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Open and closed syllables
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 12:21 am
My child's school here is now beginning to teach syllable rules for spelling (I think they use the Wilson Method). There seem to be several different 'rules' for spelling syllables and they all seem unecessarily complicated! The syllable types are (I'm sure this is news to nobody): the closed, open, vowel-consonant-e, vowel team and the consonant-le syllable.
Is it useful to teach this way? Does it conflict with the synthetic phonics approach? (I've been reading Johnston & Watson's book on SP and find no reference to syllable types). In fact, these syllable spelling rules seem to conflict with many of the GPCs used in SP. How consistent are they?
I know that Diane McGuinness reviewed the Wilson Method in "Why our Children Can't Read" (p 196, US Edition) - and criticized it for switching logic "from phonemes (sound) to letter patterns (visual) in an attempt to catergorize the spelling code." She goes on (I see now) to explain how inconsistent these syllable spelling rules are: words can fall into two syllable categories at the same time; and, of course, there are spelling exceptions!
Grateful for any comments.
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 12:32 am
I haven't found it at all necessary to teach syllable 'rules' so far and I certainly wouldn't teach anything that goes against the teaching of the correspondences.
If a word is so long that the pupils can't remember the beginning by the time they've decoded or encoded the end, which is not infrequent given their weak working memories, I just help them to split it up into chunks that correspond to the way the word is spoken - no rules involved! It seems to be all that is needed.
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 1:22 am
I certainly like the idea of 'chunking' phonetically without too many rules. As long as the GP correspondences have been well taught, I find it hard to see why children will need to learn abstruse rules for spelling. I can see that simple tricks and advice (like 'i before e except after c) can help. Maybe there are some good reasons for teaching spelling rules - apart from morphemic. I just don't know them.
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 9:22 am
I think it is helpful to teach some rules for spelling (mainly morphemic), but I don't think 'i before e except after c' is a useful one - strictly speaking, it applies to only 5 root words (conceive, deceive, perceive, receive, ceiling - so 4 '-ceive' words and one other) and it's broken by 'seize', 'caffeine' and 'protein'.
The problem with the syllable-type rules that you mention, Angus, strikes me as being that if you already know that you are dealing with (say) a vowel-consonant-e syllable or a vowel-team syllable, then you probably already know the spelling of that syllable! I can't see that a 'rule' would help you to work out whether to spell 'tame' as 'tame' or 'taim', though it might help you to work out that it was unlikely to be 'taym'.
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 9:25 am
I can see that simple tricks and advice (like 'i before e except after c) can help.
Angus - 'i' before 'e' only works when the sound represented is /ee/ not /ae/ (as in 'eight' and 'reins') and that becomes a bit of a mouthful when you add that on!
But I do find it helpful to point out tendencies, like 'ai', 'oi' and 'ou' are rarely found at the end of a word, if the children don't spot this for themselves. I call them 'hot tips' rather than 'rules' though. For weak spellers who don't seem to be gaining much from their reading, it helps to narrow down the choices when it comes to choosing the correct spelling alternatives.
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 1:07 pm
Judy wrote:Angus - 'i' before 'e' only works when the sound represented is /ee/ not /ae/ (as in 'eight' and 'reins') and that becomes a bit of a mouthful when you add that on!
The version of the "i before e" rule that I learned incorporated the /ae/ situation thus:
" I before E
Except after C
Or when sounded like A
As in "neighbour" and "weigh."
and this list of the notable exceptions was added as a coda,
"Neither foreign sheik seized the weird heights."
For my own purposes I inserted the word "ancient" in there because that word gave me some grief in elementary school;-)
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 5:15 pm
I just see the 'i before e' rule as impossible to state in a way which makes it useful. If one extends it beyond words in which the 'ie' or 'ei' after the 'c' is sounded in any way other than /ee/, the exceptions start to outnumber the words covered by the rule - not only 'ancient', but also 'efficient', 'sufficient', 'proficient', 'conscience', 'prescience'. I have always just taught students to think of the four '-ceive' words and their relations (e.g. deceive/deceit) as a group and then add 'ceiling'. The rest (foreign, height, either, neither, seize, caffeine, protein etc.) just have to be learnt in a word-specific way. There's no logical reason why 'height' isn't spelt by analogy with 'high'.
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 7:55 pm
Do you suppose it might be something that has utility in a time-limited way?
chew8 wrote:I just see the 'i before e' rule as impossible to state in a way which makes it useful. If one extends it beyond words in which the 'ie' or 'ei' after the 'c' is sounded in any way other than /ee/, the exceptions start to outnumber the words covered by the ruleJenny C.
I know I ran through that little jingle innumerable times as a young child, thinking to spell words like "wield" and "vein" and many others. Over time I learned those words but when I knew a word had a vowel digraph, and I wasn't sure if it was ei or ie, I referred to that doggerel again and again. This would probably have been up to age 9 or 10. By that time I was starting to use morphemes and roots (the -ceive words, the -science words, etc.).
I haven't myself taught this rule to students, but many have learned it somewhere and I see them do the same thing I did (I usually tell them the extra part about the /ae/ sound). It seems to me it might be another instance of what has some applicability in the early stages of learning, but not later on. Maybe the trick would be to suggest that it only works on (mainly) one-syllable words? I see many children who know there is an e and an i in a word like piece, field, sleigh and so on, but can write the word both ways and neither really "looks right," because they still don't have a stable representation of the word in memory. Since I found it extremely useful myself in the early grades I am reluctant to discourage children from using it. By middle school, of course, your observation that the exceptions are so numerous does limit its usefulness.
What have others found?
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:15 pm
Well, I suppose it might have some time-limited use. It was my mother who first taught me 'i before e except after c', but I think she did it specifically because I had spelt 'receive' as 'recieve', so I probably associated it with that group of words and may have deduced subconsciously that the /ee/ sound was an important element. I know I didn't have problems with words such as 'ancient', 'sufficient' and 'efficient' and never thought of them as exceptions, so I must have pigeonholed them separately. I do remember having to think hard about 'siege' and 'seize'. It wasn't until I started teaching poor spellers and wanted to formulate some spelling guidelines that I realised how few words the 'i before e' rule applied to.
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 11:11 pm
It seems to me that these 'rules' just get in the way of the GPCs unless they are (what Jenny and Susan call) tricks - like:
1) learning the 'the four '-ceive' words and their relations (e.g. deceive/deceit) as a group' - or
2) a morphemic approach (used later - as Susan suggests): 'the -ceive words, the -science words, etc'
But this brings me back to syllable rules because they seem such a significant part of the US Orton-Gillingham approach. I recently read an article in the IDA Journal over here by someone from ALTA (Academic Language Therapy Association - what a mouthful!) which promulgated syllable rules and a top down (paragraph, word, syllable and finally phoneme) pedagaogy that was so complicated that even I (in deep middle-age) had difficulty understanding. I believe it is used for remediating (or more likely confusing) poor readers (in Texas)! And there's no truth to the rumour that George Bush was originally taught by ALTA.
My question is: are all children taught this way over here - or just the ones that are having trouble? My child's school, a special school for dyslexics, uses the Wilson Method - which switches (after two years) from a GPC approach to a visual one (with syllable rules) for teaching the spelling code, I assume.
Diane McGuinness shows how inconsistent these syllable rules (on p 196 of WOCCR) can become; and I think Jenny makes a good point when she says that "if you already know that you are dealing with (say) a vowel-consonant-e syllable or a vowel-team syllable, then you probably already know the spelling of that syllable! I can't see that a 'rule' would help..".
So, if syllable rules are inconsistent; interefere with the GPCs and don't help spelling - what good are they? I suppose that proponents might sugget that they can help decoding - ie help to identify when to use a short or long vowel sound? Any thoughts, Jenny and Susan? Or anyone else?
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 11:38 pm
I don't see the point of syllabification by OG. A number of popular 'dylexia' programmes in the UK are based on OG (which was, let's face it, the 'best we had for years). I was semi 'trained' on the delivery of one when I first set out on this teaching reading journey and I could never see the point of it, just more 'rules', for children who already had memory problems, to learn. As they did things like split 'doubled' consonants they now seem to me to be positively unhelpful.
Like Judy, I tend to 'chunk' words where the natural stresses occur in speech, always keeping doubled consonants together. The only 'probability' I teach children about polysyllabic words is that two consonants probably indicate a preceding 'short' vowel' and one probably indicates a preceding 'long' vowel.
Rod Everson has put some lesson plans for teaching polysyllabic words, in 10 x 10 minute lessons, on his website. I'm trialling them with a small group of children who have decoding skills just about in place but need to become more confident with 'long' words. We shall see
http://ontrackreading.com/the-phonics-p ... ecoding-1/
Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 12:24 am
In words like 'ancient', the grapheme is 'ci' so the 'i' belongs with the 'ci' as code for the /sh/ sound.
In 'receive', the letter 'c' is code for /s/ and the word needs grouping with other words of the same ilk to be learnt as a word group.
We could have a different generation of understanding spelling which would change some of the traditional rules.
I think it is the grouping of words (word associations) which is hugely important as I have mentioned many times over.
Teach and learn spellings with similarities and then flag up the few words which have to be especially noted.
Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 12:31 am
maizie - I am going to enjoy reading your link when I get a moment. I have already been taking a look and want to read more.
Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 1:33 am
AngusM wrote:But this brings me back to syllable rules because they seem such a significant part of the US Orton-Gillingham approach....
My question is: are all children taught this way over here - or just the ones that are having trouble?
Angus, my perception is that OG is much more pervasive on this side of the Atlantic, and it has a virtual lock on the "special schools for dyslexics." I have a nephew in one such school in an adjoining state (not NY) and most of the schools I see that market themselves to students with reading problems advertise some variant of OG. It has penetrated public schools to a much lesser extent -- Wilson, Slingerland and a few others are used in Special Education or resource programs in some districts, but have never really caught on in the mainstream; neither has Spalding. I did get some training in OG (Slingerland) early on, but soon after, my district emphasized linguistic phonics and/or Direct Instruction, both of which yielded better results faster than Slingerland. I still have my materials from those days but have only very rarely used some of the strategies such as tracing on sandpaper etc. I was only too thankful to chuck those blasted syllable rules!!! They were so complicated *I* couldn't remember or understand them, and children with memory and language difficulties were going to become proficient in applying them?
To me they seem an unnecessary complication. But at one time -- not that long ago -- knowing how to syllabicate words was an essential writing skill, as one had frequently to divide words at the right margin of a paper, whether writing in longhand or typing. I know we lost marks if we did it "wrong." Technological change has meant that words are almost never broken at the end of the line any more, so now the need to learn precisely how to divide a word into syllables seems superfluous. One can handle the decoding issue by teaching students to systematically try options for various vowel spellings, and to do the same with syllable stress. No rules necessary.
So, if syllable rules are inconsistent; interefere with the GPCs and don't help spelling - what good are they?
I will admit to being instructionally lazy -- I want results, and as simply, straightforwardly and fast as I can get. I marvel at all these complexities and do wonder if I am missing something important? What is the attraction of doing it the hard way? My experience suggests that simpler and faster is better.
Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 9:03 am
My experience suggests that simpler and faster is better.
I have never taught any form of syllabification rules.