Syllable division rules provide a structured way to split multi-syllabic words into their various syllable types. The main reason we encourage students to learn syllable types and teach syllable division is to help students to decode unknown words. Understanding syllables help students to pronounce the vowel sounds in a multi syllabic word. Several rules can help guide in the division process.
Questions to Help with Syllable Division
- Find the Vowels. Ask are they together or apart? (to locate a vowel team)
- Look for any prefixes or suffixes you know and circle them first.
- Is there a Magic E or silent E spelling pattern
- Identify the Syllable Patterns. (VCV, VCCV, VCCCV, VCCCCV, C+le, VV).
- How many syllables are there?
Why do we need Syllable Division Rules?
Our students gain valuable advantages when they learn syllable division. Syllable division rules give students an efficient way of approaching difficult vocabulary, giving their reading greater accuracy and comprehension. It’s like having another tool in their arsenal!
To accurately determine vowel sounds, it is essential to teach the importance of both syllable division rules and morphology. Prefixes/suffixes/ bases or roots can provide such valuable information when decoding a word. Practice with morphology alongside syllable division rules and syllable types is essential for fluent reading, spelling, and vocabulary development.
Morphology is extremely valuable and is my go-to strategy to divide words whenever possible. However, syllable division rules are necessary for the Orton Gillingham method as a stepping stone as children learn about how words work in a phonics program. So understanding syllable division rules are a great quick tool for students to decode new words.
What is a syllable?
Always begin your lesson plans on syllable division with an understanding that syllables start with the vowel! A neat way to remember this fact is that a syllable always has at least one vowel sound.
Vowels are the building blocks of syllables? Most words usually have as many syllables as they do vowels, but there are a few exceptions!
- A vowel team like “ou/ow” ee/ea ai/ay and diphthongs like “oi/oy” and ” au/aw” count only one vowel sound.
- The same goes for silent e’s – these don’t get their a separate syllable even though it looks like two separate vowels on paper because the silent e is not pronounced.
- Consonant+le is an exception; while the ‘e’ in this syllable in not pronounced at all in ‘bubble’ or ‘table’, this combo gets its very own (even if sneaky) syllable!
The Syllable Types
The VCCV Rule
Teaching about syllable division can be a key to open up words for students – the key is to locate each word’s vowels. With the VCCV Rule with vowel consonant consonant vowel words, there are two consonants between the vowels we typically split the vowels between the 2 consonants. Help your learners understand why this pattern works!
This is the first syllable division rule I teach. Before using the VCCV Rule students must know about closed syllables before they can divide words. As an example, take ‘combat’ for instance: with a clear division between its two consonants the M and B letters, it can be separated into two distinct syllables – COM at one end, BAT at the other; each containing short vowels! If you need to understand how to teach open and closed syllables please check this blog post for syllable activities.
*Note when doing a split between 2 consonants make sure that if there is a blend for example bl or cr you count that as 1 consonant for division. Also never split consonant digraphs like <sh>, <th>, <ch>, <ck>,and ,<qu>, or a glued sound like onk, ink, ing, or a closed syllable exeption like ind, or old.
Teaching Syllable Division to Younger and struggling students
Students need to know that closed syllables always have a short vowel when dividing words. If students are fluent in reading closed syllables in a one-syllable word then they can read multisyllabic words. With a few simple rules to divide words even young or struggling students can read bigger words. Reading longer words gives students confidence. Give your students practice looking for spelling patterns of open and closed syllables.
The V/CV Rule & VC/V
In the word ‘rodent’ Underline the two vowels. The consonant <d> is the middle consonant between the two vowels. If we divide the word so that consonant is in the second syllable:
That will leave the first syllable open with a long vowel sound (because it ends with a vowel). Then divide the word: (ro-dent). This syllable division pattern is V/CV. It makes two syllables an open syllable with a long vowel sound and a closed syllable with a short vowel sound.
Make sure your students understand the concepts of open and closed syllables before doing this syllable division lesson.
In the word ‘finish’, Underline the two vowels the letter <n> is the middle consonant between the vowels. When the first vowel is closed in by a consonant in the first syllable it leaves the first syllable closed with a short vowel sound. fin-ish. This makes the syllable pattern VC/V. Both syllables are closed and the vowels will be pronounced with a short vowel sound.
The VCCCV Syllable Division Rules
When you have three consonants between two vowels. There is usually a consonant blend in the second syllable of the base word. If students do not see the consonant blend within the three consonants then point out the blend. Have them look for any blends such as <fl> or<gr> and then treat the blend as one consonant for syllable division and divide the base word as you do in a VCCV word.
Use the 1-2 rule. This rule says one consonant will stay in the first syllable and two consonants will go to the second syllable. The two syllables will be closed syllables closed in by consonants making the vowel short in both syllables..However, there are rare circumstances when this syllable division rule may not apply.
- units like glued sounds (onk, ink, ing, ong, etc)
- closed syllable exceptions (ild, ind, old, etc)
- if it’s a compound word that should be separated at word boundaries.
- Remember to teach and use morphology to divide the word whenever possible- ‘sub’ is a prefix meaning under and ‘tract’ is a bound base meaning to pull.
The VCCCCV Syllable Division Rules
For Words with four consonants between two vowels, your students can divide the word with a 1/3 split. However, when analyzing large words, the focus often shifts to exploring their meaning and structure rather than splitting them after the first consonant. Except in the cases of a compound word.
Morphology – how language works at a structural level – becomes increasingly important in such cases. For example with the words instruct or construct. the prefix in- means “in” or “into” and the prefix con- means “with” or “together” and the bound base or root “struct” means “to build”. So if I ‘instruct’ you I build knowledge into you. If I ‘construct’ something I build up something. Why not practice making as many words as you can with the base “struct” as you can to see how valuable morphology can be for building words.
The Consonant le Syllable Division Rules
Traditionally we teach this as counting back 3 from the end of the word and dividing it. final stable syllable (consonant le) words are not difficult to read or spell but children need to have a good understanding and practice with open and closed syllables before tackling these words.
If you hear a long vowel sound in the first syllable like in the word ‘stable’ there will only be one consonant after the first vowel and will stay with the second syllable. But if you hear a short vowel sound in the first syllable then there will be a consonant to close off the first syllable and one to start the second syllable as in the word ‘little’.
With the C+le syllable division rule, we don’t underline the two vowels because the <e> in the final syllable is silent. That is why counting back three from the end of the word works better in this case. When using syllable division rules the habit of underlining vowels in a word only works with sounded vowels with single vowels or vowel teams not with silent vowels like the ‘magic e.’
The Morphology of the suffix le
It is good to look at the fact that <le> is actually a suffix which is easily seen in words such as “hand+le”, “spark+le” and “circ+le”. Other words have changed a bit in spelling over time such as ‘gamble’ was from (game+le) and “spindle” was from (spin+le).
The V/V Syllable Division Rules
Decoding vowel combinations can be a tricky task, especially when they are adjacent to one another but not part of vowel teams or diphthongs. In such cases, it is important to know that each of the two vowels has its own sound and that the two vowels do not share a sound as in a vowel team.
The vowel in the first syllable often has a long sound in an open syllable and the second syllable is usually a schwa sound instead of a short sound. This rule presents quite a challenge for students so teachers often wait until later on in their lesson plans before introducing this concept.
Multisyllable Words & Multisyllable Silent E
When teaching dividing longer words, like two and three-syllable words look for morphology the prefixes, suffixes and bases or roots. If a student can not identify any then start at the beginning of the word and divide the word with the first two vowels, divide those syllables, then move on until you reach the end of the word. If a word ends in silent e in a multisyllabic word, it is not underlined for directing syllable division in words. It stays in the syllable with the sounded vowel it is next to.
With practice and guidance, kids will learn to master these syllable division rules so that they can read a variety of words with ease and confidence. Knowing the different types of syllables and how to divide them is a great way for children to become better spellers, readers, and writers in the future. With all these benefits, it’s easy to see why teaching syllable division is an important lesson for every student!
If you would like the Syllable Division Rules Posters in this post you can find a few sample posters here and more along with lots of syllable division activities in the bundle linked below. I also linked the morphology packs as well. If you have any questions please contact me. I love to hear from folks who read this blog!
Download the Free Syllable Division Sampler Pack Below