How to Say “Me-phib-o-sheth”

Scripture: 2 Samuel 6-9, 1 Chronicles 13-17

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn to tackle long, unfamiliar words by dividing them into “chunks,’ or syllables.

Guiding Question: How do we read a long, unfamiliar word?

Materials: Bibles, paper, markers, highlighters, scissors, letter tiles or 3-D wooden/plastic letters (the magnetic kind or alphabet puzzle pieces). Print out the passage on paper for each student, modifying the type so that the letters are clear and the text is double spaced.

Procedure: Have the students read aloud the story of David and Mephibosheth, looking for long, unfamiliar words or names. Have the students make a list of long words in the story that they (or someone else) might have trouble with. Ex. Jerusalem, cherubim, Abinadab, tambourines, Kiriath Jearim, Mephibosheth.

This can be done on the paper, underlining words as they are identified.

Have the students identify and highlight or circle letter combinations that represent a single sound: th, ph, sh, ou, ea, tt, ll, bb, ie, ough, etc.
For example: Mephibosheth.

Assist students in drawing lines between the syllables words: Me/phi/bo/sheth (or Mehp/i/bo/sheth, Meph/ib/o/sheth, etc). If they have trouble, explain that every syllable must have one (and only one) vowel sound. Have them use a small piece of paper to cover the word, and then draw it to the right slowly, revealing one letter at a time until a consonant sound follows a vowel. That is the end of the syllable. (There are also words that have two separate vowel sounds next to each other forming different syllables: vir-tu-al, co-op-er-a-tion, re-al-i-ty.)

Have the students practice dividing the words into syllables using 3-D manipulative letters or tiles. This activity is especially helpful, because the letters move freely and the students can put the word together and apart easily. Even letters written on small squares of paper can be used.

Finally, the words can be written whole on strips of paper and cut up into syllables. Have the students practice putting the word chunks together in the right order as they read them aloud. Then have them separate the syllables as they read the word. For students with a sense of humor, try mixing the order of the word chunks and having the students read them: phib sheth o Me, etc. The important thing is that the students become so adept at breaking up words physically that they begin to see the words that way, and breaks them up mentally without thinking.

Additional Questions:

  • How do we know how many syllables a word has when we day it?

Supplemental Activity: Give students various long words. Have them decide how many syllables each word has in it. Students can use dictionaries to give each other words and to check their answers.

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