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What You Need to Know About Teaching the Final Stable Syllable

Teacher teaching a young girl how to read

A final stable syllable is a syllable found at the end of a multisyllabic word. It is not a stand-alone syllable and must be attached to another syllable in order to form a word. Final means that the syllable occurs at the end of the word. Stable means that the pronunciation stays the same. Two of the most common are, consonant + le (c+le), and tion.

When should I teach the final stable syllable?

As readers move from reading mainly one syllable words to longer words, they will need word attack strategies that they can apply with consistency. Otherwise, students tend to resort to guessing. That’s why systematic word study instruction is essential.

Once students are automatic and accurate when reading closed syllable words, and they are able to read two-syllable ‘rabbit rule’ words, you may introduce the final stable syllable, c+le. This is commonly referred to as the ‘turtle rule’.

When first introducing the turtle rule, be sure to use words in which the first syllable is closed. Examples of these types of words are, bubble, giggle, simple, and mumble.

This SOR aligned resource will help students learn to read words with the final stable syllable.

What do I need to know about the consonant + le syllable?

  • The final stable syllable is at the end of a multisyllabic word.
  • The e at the end of this syllable is a silent vowel. Because every syllable needs at least one vowel, the job of the silent e is to make this part of a word a syllable.
  • The e is silent, so this syllable does not have a vowel sound.
  • The only letter that can change in this type of syllable is the consonant before the le (ple, ble, dle, etc.).
  • The most common consonants to appear before the le are: b, c, d, f, g, k, p, t, and z.

Why are some consonants doubled before the le?

Words like giggle, puzzle, and little all have a double consonant before the le. The double consonant is there to close in the first syllable and keep the first vowel short. The le grabs the consonant before it so the words are divided like this: gig…gle, puz…zle, lit…tle. The first syllable is closed in by the first middle consonant. The second middle consonant is attached to the final stable syllable.

Words like simple, chuckle, and castle do not require the middle consonant to be doubled because they already have two consonants in the middle.

How do I teach the final stable syllable?

Don’t try to teach all of the final stable syllables at once. Start by teaching one of these syllables. We like to start by teaching c + le. There are two options for teaching this syllable type.

The first method is, spot the e and count back three. Students notice the le at the end of a word. Then they locate the final e and count back three letters – that includes the consonant + le. Then students divide before that consonant.

  • Students notice the le at the end of the word.
  • They locate the final e and count back three letters.
  • Then they divide before that consonant. If students forget the process, you can remind them with the rhyme, ‘spot the e and count back three’,
  • Once the word is divided, students read the first syllable based on the pattern.
  • When first teaching this syllable type, it’s helpful to begin with pattern(s) the students are already familiar with. In this case, the closed pattern.

Alternatively, you can teach your students to notice the le at the end of the word. Then tell them that the le grabs the consonant before it. Once the le grabs the consonant, they can divide the word before the consonant. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t come with a peppy, little rhyme. If you know of one, we’d love for you to share it with us.

Either way, choose the approach that works best for your students and stay the course.

What if the first syllable ends with the digraph ck?

There are two approaches to addressing this. The first approach is to keep the digraph together. The digraph closes in the first syllable. Thus, the ck would close in the first syllable in the word tackle, tack…le. This leaves the le without a consonant. This can be problematic for younger readers who are still reliant on ‘spot the e and count back three‘ or ‘the le grabs the consonant before it‘.

So, another approach is to tell your students that the le is the only pattern strong enough to split the ck in half. Thus, the c would close in the first syllable the k would be k + le. tac…kle, tackle. This allows the students to ‘spot the e and count back three‘.

Again, we encourage you to find the approach that works best for your students and stick with it.

What about words that have a glued sound like jungle and twinkle?

The sound before the le is glued, but it’s feasible to ‘spot the e and count back three‘ or have the ‘le’ grab the consonant before it. This would split the glued sound. For example, if a student was to divide the word jungle as jun…gle, chances are they will decode the word successfully.

On the other hand, it can be helpful to keep the glued sound with the first syllable. The word jungle could be divided like this: jung…le.

Marking the glued sound by boxing the letters can provide a scaffold for those students who need extra support. You can read more about how to mark the glued sound in our post, ‘What Are Glued Sounds and Why Are They Important?

Once again, it’s important to select a strategy for students and remain consistent.

What about words with stle like castle and hustle?

With words containing stle, it is important for the students to understand that the t, as well as the e, is silent. The s closes in the first syllable. The t goes with the second syllable. (Find the e and count back three.)

This can be taught as the consonant le exception. (As we have discussed, every syllable has an exception to the rule.)

Are you looking for additional resources to teach multisyllabic words?

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