chunks of letters that are grouped together, and it eventually leads to fluently reading the whole word. In fact, some children are so quick at chunking that it sounds like they are actually reading the whole word.
There are many chunks that children start to learn and recognize to help with their reading fluency. The order in which they learn them can vary, but some examples include:
- 2 and 3 letter blends
- at the beginning of the word (frog)
- in the middle of the word (lobster)
- at the end of the word (best)
- at the beginning and the end (plant)
- at the beginning of the word (this)
- in the middle of the word (pushes)
- at the end of the word (bath)
- Word family chunks
- short vowel families: (at, ip, op, ug…etc.)
- long vowel families: (ake, ide, oap, ear…etc.)
- Prefixes: re, un, il, pre, non, dis, im, in, mis
- Suffixes: ed, ing, er, ly, ness, ful, es, less, able, en, ion
- Greek and Latin roots (for older grades): auto, tele, port, tract
Having your students and children learn to memorize chunks of words seems easy, right? Actually, it is! With fun, engaging practice and repetition it is. There are many ways you can have your students practice chunking using hands-on, captivating materials that will keep their interest and attention. Some ideas include:
- connecting cubes
- drawing in sand, salt or rice
- magnetic letters
- whiteboards and markers
Chunking by Breaking Words Into Syllables
Once they get the concept of chunking for smaller words, then comes the ability to chunk multisyllabic words (words that multiple syllables). Recognizing little chunks in words is the first step, but we want them to move toward noticing when and where to break words apart into their syllable chunks (at least until they move to recognizing the entire word, which is the end goal, of course). Students need to learn the rule of syllables when learning to break multisyllabic words apart. They include:
- Open syllables
- Breaking words into parts that have a vowel on the open side and make a long vowel sound.
- Closed syllables
- Breaking words into parts that have consonants after the vowel and make a short vowel sound.
- Vowel team syllables
- Breaking words into parts where two vowels are teamed together and make a long vowel sound.
- Vowel-consonant-e (VCe)
- Breaking words into parts that have a vowel followed by a consonant and then an e, that make the first vowel’s long vowel sound.
- Vowel-r syllables
- Breaking words into parts that have a vowel in front of the letter r and make a combined sound r-controlled sound.
- Consonant-le syllables (C-le)
- Breaking words into parts where there is a consonant followed by le, and the le make the /l/ sound.
Repetition, repetition, repetition. This is the key to almost everything. They say it takes seven times of seeing something to remember it. If that is truly the case, we need our students to practice over and over. And also do it orally. See below.
Saying What We Are Reading
They say we remember:
10 percent of what we read (passive)
20 percent of what we hear (passive)
30 percent of what we see and hear (passive)
70 percent of what we say and write (active)
90 percent of what we say as we do (active)
Therefore, it is crucial for our students to speak the words they are reading out loud while they are practicing them.
Chunking Games and Competition
Taking any activity and turning it into a game or adding some sort of competition can increase engagement and ultimately the retention of information. Any of the activities above can easily be turned into a game.
When working with groups of students:
- Splitting students into two groups and having them go head to head against each other
- Splitting students into two groups and giving them each a turn to read the word/chunk
When working with individual students:
- Playing teacher vs. student
- Awarding points/prizes for correct answers
- Playing for speed (how fast they can get through the words)
While most students love games, not all students love competition. You can turn any of the competitive games into non-competitive games by not going head to head, not assigning points and not awarding a winner.
Check out this blog post for more information about different fluency games.
With the idea of repetition mentioned above comes memorization. The more a child sees a word, the more likely they are to memorize it, which then turns the word into what is known as a sight word (according to the Science of Reading). We want all words to eventually become sight words. With enough active repetition, our children can memorize words by sight, and start reading fluently with ease.
Chunking templates such as these multisyllabic and compound word templates can help students practice the correct way to see the chunks in words, and correctly break multisyllabic words into their syllable parts for easy decoding.
What You Need to Get Started
Many of the items seen able that you will need to help your students or children practice chunking can be found in a dollar store, grocery store or office supply store.
For ready to go chunking templates for the younger grades (or emergent and developing readers), here are some more options below. All of these templates also come in a digital version (links to those can be found at the bottom of the resource’s page).