We're talking about the structure of words. The consonants (C) and vowels (V) within words. It isn't rocket science to state that beginner readers (and writers) will find shorter words like cat, hen, map easier than longer words like philanthropy, exuberant and sophistication.
The problem is that people have gotten a bit carried away with this idea and now we're getting in a muddle.
Firstly, in a modern world of systematic synthetic phonics it's no longer accurate enough to talk in terms of vowels and consonants. Do you mean a vowel letter or a vowel sound? Do you mean a consonant letter or a consonant sound?
Vowel letters = a, e, i, o, u
Vowel sounds = a, e, i, o, u, ay, ai, a-e, ee, ea, ie, ei, igh, y, i-e, ow, oa, er, ou, etc (there are about 20 or so vowel sounds in the English language)
So when you talk about a CVC word do you mean 'like cat' or do you mean 'like boat'? Or is boat a CVVC word?
The answer is that CVC, CCVC, CCVCC etc word structures are referring to the sounds in words and not the letters. So the word 'light' is a CVC word because it has a consonant sound, followed by a vowel sound, followed by a consonant sound: /l/ /igh/ /t/.
However, you do need to be careful, especially if you download information/activities from the wonderful place that is the Internet as several sites contain mistakes. A well-known parent site lists 'chop' and 'ship' as CCVC words because they have wrongly identified the 'ch' and 'sh' as two consonants sounds and not one. To clarify, 'chop' and 'ship' are CVC words.
Secondly, children taught using systematic synthetic phonics don't need to be held back by following a rigid progression in word structures. Although you might generally use shorter, simpler words during the earliest days of learning to read and write you should always include longer and more complex words in every lesson. This lifts glass ceilings and allows children to progress further and faster at their own rate. It enables a simple method of differentiation when teaching whole class.
Furthermore, ensuring the teaching and practise of words with consonant clusters and blends from an early stage reduces the need to teach these separately later. For example, when you've taught 's' /s/ and 'p' /p/ include words in your lessons like 'spot' and 'spin', 'naps' and 'mops'.
'Take CVC, CCVC, CCVCC etc word structures with a pinch of common sense and don't get hung up over them.'
Abigail Steel is an Education Consultant for Early Years (EYFS) and Primary (KS1 & 2) Language and Literacy. Her specialist area is Synthetic Phonics.
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