Syllable instruction for middle schoolers

Middle school students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other common disabilities benefited from syllable skills instruction in syllable patterns and syllabication steps and rules, according to a study in Literacy Research and Instruction.

Students who received syllable skills instruction scored higher in word identification, word attack and reading comprehension than students in the control group as a result of the six-month study, the researchers write.

“Teaching syllable skills provides students with the tools to divide words into chunks that are consistent with chunking strategies used in dictionaries,” the researchers write. “Research suggests that successful readers rely on letter-sound correspondences and chunking strategies to identify unknown words, while struggling readers use contextual clues and pictures to identify unknown words.”

A total of 83 6th, 7th and 8th grade students from three schools in North Carolina participated in the study. Students failed the North Carolina End-of-Grade examination in reading for the previous school year and had an identified disability. Four of the 5 teachers who participated taught both the treatment and the control groups. All teachers received professional development in how to use the Syllable Skills Instruction Curriculum (SSIC) developed by the lead author of the study.

The syllables curriculum includes 60 mini-lessons addressing specific syllable skills. Each mini -lesson takes about 15 minutes to complete. Both control and treatment groups received the same amount of instructional time and the same core curriculum; the only difference was the use of the syllable curriculum for the intervention group.

“Effects of Teaching Syllable Skills Instruction on Reading Achievement in Struggling Middle School Readers,” by Jennifer Diliberto, et al., Literacy Research and Instruction, Volume 48, 2009, pp. 14-27.

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