Onset and Rime

One of the qualities of good spellers is that they look for and make connections.

An important strategy is knowing how to divide words into onset and rime.

What is onset and rime?

Let’s look at the words below:

  • ship
  • man

The onset is the initial consonant sound and the rime is the vowel and the rest of the syllable that follows.

Onset = the first consonant or blend in a word

  • sh in sh/ip
  • m in m/an

Rime = a vowel and the letters that come after it

  • ip” sh/ip
  • an” in m/an

Most spelling list that children learn are based on “word families”. This means that cat and rat are in the “at” family. The families are of course the rime part of the word.

Learning to spell this way allows children to see and hear patterns in words that allow them to get from familiar spellings to the unknown.

If you can spell “mat” and know that it is in the “at” family…

You can easily figure out how to spell “sat”.

You keep rime that you know, “at”, and change the onset to “s”.

Great, but do I explain this to my child?

Chunk it up!

Start by dividing the word into its syllables (you could draw a line down the word to show this).

Find the word family chunk at the end.

Together see how many other words you can make from the same keeping the same chunk/family eg. cat, rat, hat, fat…


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