Teaching syllables can be a tricky task. It requires planning, creativity, and an understanding of the various syllable types to engage students in learning what can often be considered a tedious topic. Whether your student is just starting out or further along in their reading journey, it’s important for all teachers to have an understanding of each type of syllable and how best to effectively teach them. In this blog post, we will explore how you can use instruction on the six different types of syllables to benefit your classroom. Read on for strategies to help teach these crucial phonemic components easier while strengthening your student’s literacy skills!
What are the six syllable types?
Learning about the six syllable types can be a great way to become an effective reader! Identifying syllables helps break down how we read words, allowing readers to decode a word easier.
- closed syllables
- open syllables
- vowel-consonant e syllables
- r-controlled vowels
- vowel teams (and diphthongs)
- consonant -le:
Once students have mastered the six syllable types, they will feel more confident in their reading abilities! Knowing which syllable type is used in each word helps build up speed and reading comprehension.
How do you teach different types of syllables?
Learning syllable types can be a fun and engaging process for students. Introduce physical motions to demonstrate the different types such as clapping or tapping feet when using closed syllables or hopping along when using open syllables. For teaching vowel-consonant-silent e syllables, have students break apart the word into its smaller parts to figure out how many sounds it has. Playing syllable games can also help students understand and practice identifying each type of syllable. After instruction make sure to provide adequate practice for students so that they can hone their skills and gain mastery over recognizing each type of syllable.
It is important for students to know syllable includes a vowel sound. One of my favorite catchy songs for reviewing syllables is “Clap It Out” by Blazer Fresh. “Clap it out” has always been the go-to syllable division strategy. However, is it the best?
I like to teach my students there are several tools for dividing syllables so they can choose which one works best for them. One of my favorite ways I recently learned is to hum the word. Simply hum whatever word you are trying to count syllables for and you can easily hear how many parts there are.
Another way is to put your hand under your chin. It helps if you move your chin down dramatically as you say the word. Count how many times your chin drops down. Incorporate a hand mirror so students can watch what their mouth is doing.
Incorporating an instrument like a drum or tambourine can be a fun way to make counting syllables musical.
Finally, writing the word and breaking it into syllables using syllable division rules is helpful to visualize where the word breaks apart.
In what order should you teach the syllable types?
Focus on one type at a time
For young learners (k-2), it’s important to focus on one syllable type at a time. The pacing in which you teach, practice, and review the syllable types will depend on your students’ readiness.
- Kindergarten: Typically at this age, the focus during the first half of the year is letter sounds and phonemic awareness. Once students are ready to start decoding words, you will introduce closed syllables. Some students will not be ready to read words beyond closed syllables in kindergarten. Others may be ready for open and vowel-consonant e. Commonly, that is as far as you will go in kindergarten.
- 1st grade: In first grade, you will begin again reviewing closed syllables and then introduce/review open syllables. This will be the majority of the first half of the school year. Towards mid-year, students start working on vowel-consonant e and then r-controlled vowels. During the third trimester, students are introduced to the most common vowel teams.
- 2nd grade: This year, it should be a goal to get through all 6 syllable types by reviewing the first 3 during the first half of the year and focusing on the second 3 during the second half. Closed syllables should be mastered by early in the year so now it’s time to start applying the syllable types to multi-syllabic words. It’s important to note that this is a general schedule for students reading on or around grade-level text. Students struggling with reading need repeated exposure to syllable types if they are not applying the concepts to texts.
- 3rd grade +: Now that students have learned all 6 types of syllables, it’s time to put their understanding into context by decoding multi-syllable words. You will focus on strategies for decoding 2-, 3- and 4-syllable words with prefixes and suffixes. These words will have a combination of syllable types.
Consistently mark syllables
Maybe you already have a phonics program that provides guidance on how to mark the syllables. Or, maybe you are new to the concept of “marking” words. This is simply a written code for identifying syllables. Whatever you do, make sure you remain consistent with the symbols you use to mark. I like to do a straight line to break words apart first. Then, mark each syllable type.
Using games to practice syllables can be fun and engaging. Here are a few ideas:
- Jumping Syllables: This game incorporates movement and phonemic awareness. Start with easier words like compound words. Split your class into 2-4 teams and line them up. Give each team a word to break into syllables. The first player in each row will take a big jump as they say each syllable part. Then, the next player in line stands where the first player jumped to (the first player returns to the end of their team’s line). Provide a second word for player 2 to break into syllables. Continue until every player in the line has had a turn. Whichever team jumped the farthest wins!
- Syllable Sticks: Pass out 1-2 popsicle sticks to each student. This is even more fun if you pick a theme like food and drink or cartoon characters. Students take turns sharing a word that fits the theme. Then, everyone taps their sticks to break the word into syllables. Make a list of the words with the most syllables. The student who shares the word with the most syllables “wins”.
- Syllable Memory: Write nonsense words for each syllable type on index cards. Students take turns flipping over two cards and identifying which type of syllable it is. If they get two of the same syllable types, they keep the cards! The player with the most cards at the end wins
Syllable Types Activities
Through a variety of activities and interactive tools like games, worksheets, manipulatives, video lessons, and more, teachers can effectively teach the 6 syllable types in a memorable way that sticks with their students. So get out there and give it a try! If you need resources for teaching syllable types – check out this bundle of activities! With the right materials and approach, you can teach the 6 different syllable types in no time!
Teaching syllable types to students can be a great way to help them understand phonics and language concepts. If you aren’t sure where to start with teaching your students’ decoding skills, check out this post about a free downloadable decoding survey.