Most words in the English language have more than one syllable and knowing how to split them up is a really important skill children need to learn. In the past phonics programmes have not put enough emphasis on this skill. Why is this important?
Firstly, it helps with reading. As children progress through primary school, the curriculum includes longer and longer words. By the time they get to secondary school, many of the subject specific words have 2,3 or 4 syllables and children who cannot break them up will have difficulty reading them. Take out all the long words in any subject taught in secondary school and the text becomes incomprehensible! In short: not being able to read multisyllabic words means children cannot access the curriculum independently.
Secondly, it helps with spelling. Often, when children spell, they omit sounds within syllables or even whole syllables within words. Not knowing how to spell long words often limits pupils written language. Why risk spelling the word ‘enormous’ if you can get away with ‘big’?
When children are taught to break up long words, they are more likely to be able to reassemble them in the correct order with the correct sounds and spellings. They will attempt to use longer, more interesting words in their writing. They may not spell them completely correctly at first, but they will have a go – which is what we need to encourage.
Thirdly, it helps with comprehension. Being able to split multisyllabic words helps pupil identify root words, prefixes and suffixes. Once they have learned the meaning of common prefixes, and the root word they can use this knowledge and apply it to unfamiliar words they encounter. They have a good chance of figuring out the meaning of new multisyllabic words.