“Sound it out” is a common direction that students are given when they can’t read a word.  “Sound it out” makes sense to most of us because it’s what most readers do when they can’t read a word.  They sound it out.  But, what if you don’t read like most readers?  What if you are unable to read by sounding out?  Or, what if “sounding it out” only works some of the time?  That’s when you’ll see students relying on memory, picture clues, context clues, or guessing at words based on the shape and size of a given word or the first letter in the word.  These strategies allow students to compensate, for the inability to sound out words, for a short period of time.  After awhile though, text will become too advanced for these strategies to work all the time.

Why Teach Syllable Division Rules

If a student can’t read by sounding out, they typically hit a wall by the end of  their third grade year, if not sooner.  It’s around this time that reading emphasis shifts from learning to read to reading to learn.  Vocabulary explodes and students are no longer able to “solve” words, or guess at words, by using strategies other than sounding out.  This is why syllable division rules are necessary to teach.  This process makes vowel sounds and other units of sound highly predictable which, in turn, makes unknown words easier to read.  

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