Have you ever told your child (or student) just sound out the word? They look at you with hesitation, look back at the word, and then take each letter to represent a sound. The ultimate word represents something like a drunk sailor would say with his mouth full of marshmallows. How can we instruct our children to look at a word and have them understand how to break apart a word for it to make sense?

To start syllabication, one first must have a firm grasp of short vowel sounds [æ] [ɪ] [ε] [α] [Λ] or a, i, e, o, u and 19 consonant sounds. Then, there is a scope and sequence to breaking apart words. However, for our purposes, I'll introduce the first ways of syllabication to help your child decode a word.

Let's take the word ...cat. Phonetically, it's spelled [K æ t]. The /a/ in this word is a short vowel. The word also ends in a consonant. A short vowel + consonant = a closed syllable. Here are a few more examples of closed syllable words: hat, ran, hit, pog, bet, rug or even a nonsense word like–gip.

To find a closed syllable in a word, look for your vowels first and label them. Then, label your consonant. The pattern that you are looking for is: V C C V. Check out the following example:    

Consonants, in a VCCV pattern, are broken apart. This means that the vowel becomes a short vowel sound. Also, notice that I’ve only started labeling from the first vowel. That’s because visually this is easier to read. Here’s a few more examples:


If you want students to make more connections with syllabication, you can call these:

KITTEN OR RABBIT words because:


Whenever your child/student is struggling with a word, get out your whiteboard (electronic or otherwise), your chalkboard, use a dry erase marker on the table, or if push comes to shove, use a pencil in your book. Have your student finish reading their sentence and say, “Let’s go back and check out this word.” Take the next 30 seconds to teach them how to break apart VCCV words.

Have a great time using syllabication!