Syllabication and decoding strategies can provide the keys to reading and the road map to navigating increasingly complex and engaging texts. Syllable division patterns guide readers in this process and they’re taught in order of their frequency of use in English. Once words are cut into syllables, the four-syllable patterns will help readers identify how to pronounce each syllable.
Syllable Pattern #1 VC/CV
The most common syllable division pattern is recognized by two or more consonants between two vowel sounds, including VCCV, VCCCV, and VCCCCV. Consider the following words:
- hiccup – The two vowels are ‘i’ and ‘u’, and there are two consonants between the vowels. Pattern #1 cuts the word apart as hic / cup.
- bathtub – The two vowels, ‘a’ and ‘u’, have three consonants between them. Pattern #1 cuts the word apart as bath / tub.
- instruct – The two vowels, ‘i’ and ‘u’, have four consonants between them. Pattern #1 cuts the words apart as in / struct
“When there are more than two consonants together [between the vowels], and to simplify [decoding] for students, [the] main goal is to determine which blends stay together, and underline those blends as one consonant.” (IMSE Comprehensive Training Manual).
Additionally, readers can keep digraphs together and underline them as one consonant unit.
Syllable Pattern #2 V/CV
The second most common syllable division pattern is recognized by VCV, with only one consonant between two vowel sounds in a word. Because of its frequency in English multisyllabic words, when readers encounter a VCV pattern, this pattern directs them to cut the word apart after the first vowel. Consider the following word:
- robot – The two vowels, ‘o’ and ‘o’, have one consonant between them. Pattern #2 cuts the words apart as ro / bot.
Syllable Pattern #3 VC/V
Readers may attempt to read a word using pattern #2 and not recognize it in their oral language lexicon. When pattern #2 doesn’t result in a familiar word, perhaps something else is happening. Often, the “something else”, is pattern #3 where the word cuts apart after the consonant between the two vowel sounds. This pattern is the second choice because, in English, it’s less common. Therefore, readers should have ample opportunity to apply patterns #1 and #2 before this pattern is introduced. Consider the following word:
- cabin – The two vowels, ‘a’ and ‘i’, have one consonant between them, so the reader tries pattern #2, initially, and reads ca / bin. While searching for words known in their oral language and prior listening, reading, and speaking experiences, the word doesn’t make sense. Then, the reader suspects pattern #3 could be at work, and they adjust how the word is cut apart and reads cab / in.
Syllable Pattern #4 V/V
This final pattern used to cut words apart in English has two vowels with no consonants between them, and it is the least common of the four patterns. Typically introduced once diphthong vowel sounds are taught, readers continue to test the pattern and resulting pronunciation against known words in their oral language. Consider the following words:
- flower – The two vowels (vowel sounds), ‘ow’ and ‘er’, do not have any consonant sounds between them, and the reader cuts pattern 4 and reads flow / er.
- rodeo – The first two syllables are cut apart using pattern #2, and the second and third syllables are cut apart using pattern 4. The reader decodes ro / de / o.
Once syllable division patterns (ways to cut words apart) are learned, it’s as if every reader has the map to discover reading longer phonetic words. When syllabication strategies are applied more skillfully and automatically, the landscape of reading is widened, varied, and accessible. Readers are able to focus on fluency strategies and vocabulary which support reading comprehension.
Be sure to check out the rest of our blog series on Syllabication and Word Breaks:
- Syllable Types
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