Orton Gillingham for All

More Syllable Division: The Long & Short of –ci, -si, -ti, -xi

Today, I received a great question from a reader. After my last post on syllable division, she asked me, “What do you say about the letter i in the following examples: div i sion in ci sion de li cious am bi tion ig ni tion???”
I can understand the confusion, based on my previous posts. According to what I have said so far, those I’s should be long because the syllable is considered open. Now we get into a more advanced rule of division. It has to do with the suffixes on those words.
This division rule has to do with -ci, -si, -ti, -xi being suffixes. They are Latin in origin.
In words containing these suffixes, you look at the letter preceding the suffix to determine if it is a long or short vowel.

A’s, O’s and U’s are always LONG
E’s are sometimes long and sometimes short
I’s are always SHORT
Examples of words for each letter:
A: com pli ca tion (that I in the syllable before the ca is a schwa), spa cious, gla cial, na tion — A is always LONG
O: so cial, fer o cious, ex plo sion, com mo tion — O is always Long
U: con sti tu sion (I in syllable before tu is a schwa), con fu sion, eff u sion — U is always Long
E: com ple xion (e can go either way, long or short! must test it because there is no rule), com ple tion, pre cious, spe cious
I: ig ni tion, am bi tious, in ni tial, arti fi cial (I in syllable before fi is a schwa), di vi sion — I is always SHORT
A trick to remembering these is: you can “Fill In” letters that are “strong” (or LONG).
Picture an “a” where the space is filled, O filled in, U can be filled in. “e” can only fill a little bit (in that top part) so it is sometimes long sometimes short, but the “weak” “i” holds nothing, so it is always short.

ci si ti xi long short


Here is a work sheet I did in class and an answer key (in case my writing is illegible).

ci si ti xi worksheet

ci si ti xi ans key



A Mountain View: Labeling and Syllable Division

We have covered all of the components of REVLOC and the different syllable division rules. Today, I would like to condense that down to an overview, so, hopefully, a bigger picture can be formed.

First, REVLOC, stands for types of syllables. These syllables are then classified by the corresponding letter from the REVLOC system. Once classified (or maybe labeled is a better term), the word can be broken down and pronounced based on the rules associated with each syllable type.

The word “REVLOC” is what it is because that is the order in which each syllable type should be considered in pronunciation. For example, the word “war” might look like it is a closed syllable, however, the “ar” in this word make it an R-controlled syllable. R comes before the C in the word REVLOC, so that is how we know that the R-controlled is the rule to follow rather than Closed.

R – R-controlled

E – Magic E

V – Vowel Teams

L – Consonant + LE

O – Open

C – Closed


Once the labeling of syllables based on the REVLOC system is learned, moving forward into different types of words based on this system of labeling the syllables makes the words easier to pronounce.

What you get is a system of labeling syllables and then applying those labels to types of word-patterns. These word-patterns are based on vowel-consonant patterns within the words.

To overview these patterns:

Compound words: Divide between the words.                  Cow       boy                        Sun        set

Prefix/Suffix words: Divide between the prefix and/or the suffix and root. (un  im  press  ive  ly).

Consonant + LE (puzzle words): Count back three letters              Cir           Cle

Words with ck divide after the c                                Spec      kle

VCCCV (ostrich words): Do not divide consonants that go together, like blends and digraphs.

An          them

VCCV (rabbit, hornet, candy words): Divide between the two consonants.          Mag net

VCV (tiger, camel, hotel, motel words): 60% of the time, divide after the first vowel to get a long vowel sound. (pi  lot).

40% of the time, divide after the consonant to get a short vowel sound. (cab  in).

Special cases (hotel and motel), divide to get a schwa vowel in an unaccented first syllable (Japan). (pe  can). These are based on where the accent goes (which is determined by where the emphasis is when pronouncing a word).

VV (Lion and poem words): Divide between unstable digraphs and diphthongs or between vowels that do not form digraphs or diphthongs. (ru  in)  (li  on)  (e  on)

A diphthong is a word that had a vowel team which starts out as one sound but ends up as another, so that both vowels are pronounced. For example: coin, lion, ruin. Digraphs are two letters that come together to form another sound all together, like th or ch, tch.


CW = Compound Words
The first three of the diamond are for older kids/adults
Teach VCCV first and VV last (it is advanced)


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