When children start to learn to read longer words, knowing syllables can make the process much simpler. Let’s talk about what a syllable is, the 7 types of syllables (with examples), and some helpful resources for teaching syllables to young learners.


WHAT IS A SYLLABLE?

A syllable is an uninterrupted unit of sound that has at least one vowel. Syllables often have at least one consonant, too, but sometimes a syllable will only have a vowel.

WHY ARE SYLLABLES IMPORTANT?

When children can segment words into syllables, they can:

  • Divide longer words into smaller, manageable parts
  • Encode (spell) new words with more ease
  • Decode (read) new words with more ease
  • Read longer words accurately and fluently (not by guessing)

Think about it.

Is it easier to read SIMULTANEOUSLY or SI – MUL – TA – NE – OUS – LY?

HOW DO WE COUNT SYLLABLES?

Hand under the Chin

A common method that is taught to children is the “hand under the chin”. As they read a word, ask your learners to place one hand just below their chin and count the number of times their chin drops. That’s the number of syllables in the word.

Clapping

Ask your learners to clap out the “beats” that they hear as they read a word out loud. You can demonstrate this method by clapping out a simple word or name first.

Children love using the clapping method. It’s exciting and participatory, and it works!

THE IMPORTANCE OF VOWELS IN DECODING SYLLABLES

  • Vowels are the key components of a syllable, for they add the audible sound (or produce the beat) in the syllable.
  • The position and number of vowels in a word determines the sound of each syllable, and ultimately the sound of the word.
  • The vowels in a word either produce a short sound, a long sound, a diphthong, or an r-controlled sound.

WHEN SHOULD I TEACH SYLLABLE TYPES?

Use this list to gauge whether or not your students are ready to learn syllable types:

  • children have learned all sounds
  • children are aware that vowels make short and long sounds
  • children know the difference between long and short vowel sounds
  • children know what digraphs, blends, and diphthongs are

THE 7 SYLLABLE TYPES

1. Closed Syllables

Closed syllables end in a consonant. The consonant closes the vowel, making it produce its short sound. These syllables are usually taught first because children are already familiar with CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) words.

2. Open Syllables

Open syllables end in a vowel and the vowel makes its long sound (or says its name). An open syllable can also be a lone vowel.

Description & examples of open syllables.
3. Magic E Syllables

Magic E syllables follow the vowel-consonant-E (VCE) pattern. Another name for Magic E syllables is therefore VCE syllables. The vowel (V) in these syllables produces its long sound (or says its name) and the E is silent.

The word rate is a magic E syllable. The a makes its long sound & e is silent, so this word sounds like rayt.

Description & image of magic E syllables.
4. Bossy R Syllables

Bossy R syllables have a vowel followed immediately by the letter R. The letter R controls the sound by silencing the vowel preceding it in a word and demanding to be heard, thus creating a new sound.

The vowel neither produces its short sound nor its long sound. Instead, it produces the r-controlled sound.

For example, in the word skirt, i does not make its short or long sound. This word sounds like skuht.

Description & examples of Bossy R syllables.
5. Consonant + le Syllables

This syllable type happens at the end of a multisyllabic word. The consonant+le is its own syllable and the le produces a subtle /ul/ sound.

In the word table, ta is an open syllable and ble is a consonant+le syllable. This word sounds like tay-bul (the /ul/ sound is subtle).

6. Vowel Team Syllables

The vowel team syllable has two vowels working together to produce one sound. The first vowel makes its long sound and the second vowel is silent.

For example, in the word tie, the i makes its long sound & the e is silent. This word sounds like tai.

Note: some people combine vowel team syllables and diphthong syllables for a total of 6 syllable types.

7. Diphthong Syllables

Diphthong syllables are two vowel sounds combined into a single syllable. They start as one vowel sound and glide toward another, producing a single gliding sound. The most common diphthongs in English are the letter combinations oy/oi, au/aw, ou/ow.

For example, the word soil sounds like soyl.

If you can, create a simple Syllable Types anchor chart that your students can regularly refer to.

Our Syllables Made Easy workbook is a great resource for young readers. In this book, beginners will learn the various types of syllables and the sounds they produce. They will also build their vocabulary using simple, decodable words and relatable illustrations. Grab a copy!

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