Orton-Gillingham Lesson Basics: Syllabication

Posted by Brainspring on 15th May 2019

Our next Orton-Gillingham lesson basic covers decoding of multi-syllabic words and syllabication. We recently posted on how to address spelling dictation words using a multisensory approach. In case you missed this article, click HERE!


Syllabication exercises are a hallmark of multisensory phonics. Through these activities, students learn how to tackle unfamiliar multi-syllabic words. Without this tool, comprehension can be significantly hindered for many students.

Imagine a struggling reader goes to read their assigned reading material and they come across a word such as this:


The student does his best to sound out the word but gets stuck on so many parts of the word. He then has trouble putting the chunks together and forgets where he even began with the word. He decides to skip the word, hoping the surrounding text can help him make meaning of what he reads. The quiz is tomorrow, he has a deadline and he must do well. Anxiety starts to build a little.

The student continues reading and comes across at least six more challenging words before he is done reading the page. His frustration is increasing, and his patience is decreasing. He attempts to take notes to outline the meaning of what he read and is at a loss. He cannot remember what he read because he was focusing so hard on even decoding the words on the page. He may give up at this point, become distracted, or let’s face it, bury his head in his book and take a nap.

The likely issue in this example is not that the student did not comprehend the material. Rather, he missed reading many of the words on the page and therefore could not gather the meaning. If someone read the page to this student, he more than likely would be able to better gauge the meaning and recap what the page was about.

Back to the Basics – What is a Syllable?

A syllable is a word or word part that contains one “talking” vowel (a vowel sound). When we reach an unfamiliar multisyllabic word, it helps to chunk out the word by its syllables.

If you find your students are unsure of what a syllable is, or, cannot identify syllables in words, this may be due to a weakness in phonological awareness. Click the links below to learn more about Phonological Awareness:

Tying Phonological Awareness to Reading and Spelling

The Difference Between Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Syllable Division Patterns

There are three main syllable division patterns that students will come across while reading:

VCCV (vowel consonant/consonant vowel)

As in the word cup/cake

VCV (vowel/consonant vowel OR vowel consonant/vowel)

As in the word hu/mid OR rad/ish

VV (vowel/vowel)

As in the word vid/e/o

Syllable Types

If students learn how to break apart words based on their division pattern and explicitly learn the rules of each syllable type, they will have success in reading a large chunk of the words in this very unfamiliar English language.

Syllable types found in English:

Closed: Consonant after a short vowel

Open: No consonant after a short vowel

Magic -E: Silent-E at the end of a word

Consonant-le: Final syllable = Consonant + LE

Vowel Teams: Vowel pair with one long sound

Bossy-R: R-controlled

Diphthong: Vowel pair makes a new sound that is neither long nor short

Schwa: Vowel often makes a short u sound (as in alone, allow)

Instructional Steps

When a student reaches an unfamiliar multi-syllabic word, have them try the following steps to break the word down. It is important to follow these steps in the order listed below:

  1. Underline and label the first two vowels
  2. Draw a bridge to connect the vowels
  3. Label the consonants on the bridge
  4. Divide using the pattern
  5. Identify the syllable types *
  6. Read syllables
  7. Read word

* In this case, mag and net are both closed syllables (labeled with a CL for closed).


For further helpful hints, click HERE to watch one of our recent videos on syllabication!


Written by Brainspring

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