Tips for Learning New Vocabulary Words

Decoding Patterns to Improve Spelling


Although students usually learn how to spell shorter words first, they will eventually have to make the jump to long, multisyllabic words. When it comes to teaching students to spell long words, there are a few ways of facilitating the process. The act of breaking down multisyllabic words into smaller parts makes spelling much easier because it is as if the student is actually spelling out several smaller words. Luckily, teachers and parents can help learners break down long words in a few different ways.

The most common way of teaching syllables is to clap them out. Tell the students that when they speak a word aloud, they need to clap each time they make a vowel sound. As a result, long words are divided into individual syllables that usually consist of two or three letters. For example:  fa-mi-ly. Instead of having to spell out a 6-letter word, the student can focus on spelling out three, two-letter syllables.

Using Syllables in Activities
There are many different activities that teachers and parents can develop using syllables. Since recognizing syllables is an important part of decoding long words, ensuring that your student understands what constitutes a syllable is important. You can make a variety of index cards with syllables on them and ask your students to arrange the syllable cards to form a word. Once they have arranged the syllable cards together, have them write the full word out on the board or on a piece of paper.

Root Words
Identifying root words is another important step in decoding long words. Often times, the simplest words are the words that students learn to spell first. For instance, a word like “unfriendly” may look extremely complicated to a student learning to spell, but when you decode it, breaking it down to its prefix, root and suffix, it is quite simple. Additionally, if the student already knows how to spell “friend”, all they have to do is add on the prefix “un” and “ly” to make it an adjective.

Activities with Root Words
Finding activities using root words is simple and there are countless different tasks to help decode long words by searching for root words. Give the students a list of words and ask them to circle the root word that they recognize. Eventually, you can ask them to identify the root as well as the prefix and suffix. Because of this technique, students find themselves automatically decoding words to understand, read, and spell.

Tricky Decoding
At some point, you will have to address the words that are more difficult to sound out and spell. Words such as “though” only have one syllable, but seem to be packed full of letters. A great way of teaching these words is to teach that sometimes the sound “oh” is actually spelled “ough”, and make a list of words that fall under this pattern. Additionally, there are tons of spelling oddities like this that students will be excited to learn.

When it comes to teaching students to spell long words, there are several techniques to make the process less difficult. Breaking down multisyllabic words into smaller parts, creating games, identifying root words and  practicing decoding makes spelling much easier .