Archive for Multisyllable Words

What’s New? Are both books needed?

Many customers have asked me what’s new in the 10th edition of Phonics Pathways. It has the same content it had before, but is enhanced with:

1—More practice pages.

2—Three added “Fluency Reality Checks” in strategic places. These nonsense words ensure that students are reading phonetically and not by sight.

3—“Dividing Multisyllable Words”. A whole new section details the ten rules on how to divide multisyllable words, illustrated with many examples.

4—A “Short Sheet of Vowels” master page.This multisensory reinforcement is designed to use throughout the book as needed, to accelerate learning and remembering the short-vowel sounds.

Questions and Answers:

Another customer asks: “How do you use these two resources together? Do you use Phonics Pathways and then the other? Or does Reading Pathways cover everything?”

Phonics Pathways is designed to TEACH reading skills including letters and sounds, rules, pronunciation, and comprehension.

Reading Pathways is designed to DEVELOP reading skills once they are taught.

Begin by using Phonics Pathways alone through page 52, where there is a pyramid-type exercise.

Now add Reading Pathways. It is a whole book of pyramid exercises that has the same progression of skills as that in Phonics Pathways, and will help enhance and develop the skills learned in that book.

There is a free downloadable guide on how to use these books together on my website: Go to, click on “Free Downloads,”  then scroll down to “Guide to Phonics Pathways and Reading Pathways.” This little booklet explains in great detail exactly how to use these books together.

Reading Pathways begins with one word and slowly builds into phrases and sentences of gradually increasing complexity, and is shaped like a pyramid. These exercises strengthen left-to-right eye tracking, increase eye span and accelerate reading fluency.

Reading Pathways also features more challenging multisyllable word pyramid exercises and games to further develop fluency and vocabulary. It removes the fear and mystique of multisyllable words, and helps students build the strong vocabulary so critical for success in today’s rapidly-changing world.

While Phonics Pathways is a complete reading program in itself and has been very successfully used as such for over 30 years, Reading Pathways is an extra aid that will help develop, ease, and accelerate reading fluency.

Happy reading!  



Multisyllable Word Practice


“I was wondering what resources I should use now with my 3rd grade reader.  We have finished Phonics Pathways, but I still feel he needs more instruction in decoding, especially big words. Also, he also doesn’t always apply the rules or know when to apply the rules.”


Good question! Just because a child may have had phonics and is able to read simple words does not mean he is therefore automatically able to read multisyllable words. It takes practice — graduated, sequential and progressive practice — moving from simple multisyllable words to more difficult combinations.

Consider getting Reading Pathways — it is specifically designed to develop ease, fluency, and accuracy when reading long, multisyllable words. Words are built one syllable at a time, and read first with a phonetic spelling and then with the genuine spelling. You can see sample pages on my website

Reading Pathways begins with simple word pyramids, progressing to multisyllable word mini-pyramids, and finally to complex four-syllable multisyllable word pyramids. Students love the pyramid format and tend to think of it more as a game than a reading lesson!

As far as not applying the rules or knowing when to apply them, it sounds to me as though he may need more review. Phonics Pathways is deceptively simple, and it’s very easy to go through the book too quickly. However, it’s important that every lesson should be automatic in recall before proceeding to the next one.
Whenever you get to a place in his reading that he stumbles on or seems unsure of, review. Review, review, review! It’s so important to read accurately and not guess at multisyllable words!
Recently someone wrote to me saying her son had thrown his food wrappers on the grass as they walked in the park. When she corrected him, he said “It’s okay Mom, the sign says “Dumping Permitted.” But the sign actually said “Dumping Prohibited.” As Mark Twain said:
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug!”


Spelling? Hmmm…

Should a reading program include spelling rules? And if so, how many? Should it include all of the spelling rules, even complex rules applying to only a few words? Or should it include just the main rules that apply to most words? Or should spelling even be taught?

Good questions all! It’s enough to make one’s head spin. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of various approaches used to teach spelling:

Teach Spelling Rules AFTER Reading

Waiting to teach spelling rules until after the student has learned how to read has the advantage of continuous reading instruction uninterrupted by learning how to spell at the same time. Attention is totally focused on learning how to read. Spelling is considered a separate skill, and is taught later.

The disadvantage is that of course students must learn how to spell sooner or later, and this only postpones the whole idea of spelling until a later date.

Teach ALL Spelling Rules WITH Reading  

If all spelling rules are introduced in the beginning, when students are first learning how to read, while it has the obvious advantage of teaching spelling it can slow students down considerably because they are learning two skills at the same time, dividing their attention between learning how to read and learning how to spell.

For example, there are about half a dozen rules for adding E to the end of a word, with up to nine subcategories—not to mention all the exceptions. It might be daunting to try and learn all of this material at the same time one is trying to learn how to read! Focusing on only one task at a time greatly eases learning and prevents getting bogged down in minutia.

Take the plural of octopus, for another example: it is not octopi. A little knowledge of Latin and Greek can be a dangerous thing and sometimes leads people into error. While some Latin plurals are formed by changing the -US ending of a singular noun into -I for the plural, octopus is ultimately borrowed from a Greek word and not a Latin one, so it’s incorrect to form the plural according to the Latin rules. If you wanted to be ultra-correct and conform to ancient Greek you’d talk about “octopodes” but this is rare: the Anglicized plural, “octopuses,” is absolutely fine. (“Tricky Plurals in English,…” Oxford University Press).

Teach MOST Spelling Rules With Reading GRADUALLY

Nevertheless, reading and spelling enhance one another and are best taught as a single unit. Marilyn Adams wrote: “Accurate spelling is critical to the reading process. To the extent that this knowledge is inaccurate or underdeveloped, it is strongly associated with learning disabilities.” (Annals of Dyslexia, Vol.47, 1997)

So how then should spelling be taught? A happy compromise is to teach the major spelling rules that apply to many words one by one, when the sound or spelling occurs. For example, here is how the rules for /K/ are taught in Phonics Pathways: (The first rule is not even taught until students are already reading three-letter words.)

1. /K/ is spelled -C or -K depending on the vowel that follows it:                Page 53  (cat, keg, kid, cop, cup)

2. /K/ is spelled -CK at the end of a single-syllable word:                         Page 55  (back, deck, pick)

3. /K/ is spelled -C at the end of a multi-syllable word:                            Page 118  (picnic, fantastic, frolic)

4. /K/ is spelled -ICK when adding a suffix to a multi-syllable word:            Page 118  (picknicking, frolicking)

There are two more spellings of /K/ which are spelling patterns, not rules:    /K/ = CH (chorus, school) and /K/ = QU (quack, queen)

When we are introduced to a whole roomful of people at once it’s difficult to remember all of their names. But when we meet them one at a time it’s much easier. The same thing is true when teaching spelling rules—just teach one at a time, and the simplest rule first.

I’ll close this post with a teaser: Why are some words spelled -ABLE and others -IBLE, as in “appeasable, horrible, lovable, visible,” etc.? There is one simple rule that is true over 90% of the time.

It’s so much easier knowing one spelling rule for many words than it is having to learn each word individually, one at a time!

After basic decoding skills and basic spelling rules are solidly learned and mastered, those wishing to learn more about our language can pursue great resources such as “Vocabulary Through Morphemes” by Susan Ebbers, and other such publications.

Happy hunting!








Multisyllable Words


“I don’t need help with beginning readers, but what about third and fourth graders who know how to decode almost everything but have some difficulty with multisyllable words?”


This is a common problem, and is usually caused by guessing at a multisyllable word rather than sounding it out by syllables.

I would begin with a quick check of basic skills first.
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