Syllable Division and Word Sums – How Do They Compare?

Today we looked back among the words we have investigated.  I asked students to draw two columns in their notebooks.  They were to split those previously investigated words into syllables in one column and word sums in the second column so they could compare the two side by side.  After a bit of work time, I asked students to share aloud so I could record some of these words on the board.  Then we talked about what we noticed.

It was nice to revisit some of the words, and of course I enjoyed hearing what they thought of the two lists.  The first video clip is very brief and shows the master list we made on the board.  The second video clip is of students responding to the two lists.

As I reflect on our activity today, I think there is one more important thing to note.  Once we split a word into syllables, we can’t really do anything else with it.  But once we split a word into its word sum, we can build related words by pulling off or adding other affixes.  With some of the words we’ve investigated we’ve made long lists of related words in just this way!  By building word sums and identifying the base, we quite often discover dozens of words that share meaning because they share that particular base.  The fun part is that we are often surprised by our discoveries!

4 thoughts on “Syllable Division and Word Sums – How Do They Compare?

  1. What a great understanding from so many students! Gail had some excellent comments an additional one that made me laugh was the reference to , “Syllables kind of mess you up sometime.” So very true! Thanks for sharing!

    • I agree Mary. Just think of the time teachers spend teaching children to break words into syllables! I’ve often heard the same teachers wonder, “Why don’t the children carry what they learn in spelling over to their reading and writing?” Well, since I’ve been using word sums instead of syllables, I’ve come to realize that reading and writing are about comprehending meaning. Breaking words into syllables is not.

  2. I love this comment, Mary Beth: “Once we split a word into syllables, we can’t really do anything else with it.” As your students pointed out, counting syllables is useful in certain situations, but splitting words into syllables isn’t. They have identified why – because the meaning of the word is “disguised”. And you have identified another excellent reason – that dividing a word into syllables shuts down our thinking about that word, whereas analyzing its structure sends our minds into orbit. Thanks for that insight!

    • Gail,
      I love the words you chose, “dividing a word into syllables shuts down our thinking about that word”. It truly does. It doesn’t encourage connections to other words the way word sums do. My students are thinking about words ALL the time!

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