Explicit teaching: multisyllabic words and schwa vowels (Level 14)

Explicit teaching is a necessary component of good direct instruction.  Explicit teaching is characterized by:

1) clearly defined terms

2) a complete explanation of how the concept works

3) initial practice of the concept with immediate feedback (e.g., why the response was correct or incorrect)

The clinician must be prepared to teach each concept explicitly in the direct instruction session.

Here is an example of explicit teaching of the two concepts introduced at Level 14 of Lexercise:   1) syllable stress and 2)  schwa vowel

 Level 14 - Direct Instruction Session


What is a syllable?

A syllable is a unit of speech that has one and only one vowel sound. The vowel sound is what makes the syllable beat. Illustrate by pronouncing the child's name with and without vowels. (e.g.,  Lisa--> Ls)



Multi means more than one.  Multisyllabic means more than one syllable.  The number of vowel sounds in a word =  the number of syllables in the word.

Using word cards for Level 14 words (base words only, no suffixes), ask the student to sort the words in two stacks:  1) one syllable words  2) multi-syllabic words





        b) SCHWA 





In many multi-syllabic words one of the syllables gets more sound stress than the other(s).

The stressed syllable is a little louder than the unstressed syllable. Stressed syllables have more "punch" than unstressed syllables.

To illustrate, say a multi-syllabic word <rabbit>.



Listen to the vowel in the second syllable of <rabbit>. When you say this word naturally, as you would in conversation, that unstressed vowel is indistinct.


Below is an example of a Level 14 Word Bank, filtered to remove all suffixes. 

In these multi-syllabic words both syllables are closed syllable types (i.e., the vowel is followed by on or more consonant sounds on the same syllable). In most of these words, one syllable is stressed and the other is unstressed.

Write one of the two syllable words from the Word Bank below on a white board. Ask the student to:

1) Read the word aloud.

2) Underline the vowel graphemes.

3) Draw a vertical line at the end of the first syllable.

4) Circle the stressed syllable.





The vowel in unstressed syllables is reduced to a schwa sound. Schwa sounds like "uh" (as in duh).  For example, the unstressed (schwa) vowel in the word <rabbit> sounds indistinct, like "uh".

Which is the schwa vowel in the word <absent> ?

The vowel in the second syllable in <absent>  sounds like 'uh' even though it is spelled <e>, so it is the schwa. 


Write one of the two syllable words from the Word Bank below on a white board. Ask the student to:

1) Read the word aloud.

2) Underline the vowel graphemes.

3) Draw a vertical line at the end of the first syllable.

4) Circle the schwa vowel.




An example of a Level 14 Word Bank (with no suffixes):

absent, addict, adduct, advent, alike, bandit, billet, blemish, blemish, bobbin, bodkin, brigand, bucket, bumpkin, buttress, buttress, cabin, cactus, candid, chestnut, chicken, chicken, chicken, coffin, debit, debit, docket, express, foppish, fungus, gannet, gossip, gossip, grandstand, grandstand, hamlet, happen, hatchet, hemlock, hiccup, hiccup, hidden, hobbit, hummus, insect, invent, ketchup, kidnap, kitchen, lipid, liquid, liquid, livid, locket, magnet, mandrill, mattress, muffin, napkin, nugget, pallid, pellet, picket, picket, piglet, planet, pocket, pocket, pocket, pocket, pocket, pumpkin, pundit, puppet, rabbit, racket, racket, Robin, robin, rocket, rocket, ruckus, sandwich, sandwich, signet, socket, splendid, sudden, suppress, tablet, tandem, tandem, tandem, tempest, tendril, tennis, thicket, thrombus, ticket, ticket, tippet, tonsil, transact, trenchant, trespass, trespass, triplet, until, upset, upset, upset, valid, vellum, vellum, velvet, velvet, wombat >


*Don't be tricked!  There are a few words in this Word Bank with pretty much equal stress on both syllables, and in these (compound words) both vowels are preserved (neither is reduced to schwa). (e.g., kidnap, wombat). 




J. D. Smith, J. Boomer, A. C. Zakrzewski, J. L. Roeder, B. A. Church, F. G. Ashby. Deferred Feedback Sharply Dissociates Implicit and Explicit Category Learning. Psychological Science, 2013; 25 (2): 447 DOI: 10.1177/0956797613509112


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