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Home » Blog » Literacy » An Easy Routine for Syllable Division

An Easy Routine for Syllable Division

Literacy, Multisyllabic Words, Phonics, Spelling & Word Work

Written by: Krys Warstillo

So your students are cruising along confidently reading CVC, CCVC, CVCe words, and – Boom! They hit a multisyllabic wall. Before your students start getting into the habit of guessing, let’s build good habits and use syllable division to sound out words! With this simple routine, your students will be cracking the code in no time.

build good reading habits by using this routine with kids for dividing syllables in multisyllable words

Syllable Division Routine

You can watch the routine in the video below or read on for a step-by-step walk-through of the syllable division routine. 

Step 1: Look for Prefixes

For this procedure, we’re going to use a sample word: UNBOXING (like the super-popular YouTube videos- we add engagement where we can!). First, let’s look for prefixes. Notice this word has the prefix UN. If I was modeling this to my students, I would underline it to draw their attention. 

the word unboxing written on a piece of paper with the prefix UN underlined

Need more practice with prefixes? Try the Prefix Toothy game. You can use it as a whole group review or individually depending on student needs. 


toothy task kits

Prefixes Toothy

Step 2: Look for Suffixes

The next step in our syllable division routine will be looking at our unknown word for suffixes. Unboxing has the suffix ING. To model this with your students underline the suffix at the end of the word.

the word unboxing written on a piece of paper with the prefix un and the suffix ing underlined

Need more practice with suffixes? Try the Suffix Toothy game.


toothy task kits

Suffixes Toothy

Step 3: Look for Spelling Patterns

The third step is to look for patterns that students already know. This includes phonics patterns and the six syllable types In our sample word, students should notice that BOX is a closed syllable. 

six syllable types chart with definitions for each syllable type

Need more practice? This is where I like to reference my Sound Wall with students. They may see the digraph /ch/ and think “Oh no, I know this sound…. But I can’t remember it.” Remind students that they can use the cards on their sound wall to get a look at the shape their mouth should be making and reference words.


sound wall and phonics posters

Sound Wall & Phonics Posters

Step 4: Sound Out & Blend

Now that we’ve looked closely at our word, students will sound out each part of the word and blend the sounds together. If your students are having a hard time blending the sounds you can try having them inhale and read all parts on the exhale.

Need more practice with blending? Pull out the Working With Words mats or the Sound Bead center in the Small Group & Intervention Literacy Kit to work on this important skill.  

sound beads manipulative to help kids practice blending by sound before they use the syllable division routine with written words


toothy task kits

Small Group & Intervention Literacy Kit

Step 5: Say It Fast

Step 5 in our syllable division routine is saying the word fast. Once students say the word fast they need to ask themselves, “Is this a word I’ve heard before? Does it sound right?” I’ve found that this step definitely needs modeling. Teach students that it’s okay to say it slowly at first and then pick up speed.

Step 6: Read the Word In Context

The final step in our “how to divide syllables” routine is reading the multi-syllable word in context. Reread the sentence and instruct your students to ask, “does this make sense?” as they add in their newly decoded word.

how to read big words reference chart with the six steps in the syllable division and decoding routine

Additional Resources

When a student gets to a multi-syllable word it can feel like a puzzle that students don’t know how to solve. Teaching students to decode helps students solve the puzzle. Breaking down multi-syllable words is a very difficult skill to learn and takes so much repetition. Providing the kind of targeted practice that students need can be pretty labor-intensive. For daily practice take a look at Phonics Day by Day or for easy-to-implement centers try Phonics Toothy. Also, check out some awesome syllable songs HERE.


Phonics Day By Day

Digital Phonics Toothy

toothy task kits

Printed Phonics Toothy Task Cards

Decoding Multi-Syllable Words 

This is part of the Decoding Multi-Syllable Words series. Click the links below for more posts in this series:

build good reading habits and teach kids to use this easy syllable division routine to sound out longer words


  1. Sam

    The HOW TO READ BIG WORDS chart—is that purchase-able?


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