Hi everyone! I've written before about syllable division, but I've mainly focused on the first three rules with open and closed syllables. I made some new visuals to go with the step by step posters, so I figured it was a good time for another post.
What is syllable division?
Syllable division rules show us how to break up a multi-syllable word into its syllable parts. There are six main syllable division rules to guide us.
How is it done?
- It all starts with the vowels. Find the vowels in the word. It helps to underline or highlight them.
- Find the patten of the consonants and vowels (VCV, VCCV, VCCCV, VCCCCV, C+le, VV).
- Use the syllable division rule (shown below) to divide the word into its syllable parts.
Why Should we Teach Syllable Division?
Learning the rules of syllable division provides our students with an effective strategy for chunking up those bigger words into more manageable parts. I see it as another "tool" for their "tool belt" that leads to more accuracy while reading. Understanding syllable division also helps students to determine what the vowel sound will be. As I learn more, I see this works best when incorporated with morphology (think prefixes, suffixes, and roots). When I first learned syllable division, I only learned syllable division without the consideration of morphemes (which are the smallest units of meaning in our language). I now teach my students to look for familiar prefixes, suffixes, and even roots (for older kids) first. If there aren't any, then begin syllable division. To get to that point though, we need to teach them those syllable division rules and give them enough practice with them so that it becomes more automatic. All the while, I'm teaching new prefixes and suffixes to them so those can also become more familiar. I think the two actually go together well. But I digress! Back to syllable division! The first thing to know is that every syllable must have a written vowel. The very definition of a syllable is an uninterrupted unit of speech with one vowel sound.
Here are the rules on one page:
Here is a picture from my classroom:
The following slides show the main syllable division rules. I am only going into two-syllable words for now.
The first thing to know is that it's all about vowels!
- Every syllable needs a vowel, so we can determine (usually) how many syllables there are based on the number of vowels.
- Vowel teams and diphthongs count as one syllable even if there are two vowels because they work together to make one sound.
- Same with silent e. The e doesn't make a sound so it doesn't get it's own syllable.
- The exception of course is the syllable type consonant -le. This syllable is found in words like little, bubble, table. You cannot hear the e, but it does get its own syllable. It buddies with the l before it and the consonant before the l. More about that later, though!
Rule #1: Two consonants between the vowels: VCCV Pattern
The first syllable division rule is called VC/VC, which stands for vowel-consonant-consonant-vowel. Train your students to find the vowels in the word. They are our starting point. In words with the VCCV pattern, there are two consonants between the two vowels. Usually, we split between those consonants.
See the step by step directions with blue and yellow letters below. (Before teaching this, you should teach your students about open and closed syllables. For the word basket, split between the s and k. The first syllable is bas and the second syllable is ket. Each syllable has a vowel.
Of course there are always exceptions. One exception is when there are R or L blends, like in the word secret. We keep R and L blends together, so instead of splitting between those consonants, we keep them together and move them to the second syllable. We also keep digraphs and units together. Never split those!
Rule #2 & 3: One consonant between the vowels: VCV Pattern There are two options here!
More commonly, you would split the before that consonant. This leaves your first syllable open, so the vowel would be long. In the word silent, the letter l is the middle consonant. We move that to be with the 2nd syllable: si-lent.
Sometimes though, we do the opposite. Sometimes, we split after the consonant. In this case, we close that first syllable, leaving that vowel short. In the word robin, the middle consonant b moves with the 1st syllable making rob-in.
Rule #4: Three consonants between the vowels.
In this case, usually we split after the first consonant. See below that there are the usual exceptions. We never split digraphs and blends. Also, a word this big can often be a compound word. Instead, you would split between the two words.
This is super similar to the last one. Split after the first consonant, unless it is a compound word. There are not as many of these words, and honestly when you're getting into words this book, I tend to shift my focus to morphology.
Rule #6: Consonant -le:
On paper, I've always had this as #6, but I actually found myself teaching this one after #3 because it came up and it includes SO many rules. A great and common example is the word little. Following this rule, we see the -le at the end and count one back to make lit-tle. Consonant +le in this word is t+le. This is the syllable type where there is no vowel sound. You only hear the consonant and the /l/.
That first vowel is always long and that second one usually sounds like a schwa.
I've already mentioned this a few times as an exception to the other rules, but it's really a rule all on its own. If the word is a compound words, don't worry about the other rules, just split between those two words.
I almost put this one first because it's so important, but I didn't want to confuse. Instead It is super helpful for students to get in the habit of always looking for prefixes and suffixes. This starts in kindergarten with the suffix -s! I teach my students to always "chunk out" the prefixes and suffixes and to focus on the base word first. This requires direct instruction with all the different prefixes and suffixes. In first grade, they commonly will see -s, -es, -ing, -ed, -er, -est, re and un. 2nd graders regularly see -ly, -ment, -ful, -less, -able, pre-, dis-, mis-, and so many more! In some cases, suffixes like -ed don't necessarily make a new syllable (jumped, camped, etc), while in others (rented, busted) it does make another syllable. But that's even more reason to teach them about prefixes and suffixes! Our students will cover the -ed in jumped, then see only one vowel and one syllable. After reading jump, they will then uncover -ed and decide how to pronounce it "jumpt, jump-ed, or jumpd". You can learn more about this HERE.
3 Syllable Words: When dividing a word with more than two syllables, first check for affixes (prefixes and suffixes). Then start at the left with the first two vowels, divide those syllables, then move to the right.
If you're interested in just these syllable division posters and some practice pages with all syllable types, you can find them HERE. The practice pages come in two formats: tabbed notebook (shown below) and also regular full-page worksheets.
Here is a sneak peak of a few of the practice pages.
And because I'm so indecisive and have created and recreated so many posters over the years, I included all sets of visuals shown in this post. You can just choose your favorite and print!
However, if you already own my Syllable Division with Open and Closed Syllables, I also added these posters to that pack! You can find that HERE.
(If you're wondering what the difference is, this pack above has a lot more practice pages, but just focuses on open and closed syllables because it is part of my systematic units and has detailed lesson plans. The new, smaller pack above that has just the posters and 40 practice pages for all syllable division rules. It includes open and closed syllables then has another section with all the other syllable types. It is not part of the systematic units and does not have the detailed lesson plans.)
Here are a couple of syllable activities that I've done:
For these two, I put the first syllable in one color and the 2nd on another color. Students read the syllables and matched them to make real words.
This next activity was a review activity after learning all syllable types. I wrote words on note cards. I gave each student one at a time. They read the card to the group and then together we determined which pattern it followed. (Students would copy the word on their white board first and do the syllable division individually.) We sorted them into the correct column. The next day I used colored transparencies to chunk a certain syllable. For each word, I would ask for the first or second syllable. Students would say the syllable and then we would highlight that part.
What are Syllable Types?
This post is all about the syllable division rules. But you also will want to know the syllable types. As I mentioned above, I have a pack that focuses on syllable division with only open and closed syllables, which are two of the 7 syllable types. Want to read about the other syllable types? Click HERE to read more about syllable types.