“Sound it out” is a common direction that students are given when they can’t read a word. “Sound it out” makes sense to most of us because it’s what most readers do when they can’t read a word. They sound it out. But, what if you don’t read like most readers? What if you are unable to read by sounding out? Or, what if “sounding it out” only works some of the time? That’s when you’ll see students relying on memory, picture clues, context clues, or guessing at words based on the shape and size of a given word or the first letter in the word. These strategies allow students to compensate for the inability to sound out words for a short period of time. After awhile though, text will become too advanced for these strategies to work all the time.
When "Sound it Out" Doesn't Work
If a student can’t read by sounding out, they typically hit a wall by the end of their third grade year, if not sooner. It’s around this time that reading emphasis shifts from learning to read to reading to learn. Vocabulary explodes and students are no longer able to “solve” words, or guess at words, by using strategies other than sounding out. This is why syllable division rules are necessary to teach. When combined with explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, letter sound correspondences and spelling rules this process makes vowel sounds and other units of sound highly predictable which, in turn, makes unknown words decodable.
Syllable Division Rules are like Math
I like to compare syllable division rules to math. In math you learn a formula, apply the formula and calculate an answer. In reading you can also learn a formula (a.k.a. your syllable division rules), apply your formula on paper and read your word syllable by syllable.
The pictures in this post are a glimpse at syllable division rules during a lesson at READ Learning. I'm so very proud of all of our students. They work extra hard to achieve success in an area that is difficult for them. This is a character-building experience which, after time, leads to increased perseverance, independence and improved confidence! Reading struggles or not - when you have the tools to work through it, It's a win-win any way you look at it.
For a guide on syllable division rules and types of syllables visit our free downloads on our store page.