In my last column I stressed the need for the adult, self-teaching reader to be able to break up multisyllabic words into their syllables, so that the reader could see the phonetic structure of the word. The sight reader tries to find little words that he can recognize in multisyllabic words, which might give him a hint of what the word says. He is looking for a small, recognizable picture in the big word. But because that method is so inefficient, the reader is more likely to misread the word.
A syllable, by the way, is a unit of speech with one vowel sound. It can have no consonants or several consonants attached, but it can have only one vowel sound. For example, all the following are one-syllable words: a, at, meet, prom, prompt, thrust, scrunch. Two-syllable words can be as simple as: ago, omen, or amen, or as complex in spelling as: promptness, earthquake, spendthrift, or knowledge. Dictionaries will show you how to divide a multisyllabic word into its syllabic components or pronunciation units.
Spotting One’s Own Errors
The biggest problem sight readers have is in not knowing when they’ve made an error in reading. However, the easiest and probably most obvious way for sight readers to know they’ve made an error is when they can’t understand what they’ve just read. If the sentence doesn’t make sense, it’s because the reader has misread it. The reader must then reread the sentence to find the error. It is not uncommon for sight readers to make the same error in rereading. Therefore, the reading must be slow and word-for-word. If you are tutoring such a sight reader you must have patience and let the reader take as much time as necessary to discover his own errors.
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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)