Solutions to Reading Problems #4 Know Your Syllable Divider

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

Have you ever gotten in the car to go to that new clothing store you’ve been hearing about?

You think you know exactly where it is. You drive to the spot, but the store isn’t there.

Popping the address into your iphone GPS or favorite map app you find that you’re close but needed to go a bit further. The next intersection would have brought you to the store.

So close.

Reading can be sort of like that.

As you are reading, you come to a word that looks familiar but maybe some extra letters/syllables have been added.

Or you have never seen this word and have no idea where to begin to be able to pronounce it.

I'm Jean Harville, founder of Private Reading Tutoring.

Having a map or guideline would be helpful to apply to those unknown words to unlock the pronunciation which would lead to a better understanding of the sentence you are reading, right?

Well, phonics is sort of like a road map to unlocking unfamiliar words.

The Rules of Phonics....Can't Live Without Them

Rules of Phonics help create structure around a process that could be frustrating for those who struggle to read.

Learning to apply sets of rules to unfamiliar words is the key to unlocking new words.

However, I must warn you. Since many words in our English vocabulary are derived from other languages, these rules can and will be broken.

So you may be thinking. Why do we need the rules if they don’t always apply?

The Rules of Phonics set the foundation upon which we can build understanding of how words are put together.

Of course automaticity in applying the rules is the goal.

Phonics Definition and Examples of Phonics.

Phonics is a method for teaching reading and writing of the English language by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system.

Most words are made up of several sounds blended together. These sound units are represented by their corresponding letters.

When a word has more than one vowel sound, generally the vowel sound is paired with other sounds. These groups of sounds are called syllables. Each syllable has one vowel sound.

Let’s quickly explore where to place the syllable divider so we can understand how to pronounce the vowel sound.

Placing a dot over the vowel letters can help to identify the number of syllables the word will have.

Remember, each syllable has one vowel sound.

The Syllable Divider rules are as follows:

A. If the vowel has 1 consonant after it, place the syllable divider between the vowel and the consonant.

B. If the vowel has 2 consonants after it, place the syllable divider between the consonants.

C. If the vowel has 3 consonants after it, 2 of the consonants are most likely a blend or a digraph. Keeping the blend or digraph together, place the syllable divider between the blend/digraph and the 3rd consonant.

Now that the syllables have been separated, it’s time to look at each syllable and the rule for the vowel sound.

There are 6 types of syllables and each type has a rule around it that sets it apart from other syllables.

1. THE OPEN SYLLABLE when the vowel does not have another letter after it, the vowel says it’s name. (go, be)

2. THE CLOSED SYLLABLE when a consonant follows the vowel, the vowel says it’s short vowel sound. (cat, hot)

3. THE R-CONTROLLED or “bossy r” SYLLABLE is when a vowel is paired with the letter “r” after it, changing the sound of the vowel. (car, her)

4. THE “CONSONANT + LE” SYLLABLE is when a consonant is followed by the letters -le. (purple, bicycle)

5. THE TWO VOWEL SYLLABLE when the vowel sound is written with two letters. (“oa” in boat, “ow” in cow)

6. THE SILENT E SYLLABLE when the “e” at the end of the word makes the vowel say it’s name. (rake, like)

Knowing where the vowels are in the syllable and understanding the sounds they are making according to their specific rule is key to unlocking words.

It seems like an awful lot of thinking to go through just to figure out an unknown word.

However, the more practice you have with these 6 types of syllables the quicker and more automatic you will become in decoding that new word.

Of course the final test will be if the word makes sense in the sentence.

So, you’re probably wondering what to do with words that contain prefixes and suffixes.

In my next blog post, Phonics Part 2, we will dive into how to recognize prefixes, suffixes and irregular endings.

In other words, we’ll Peel Some Onions.

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This is Jean Harville from Private Reading Tutoring bringing you tips and strategies you can use to help a child struggling with reading at home.

You can also find me on my business Facebook page at Private Reading Tutoring.

My website is

I look forward to meeting you and your child.



P.S. Oh, by the way, if you would like to register your child for a Free Reading Assessment go to the footer of this page and click the button to register for a Free Reading Assessment for your child. You’ll be directed to fill out a form so I can understand more about your child.

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