The -le Endings

Once students learn about multiple syllable words, how to break them down into individual syllables, and how open and closed syllables affect the word, they can then move on to learning about different endings that add an extra syllable.

Before they jump into endings that change the tense of a word, they learn about a very common ending that can only be understood with a base knowledge of multiple syllables:  the -le ending. Being able to understand the nuances of this ending will help students when decoding or spelling words with this ending.

Tutor: “Let’s talk about another ending we have in multisyllable words. What would ‘-le’ say at the end of a word?”

Student: “Lee.”

Tutor: “You would think so, but we already have an ending for /lee/ ‘ly.’ How about in this word.” The tutor writes out the word ‘table.’

Student: “/tay-bull/”

Tutor: “Perfect! This ‘le’ ending is a rule breaker. Instead of saying /lee/ it will say /ul/. Also it doesn’t follow the rules for syllable division. The ‘le’ will actually grab another consonant that’s in front of it. So when we divide ta/ble the le is taking the b with it. That means the first syllable is open and the vowel is saying its name.”

“What about the word puddle? Is the first syllable vowel saying its name or sound?”

Student: “/p/…/u/  its sound!”

Tutor: “Right you are. Because we want the vowel to say its sound, and because the “le” breaks the rules and takes a consonant, we get to double up the ‘d’ in puddle.”

“Now -le can only grab specific consonants.”

The tutor makes the “le card” with: ble, cle, dle, fle, gle, kle, ple, sle, tle, zle

“Here’s the catch.”

Student: “There’s always a catch!”

Tutor: “I know. The catch is there are three exceptions to the “-le” ending. They are ‘m, n, and v.’ With these letters instead of ‘le’ we are going to use ‘el’. So I will put mel, nel, vel on your card at the bottom. Even though we switched the letters, they will still say /ul/, as in “ the camel travels through the tunnel.” Pretty cool right?”

Student: “I guess…”

Tutor: “Don’t forget, we can double the consonant to make a closed syllable so the vowel will say its sound.”

Syllable Division and Open vs Closed Syllables

After a student learns the basics about syllables based on auditory cues, they are ready to learn syllable division of written words. Multisyllable words can have a lot of letters, and we need a plan or strategy for figuring out what all those letters say. When we come to an unknown multisyllable word, we can use syllable division to break the word into smaller, manageable chunks.

Syllable division is an important decoding skill. Because every syllable has exactly one vowel sound, we use vowels to navigate as we search for syllables. When introducing this concept to a student, we’ll write “CVCCVC” to represent a model word where ‘c’ stands for a consonant sound and ‘v’ for a vowel sound. A real word that fits this model exactly would be “batman.” Colorado Reading Center has found that the simplest and most accurate method is to start at the end of the word and move forward, right to left. Once we find the first vowel sound from the end, we imagine that the vowel has a little arm that reaches out and grabs the consonant to its left. We divide the syllable to the left of that consonant: CVC/CVC. On our real word example: “bat/man.”

The student then practices this breaking technique on a new model word: CVCVC. Following the instructions, the student starts at the end, finds the vowel, imagines the vowel grabbing the consonant in front, and divides the word to the left of that consonant: CV/CVC.  A real word example for this would be: “ro/bin.”


With these two model words divided (CVC/CVC and CV/CVC) we now teach the student about open and closed syllables. In the first syllable of our first word, the vowel is closed in by the consonant after it. We call this type of syllable a closed syllable, and the vowel has to say its sound. For example, the ‘a’ in “bat” will always say its sound. In the first syllable of our second word, the vowel is not closed in. This is an open syllable and the vowel gets a choice. It can say its name or its sound. Consider “ro/bin” and “jo/ker.” Both first syllables are open, so the vowel says its sound in “ro” and its name in “jo.”


The -ll/ff/ss ‘Floss’ Rule

To finish up the ‘blockers’ rules, we teach students about the double ff, ll, ss rule (sometimes referred to as the ‘Floss Rule’).  Rather than adding a different consonant to block the vowel, we double the end consonant, and, strangely, for only the letters ‘l’, ‘f’, and ‘s’.   Any word that has a short vowel sound (vowel saying it’s sound) and ends with one of these letters will need that letter to be doubled for the same reason as all of our other blocker rules; this ‘protects’ the vowel from changing when a tense is changed or endings are added to the word.

“The last blocker rule we will learn is somewhat different from the others.  We will now talk about doubling the final consonant in words.  The funny thing is that we don’t do this consistently with all consonants.  The only ones that it works for consistently are L, F and S.  Therefore, we will call this the double ll, double ff, double ss rule.  Can you think of any words that use these double consonants at the end?”

Student: “Bill, stuff and grass.”

Tutor: “Right!  Many common words use these endings, but we don’t say the sound twice, do we?  So, we need to have some way of predicting when to double.  Now the other rules we’ve learned had 2 parts, but since there are 3 consonants that we double, there will be 3 parts to this rule.”

Student: “I am intrigued beyond belief, please tell me more.”

Tutor: “Now, whenever we have a vowel saying its sound, and a (/l/), a (/f/) or a (/s/) come right after the vowel AND that is the last sound in the word, we double the L, F, or S.  Why do you think we do that?”

Student: “In case we add an ending like –ed?”

Tutor: “You’re right!  Just as with –tch and –ck, we are doubling here to protect the vowel just in case we add an ending like –ed later on.  That ending doesn’t have to be there though, because we use the double consonant regardless.  Now let’s look at some words that use ll/ff/ss.”


The -ck Expectancy

Now that students have a general understanding of blocking rules, we introduce them to a couple more variations of that concept by continuing with the -ck expectancy.  The -ck rule functions the exact same as blocker -dge and copycat -tch but is just a different sound after the vowel.  To ‘protect’ the vowel with a /k/ sound following it, we use the letter ‘c’ before the ‘k’ to create the double consonant that ‘blocks’ any tense changes or endings added that could possibly affect the vowel’s function.

By this point the student is fairly familiar with the concept of blockers.  The –ck rule should be introduced just as the –tch rule.  The only thing that changes is the sound after the vowel.

Tutor: “Now, whenever we have a vowel saying its sound, followed by a /k/ sound we use –ck.  Just as with –tch, we are using the C-blocker just in case we add –ed later on (backed vs. baked).

The -tch ‘Copy Cat’ Rule

After the student has had some practice with the ‘-dge’ rule, we introduce a very similar rule. This is the ‘-tch’ rule, also called the “copycat rule.”

Tutor: “The next blocker rule we are going to learn is very much like the ‘-dge’ rule you just learned. Today we are going to learn about spelling words that end with the sound /ch/. What letters are you thinking of for that sound?”

Student: “C-H.”

Tutor: “Great. Just like the /j/ sound at the end of a word, the /ch/ also needs a blocker. And just as we had the ‘d’ as the blocker for the ‘dge’ rule, we use the ‘t’ as the blocker for the ‘tch’ rule.  When we have a vowel saying its sound followed by the /ch/, we always use ‘tch.’  But, what are we blocking? (Tutor spells fetch as F-E-C-H)  Wouldn’t fetch still say the same thing without the T?”

Student: “Yes it would.  I’m not sure why we are adding an extra letter.  It seems like we don’t need it.”

Tutor: “This one is a little tricky.  At first it looks like the ‘t’ is unnecessary.  But check out what happens if I wanted to say the dog “fetched” (F-E-C-H-E-D) the ball.  Could that final ‘e’ jump over the ‘ch’?”

Student: “I guess if it can jump over ‘th,’ it can also jump over ‘ch.’”

Tutor: “It can!  So we use ‘tch’ just in case we add an ending like ‘-ed’ later on.  The important thing to remember is that the ‘-ed’ doesn’t even have to be there.  We use the blocker regardless.  Also, unlike the ‘dge’ rule which works very consistently, there are a few exceptions to the ‘tch’ rule.  There are four common words that don’t follow the rule.  They are SUCH, MUCH, RICH and WHICH.  In each word we have a vowel saying its sound and the /ch/ sound comes right after, but none of them end with ‘-tch.’  We will need to commit these four words to memory.”

The -dge ‘Blocker D’ Rule

As students develop their literacy skills, they will need to learn some expectancies to help them read and spell more challenging words. The first one we teach is the ‘dge’ rule, or Blocker D.

The letter ‘j’ will never be the last letter in an English word. You don’t use a ‘brij’ to cross over a river.  So how do we spell words that end with the /j/ sound? We use Borrower G! The letters ‘ge’ at the end of a word will say /j/.

Simply adding ‘ge’ to the end can sometimes create a new problem because of the final ‘e.’ A ‘brige’ won’t get you very far. We need something to block the ‘e’ from changing the vowel sound (recall the Final E rule).

This is where ‘Blocker D’ comes in. A silent ‘d’ will block the ‘e’ from changing the vowel sound. If you end the word with ‘dge,’ your ‘bridge’ will carry you to the other side.

Therefore we need to ask two questions to see if we need to use ‘dge’ when spelling:

1.     Does the vowel say its sound?

2.     Is the ‘j’ sound right after the vowel?

If you answered “yes” to both questions, use blocker ‘d!’

The word ‘huge’ doesn’t need a ‘d’ because the ‘u’ is saying its name. The word ‘large’ also doesn’t need a ‘d’ because there is an ‘r’ between the vowel and the ‘ge.’