The Secrets to Syllable Types in Orton Gillingham Teaching

What makes OG (Orton Gillingham) so special is the way it teaches the English language in broken down parts and then re-assembles them into a whole; meaning that by the time a student is older (or for an adult), it’s easy to the English language from a broad perspective.

A major component to help gain the overall perspective is REVLOC. In some circles they use CLOVER, but where I took the course, they call it REVLOC and soon I will reveal why.

First, let me break down the answer to what REVLOC is. Each letter stands for a syllable type. Each syllable in a word is broken down and categorized by rules, making it easier to pronounce a word when one follows the rules of that syllable. Of course, there are always exceptions and that is where sight words and memorization have their place.

So here is what each letter stands for.

R       R-controlled
E       Magic E
V      Vowel Team
L      Consonant + le
O     Open
C     Closed

They are not taught to students in this order, but are listed in this order because one “trumps” the other in how you would pronounce a word. R-controlled is always used as the rule over closed, as in the word war. You would not try to “close that in,” rather you would use the R-controlled pronunciation rule.

It’s the order that makes it REVLOC, rather than CLOVER. It helps a student understand that if they see R-controlled, it will be r-controlled rather than a closed syllable.

The order REVLOC is taught to students is:

Closed syllables                       cat, lip, stop, pump, shrimp
Magic E syllables                     bike, cake, Luke, Pete, poke
Open syllables                         go, he, she, hi, me
R-controlled syllables            car, fork, fern, bird, fur, merry, tarry, earth
Consonant +le syllables        bubble, maple, marble, steeple
Vowel Team syllables             boat, bee, eight, ceiling, monkey

A closed syllable is one where a vowel is closed in by two consonants. As in lip.

Magic E syllable is one where the e makes a vowel say its name (it makes the vowel long). As in, bike.

An open syllable is a vowel that is not closed in by consonants. As in, he. In a multisyllabic word an example would be o pen (O is open syllable, PEN is closed syllable).

R-controlled syllables have the bossy-r in control of the syllable. As in, fork.

Consonant + le syllables have at its end a Consonant + le pattern. As in bubble. The syllable division is bub ble (BUB = closed, BLE = Cons+le). The b must be doubled to keep the sound of the first u short. Otherwise it would be buble and the u would be long (BU is open B+LE is consonant+le).

Vowel Team syllables have just that, a vowel team. A word like bee would not be an open syllable, because it has the double ee. It is considered a vowel team and marked as such when dividing. As in, monkey (MON is closed, key is vowel team because the ey is a vowel team).

REVLOC makes it easier to pronounce words because there are rules associated with each syllable type. Once a person learns that seeing a closed syllable usually means the vowel will be short, it opens them up to something predictable about that syllable. Particularly when someone has not seen a word before, this can come in handy.

In the course I took, we spent a lot of time dividing words into syllables and categorizing each syllable into REVLOC. Every time I did these exercises I found that even the words that appear as sight words have rules in many cases. Like he, she, make, etc.

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(15) Comments

  1. When r loses control of a vowel such as in berry or arid, do you then teach those syllables as “r-controlled but r loses control so they act like closed syllables”? Wilson reading teaches them as r-controlled exceptions.

    1. Hi Linda, I was never taught that r loses control in Orton Gillingham. Berry would be -err, pronounced “er” like the e is short. Words like: berry, cherry, error, errand, errant, erratic, ferry, merry, terry, Sierra are included as examples. I would divide berry Berr y (r-controlled and open syllables), or Ber ry (still, R-controlled and open syllables).
      Arid, is also still r-controlled according to Orton rules ar id — r-controlled and closed syllables. Arid is a little tricky in that most words with that”ar” (where the a is short) sound, have two r’s. Like arrow, barrel, carrot, marry. That might make arid a red word, but I would not count it out as r-controlled.

      Hope this helps. Please let me know any follow-up questions to this answer.

        Thanks, that helps. I totally forgot that I made that up about r “losing control” as a way to explain why some of the vowel sounds changed around “bossy” r after one of my students noticed that car in car.ry was acting like a closed syllable. I like your answer though, if there is an r it is an r syllable. Thanks again.
        BTW, do you treat digraphs as one consonant because they have one sound?…or as 2 consonants. I am asking because I am not sure to consider within, rocket, etc. as rabbit or camel words.

        Thanks, that helps. I totally forgot that I had made that up about bossy, controlling ‘r’ losing control. A student noticed that the ‘car’ in car.ry was acting like a closed syllable so I told him r had lost control. Nevertheless, you are right; consistency would dictate that if there is an ‘r’ the syllable is r-controlled.

        BTW, do you consider words such as and to be rabbit or camel? They look like rabbit but act like camel. I lean toward camel because I tend to treat the digraphs like one consonant because they have one sound but that could be visually confusing.
        Thanks again.

  2. For closed syllables – you said: “A closed syllable is one where a vowel is closed in by two consonants. As in lip.” However – the a closed syllable only has to be closed in AT THE END – so – a single (short) vowel closed in (at the end) by one or more consonants. e.g., an, in, on, it, etc.

  3. Had a fellow teacher ask me about the spelling of “Valley” versus ‘Silly”. Is is because of the order in which you use the long /e/ or based on the syllable division of how you divide the words? The more I look at it the more I can’t seem to explain why the spelling is that way?

    1. Hi Alise, I try not to analyze too much why a word is spelled the way it is spelled. It could be that those two words came from different parts of the world when they made it into the English language. It’s really about students being able to read the word when divided. Silly would be a “Candy Word” (by the way I was taught). Candy Words are VCCV words that end in Y. You would underline the vowels (i, y), then divide between the consonants, and read sil(c)-ly(o).
      Valley is a little more tricky and honestly has me stumped as to where I would categorize it, but still the goal is only to read the word, so even though I won’t call it something like “candy” I would still just underline the vowels, divide, and pronounce in syllables. Valley (underline a, ey — ey is a team). What does ey say in this case,? Long e, (like money, monkey, valley). I would still divide between the consonants that separate (as if it is a “candy” word, Val (c) Ley (v). For Valley, you would need to have studied vowel teams for a student to decode the word, so I would not put Valley in a decoding situation where the student has not studied vowel teams.

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