Why We Love Rapping Words: Word Beats as a Reading Strategy

When you drop your child off for their lesson at Symbols, and wonder what they may be learning that day, your first thought probably isn’t that they will spend time rapping with their tutor. But this may actually be the case! Using “word beats” can actually be a very helpful reading strategy. This method involves ‘chunking’ word beats to help with reading. Chunking is when difficult text is broken down into more manageable pieces by dividing the content into smaller parts.

What are word beats?

In English, without a vowel, a proper word cannot be formed.  Word beats (syllables) are words or parts of words with one vowel sound. Every syllable has a certain structure.  The nucleus is typically the vowel in the middle of a syllable. The onset is the sound or sounds that occur before the nucleus, and the coda is the sound or sounds that come after the nucleus. So to reiterate, the vowel in a syllable is the nucleus, which is the most important part of the syllable structure. Vowels are the most noticeable and important part of any language, and are very important for phonological awareness, which is needed in identifying and manipulating units of oral language. Vowels are essentially the first step to recognizing sounds and sound patterns. Even when kids are well beyond recognizing sound patterns, and are into reading full sentences and long, unfamiliar words, isolating longer series of words, or long series of syllables in a single word, is a great strategy. This is because kids have been very good at recognizing syllables since the beginning of the language acquisition process, even if they aren’t aware of it!

How is this “rapping” strategy used?

Another “beat” strategy that can be used, particularly with kids who stammer, repeat words, or have a difficult time with reading fluency, is tapping out a beat right before they begin to read out loud. For example, while tapping a beat on the table, a student and tutor might rap a certain beat pattern out loud together, and then try to imitate the same beat/prosody when reading sentences. This really helps some kids, and it might be related to the fact that prosody and recognizing beats is largely something the right-hemisphere is responsible for. This is in contrast to decoding the grammatical structure of a sentence, which is typically a function of the left hemisphere, (but also recruits from the right hemisphere for more complex syntax).

Like the other research behind ‘multisensory learning,’ using a beat strategy encompasses and recruits other neural pathways to reinforce stronger learning by using different pathways. This multisensory learning is a crucial component to all learning at Symbols, and is why we are called Symbols Multisensory Learning Centers.  If this method sounds like a fun way for your child to practice their reading skills, contact us today!

Rob Wahl