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Home » Blog » Phonics » Multisyllabic Words » 9 Principles for Syllable Division

9 Principles for Syllable Division

Literacy, Multisyllabic Words, Phonics

Written by: Katie Palmer

By now you have surely heard about the importance of teaching syllables to your young learners. If not, read why right here. However, keeping students engaged in the process of syllable division can be difficult. Teaching syllable breaks is vital to students being able to decode multisyllable words. Stick around as we share the nine principles for dividing syllables, and a kid friendly way to teach them.

Before we dive into the ways to teach syllable division, if you want a closer look at the six types of syllables, check out this post: How to Introduce the Six Syllable Types.

Or, checkout this tutorial video.


Closed Syllable Division

Closed syllables contain a short vowel with consonants on either side.

Principle #1: Camel Rule

The camel rule refers to a closed syllable, that is a short vowel between two consonants. Time for a deeper dive!

Camel Rule Syllable Division Steps:

  1. Underline the vowels.
  2. Place your division line right after the first consonant following the short vowel.
  3. The first syllable is a closed syllable, usually featuring a short vowel sound.
A closed syllable word being divided with the camel rule.

Once you have demonstrated how to divide camel words, allow students to get extra practice with our numerous resources, which can all be complied into a book of the 9 syllable division rules.

Camel rule closed syllables practice activities.

Download Camel Rule Resources


Principle #2: Rabbit Rule

The rabbit rule refers to closed syllables, with short vowels, separated by a two consonants.

Rabbit Rule Syllable Division Steps:

  1. Underline the vowels.
  2. Look at the consonants between the vowels.
  3. Draw your division line between two consonants.
  4. The first syllable will be a closed syllable with a short vowel.
A closed syllable word divided using the rabbit rule.

Give your students extra practice at this skill.

Rabbit rule closed syllables practice activities.

Download Rabbit Rule Resources


Principle #3: Panther Rule

This rule refers to closed syllable words with three consonants, or VCCCV words.

Steps for Panther Rule Syllable Division:

  1. Underline the vowels.
  2. Look for consonants between the vowels.
  3. If you spot 3 consonants, keep digraphs or blends together.
  4. Draw your division line between a consonant and a blend or digraph.
  5. Your first syllable will be a closed syllable with a short vowel.
A closed syllable word divided using the panther rule.

Don’t forget the extra practice opportunities!

Panther rule closed syllables practice activities.

Download Panther Rule Resources


Open Syllable Division

Open syllables end with a vowel sound that is spelled with a single vowel. Examples include react or triumph. Let’s take a closer look at how to divide multisyllabic open syllable words.

Principle #4: Tiger Rule

Another open syllable word type, tiger words are the more traditional open syllables ending with a single vowel.

Tiger Ryle Syllable Division Routine:

  1. Underline the vowels.
  2. Look at the consonants between the vowels and if there is 1 consonant after the first vowel, draw your syllable division line there.
  3. Your first syllable will be an open syllable, ending with a single vowel.
An open syllable word divided using the tiger rule.

Let students get extra practice with already learned rules with resources like partner games!

Tiger rule open syllables practice activities.

Download Tiger Rule Resources


Principle #5: Lion Rule

Lion rule words are open syllable words with adjoining vowels, that are not part of a vowel team. Example words are lion, robot or diet.

Lion Rule Syllable Division Routine:

  1. Underline the vowels.
  2. Look for two vowels next to each other.
  3. If it is not a common vowel team, draw your division line between the vowels.
  4. Your first syllable will be an open syllable, ending with a single vowel.
An open syllable word divided using the lion rule.

Easily organize the extra practice activities by putting them into a booklet!

Lion rule open syllables practice activities.

Download Lion Rule Resources


Silent E Syllable Division

A silent e syllable is when a word has an “e” at the end that doesn’t make a sound, but changes the sound of the vowel before it, like in the words “cake” or “hope.

Principle #6: Reptile Rule

Use the Reptile Rule to break apart multisyllabic words with a silent e.

Reptile Rule Syllable Division:

  1. Underline the vowels.
  2. Look for a vowel followed by a consonant and silent e and keep those letters together in one syllable.
  3. Divide the word between two consonants, which are between the vowels. For example: rep/tile.
A silent e syllable word divided using the reptile rule.

Everything you need for a Silent E syllables lesson in one spot!

Reptile rule silent e syllables practice activities.

Download Reptile Rule Resources


Vowel Team Syllable Division

When students are comfortable with vowel teams, they will be able to recognize them in multisyllabic words. Learning to divide these syllables can be tackled by following the peacock rule.

Principle #7: Peacock Rule

To divide vowel team syllable words, follow this Peacock Rule routine:

  1. Underline the vowels.
  2. Look for a vowel team.
  3. Keep the vowel team together in one syllable.
  4. If you spot consonants between the vowel team and other vowels, draw your syllable division line in front of the consonant.
  5. Your first syllable will end with a vowel team.
A vowel team syllable word divided with the peacock rule.

Anchor charts assist with syllable division lessons.

Peacock rule vowel team syllables practice activities.

Download Peacock Rule Resources


R-Controlled Syllable Division

R-controlled syllables can be divided easily with the Turkey Rule!

Principle #8: Turkey Rule

When vowels are followed by an r, that becomes a syllable.

Turkey Rule Syllable Division Routine:

  1. Underline the vowels.
  2. Find a vowel followed by an r.
  3. Divide the syllable after the r.
  4. Your first syllable will be r-controlled, the r changing the vowel sound.
An r-controlled syllable word divided using the turkey rule.

The Multisyllable Word Book has tons of turkey syllable fun!

Turkey rule r-controlled syllables practice activities.

Download Turkey Rule Resources


Consonant + LE Syllable Division


Consonant + le syllables typically occur at the end of words and are composed of a consonant, followed by the letters -le. They form the “ul” or “uhl” sound.

Principle #9: Beagle Rule

Breaking up multisyllabic words that contain a consonant + le is simple with the Beagle Rule.

Beagle Rule Routine:

  1. Underline the vowels.
  2. Look for the consonant followed by -le, keep these together in one syllable.
  3. Divide the syllable before the consonant + le.
  4. Your first syllable will say the consonant + le sound.
A consonant + le syllable word divided using the beagle rule.

Practicing the consonant + le syllable rule can be pawsitively fun! (See what I did there?)

Beagle rule consonant + le syllables practice activities.

Download Beagle Rule Resources


Want a guided syllables lesson?

Let Katie, from Team Lucky Little Learners, guide you through the division of all nine syllable types, and take a trip to Syllable Zoo. This video is mean to be for your AND your students!

Give Students Extra Syllable Division Practice

Once you have modeled each syllable division rule, it is beneficial to let students thy out the strategies independently or in small groups. We have resources for every syllable division principle ready for you on All Access or in our Shop. All you have to to do is click, print and teach!

Get the Multisyllable Words Book

More Syllable Posts

If you are wanting to learn more about syllables, take a deep dive in our Syllables Post Library.

Happy teaching!

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