Using Magnatile Interventions for Spelling Multisyllabic Words

Have you ever heard old proverb, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”?
The same is true in spelling multi-syllable words.  Stay with me…
The science of reading changed so much of my literacy instruction and all for the better.  Last year, homeschooling my 2nd grader allowed me to think seriously about spelling.  
By second grade, kids are ready to perfect the letter combinations for almost all 44 sounds.  The transition in 2nd grade is beginning to spell multisyllabic words.  And sooooo many kids start struggling with spelling because keeping up with all those sounds in those big words is HARD!  So, how do we make that transition a smooth one?  How do we help kids successfully go from spelling CVC words to 3 syllable words in less than 2 years?  And what interventions can we use to support spelling multisyllabic words.

Spelling Development

Let’s back up for just a sec.  How did we get to this multi-syllable spelling spot in 2nd grade?
First we hear sounds in words, and then we say the sounds (phonemic awareness).  Next, we see the sounds and decode them (phonics).  Last, we write sounds we hear correctly (spelling).  Early literacy development in one snapshot?  Here you go!
This is the work of kinder and first grade phonics for almost all 6 syllable types.
So then, the job of 2nd grade is to get better at spelling all syllable types and spelling them within two syllable spelling words as well.
And often times this is where the break down happens because long words can sometimes sound like a huge string of jumbled up sounds.  But if we teach kids to hear the individual syllables in longer words, they can be more successful spellers.
My favorite way to do this is with magnetiles!

Syllable Manipulatives

My son, like most boys :), LOVES building.  So anytime I can add in blocks or building to our learning, it’s going to be a win!  
When we started working on spelling multisyllable words in 2nd grade, we used magnatiles to help us.  First, I would tell him the word to spell.  
For example, let’s use the word carefully.
Next, he repeated the word and counted the syllables (a phonemic awareness skill that should’ve been mastered in kindergarten… another reason why kinder teachers are soooooo important!!)
CARE – FUL – LY
Once he counts 3 syllables, then he grabs three magnatiles.
He lays the three magnatiles out and pushes them together as he repeats the syllables.  CARE-FUL-LY.  
If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because this is *just* like pushing letter sounds with 2-sided counters into the Elkonin boxes in kinder and first grade.  
(All of these skills build on each other and that’s why it’s so important to master them at the phoneme level before they are mastered at the syllable level.)

Spell the Syllables

Now that hopefully has been divided into 3 syllables using 3 magnatiles, spelling this big word is MUCH easier.  All he needs to do now is spell a CVCe word, a CVC nonsense word, and a suffix.  And the CVCe and CVC spelling skills are first grade spelling skills!
That’s the magic of breaking longer words into single syllables.  It’s much easier to spell one of the 6 syllable types than to think of spelling the entire word together.
Remember that elephant question?  Let’s take a look at that again with spelling in mind…
Now my 2nd grader is ready to spell a 3 syllable word… one syllable at a time!  We use a dry erase marker to spell on the magnatile first.  
Then, he rewrites that on his paper.
Once he got really good at this process, we were able to use the magnatiles to count and visualize the syllables and then just write the word on paper.
The next step after that was to take away the magnatiles when he was ready, and just count the syllables and write one syllable at a time.  
The process is the same each time.  But the support becomes less as his confidence and independence increase!
Honestly, with a few sessions of practice with magnatile support, he was ready to just use the syllable boxes on our spelling slides in our phonics unit and that was enough support without the tactile help of the blocks.
You can grab this -ly phonics unit here or shop all of the digital phonics units here.  
And here is the affiliate link for my fav set of magnatiles if you want to add them to your classroom manipulatives.  You can read how I also use magnetiles for writing sentences in K-1.  If you can’t tell, we love us some magnatiles around here!! 🙂

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