Unlocking the Secrets of the VCV Syllable Division Pattern in Orton Gillingham

Let’s talk about VCV – or vowel consonant vowel – patterns in syllable division. If you have not read the posts on REVLOC or VCCV please do that now and come back. Each of these posts builds on the next.

There are not as many pattern types in VCV as there are in VCCV, but breaking the words up into syllables becomes a tad more difficult now, because we have to place an emphasis on accenting the syllable. That determines where we will break it up (in VCCV we easily break the word between the two consonants, the c’s).

For accenting, a helpful rule is that the accent NEVER falls on a schwa, ever. So if there is a schwa in a syllable, don’t accent that syllable.

Another accenting trick my OG teacher taught us, (not sure this one is going to transfer in writing, but if you get it then use it, if not, you can move on) is if you say a word like you are calling a dog, like you are yelling it, the longer syllable is usually the accented one. For example, if I were calling my dog I might say, caaammm, el – the cam is the accented syllable.

If that dog trick doesn’t work for you, then know that 60% of the time, divide after the first vowel to get a long vowel sound. 40% of the time, divide after a consonant to get a short vowel sound, and in special cases, divide to get a schwa vowel in an unaccented first syllable.

There are three types of patterns for VCV:

Camel                                                   cam’   el                40% of the time  VC/V

Tiger                                                      ti’  ger                   60% of the time   V/CV

Japan & Motel   — This is a category my OG teacher made up for words that may not fit in Camel or Tiger because they have schwas and you never accent a schwa syllable.

You are testing in this one to see if the accent is on the first or second syllable. When there is a schwa, it can push the accent to the second syllable.

Ja            pan’

Mo’        tel

A             bove’

Pro         tect’

The ultimate goal of any of this is to pronounce the word correctly. If a student can pronounce the word, there is success.

In VCV the reason we are accenting is to know where to divide the word for pronunciation. There is no clear cut rule for the division of these types of words, except to test them before dividing.

For example:

Relish                    Is it: (1) Re  Lish     or    (2)Rel    ish

If it is (1), the first syllable would be open and the word would be re(long e)lish

If it is (2), the first syllable would be closed and the word would be rel(short e)ish.

Easy enough if you know the word, but pretend you are in kindergarten and you do not know.  Now test the word out for which syllable is accented.

Let me back up a bit here.

Relish – underline the vowels. We know there are two syllables because each syllable has to have a vowel.

Look for the pattern – Relish    eli is VCV.

Now if it were VCCV, I would automatically just divide between the two c’s, but it’s not. It is VCV. This means I automatically think about the accenting – that’s where I will divide.

I ask myself if there is a schwa, if either syllable has a vowel that has a “u” sound. Nope, not in relish.

I call the dog. If I use the short e spelling, the first syllable is the longer sound.

I decide that this is where the accent will be. On the first syllable.

Rel ish

One almost has to have heard these types of words before being able to break them up. The goal is to break it and say, oh, I’ve heard rel-ish, but never heard of the word re-lish (which technically speaking would be to lish again because re is a prefix).

These types of words are, to me, the hardest to explain in writing and even to comprehend when being taught. If you can get this, you can master syllable division. We like to have rules with everything, but some things just don’t have a clear-cut path and VCV pattern is one of them.

Below are some words and examples.

Camel Words

Lemon                  lem’       on

Linen                     lin’          en

Comet                  com’ et

Denim                   den’ im

Tiger Words

Nylon                    ny’ lon

Tulip                      tu’ lip

Pony                      po’ ny

Raven                   ra’ ven

Here is a sample of breakdowns of each:

VCV breakdown

Here is a sample worksheet from my class. See if you can divide the words and put them in the correct column (answers are below).

VCV worksheet
VCV worksheet answers

Want more? Check out the Workbook Store. This information plus worksheets are in the workbook store.

(8) Comments

  1. In the book _Speech to Print_ by Louisa Moats, the figures given are different: 25% of the time for a VC-V word, 75% for a V-CV word. Not sure if that is a difference in how people pronounce the words maybe.

  2. In ESL, We teach that most nouns accent the first syllable and most verbs accent the second syllable., This is a general rule that can been seen when a word is both a noun and verb such as object and subject. Examples are given below.
    The OBject is a pencl. We obJECT to your comment.
    The SUBject is spelling. They were subJECT to the ruler.

    1. Hi Rebecca, Yes! In OG there are 7 accenting rules. The rule you mentioned is Accenting Rule V: When the same word can be used as a noun or verb, the noun will accent the prefix and the verb will accent the root. Examples: con’ duct (n) and con duct’ (v). I have not yet created the post for Accenting Rules, but I will do that soon. These rules are taught later in the scope and sequence.

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