How to Teach Syllabication to 4th Graders

by Freddie Silver
Provide many opportunities for students to practice the syllabication rules.

Provide many opportunities for students to practice the syllabication rules.

Syllabication is an essential concept that young students should master as they develop their literacy skills. Understanding syllabication helps students improve their spelling and reading proficiency. Fourth-grade students need prior knowledge of vowels and consonants and a good understanding of prefixes and suffixes before they are ready to learn syllabication. They must also know the difference between long and short vowel sounds. Teaching students the rules of syllabication and providing lots of practice exercises will make it easy for most students to quickly master this skill.

Preparing the Lesson Plan

Make a list of the rules for syllabication and write a simple explanation for each rule. Use available grammar books or online resources available on this topic. Simplify the wording of the rules as necessary for the level of your students. Use a dictionary that shows the syllabication of words to verify that the rules you list are accurate.

Select five or six basic rules for the initial lesson. Order the rules by level of difficulty. Start with the simplest rule and end with the most complex.

Provide two or three words divided into syllables as examples for each rule. Use words that have only two syllables. For example, your first rule might be: "When there are two consonants in between two vowels, divide the word between the two consonants." Some examples could be: but-ter, bet-ween, fin-ger, toas-ter, and fil-ter. Prepare an additional 10 to 12 words for each rule to be used for practice exercises.

Teaching the Lesson

Introduce your lesson by informing the class that mastering syllabication will help them improve their spelling and reading proficiency. Give them the first rule. This can be done by writing it on the board, projecting it on a screen or handing out pre-printed sheets.

Write a sample word on the board. Mark the syllables on the board while explaining how the rule applies. Repeat with a second word. Write a third word on the board and ask the students to write the syllables in their workbooks. Give them additional examples while you walk around the room checking their work, until you feel they have become proficient.

Give the students the second rule and repeat the process in Step 1 of this section. Keep repeating these steps until you have completed all the rules. For additional practice, give the students a randomly ordered list of about 20 words. Have the students divide the words into syllables as well as identify which rule they applied.

Test the students on the application of these syllabication rules the following day. When you are confident they have mastered these rules, repeat the process with words that have more than two syllables.

Things You Will Need

  • Chalk board; white board or projector
  • Dictionary


  • Have dictionaries available in the classroom so students can check their own work.
  • Some students who experience great difficulty mastering this skill might be struggling with distinguishing between consonants and vowels. Provide remedial help for them.


  • Do not ask students to break down multi-syllabic words before they have become proficient with two-syllable words. They will become frustrated and might give up. Give more practice with two-syllable words to those who are struggling so they can experience success.

About the Author

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.

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