As students progress in their literacy understanding, they move from reading and writing single syllable words (often with consonant-vowel-consonant constructions) to reading and writing multisyllabic words. Instruction focused on teaching students about syllables often focuses on teaching different types of syllables (open and closed) and what occurs when syllables join together within a word.
Why teach about syllables?
Dividing words into parts, or "chunks" helps speed the process of decoding. Knowing the rules for syllable division can students read words more accurately and fluently. It can also help students learn to spell words correctly.
|When to use:||Before reading||During reading||After reading|
|How to use:||Individually||With small groups||Whole class setting|
This activity, from our article How Now Brown Cow: Phoneme Awareness Activities is an example of how to teach students to use a marker (i.e., token) to count syllables.
The marker activity often used for word counting can be adapted for use in counting syllables. Teachers can provide each child with tokens and two or three horizontally connected boxes drawn on a sheet of paper. The children place a token in each box from left to right as they hear each syllable in a word.
This example includes several activities and a chart of multisyllabic words. One specific activity from this page is the Multisyllabic Words Manipulation Game. Teachers can divide words from reading selections into syllables, write each syllable on a note card and display the syllables in jumbled order. Have students arrange the syllables to form the words.
See example > (92K PDF)*
Associating syllables with a beat can help students to better learn the concept of syllables within words. The activities found on this website provide teachers with some suggestions for using clapping games to help students understand about dividing words into syllables.
See example >
The following link includes information on introductory activities such as using mirrors for teaching students about syllables. Information is also provided about the different syllable spelling patterns.
See example >
This activity teaches student to separate words into syllables. Students move syllables around to create new "silly" words which gives them practice manipulating different sounds.
See example > (1.8MB PDF)*
If you feel you need additional support to increase your own understanding of syllables, syllable types, and the division of syllables, visit these lessons from the Reading Teachers Network.
Children's books to use with this strategy
The picture book story of a dog who finds a home is told in completely (and surprisingly successfully) using haiku.
Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems)
A Korean form of poetry with its carefully crafted form (based on syllabication) is introduced here to create a fascinating look at everyday things.
Where Else in the Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed & Revealed
Close-up, full color photographs of camouflaged creatures and a variety of poems ask readers to examine the image while learning about characteristics. A gatefold opens to provide additional information. (This may appeal to children who like "real" things.)
for second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners
- Use pictures instead of words in activities for younger and lower level readers
- Include auditory and hands-on activities (i.e., clapping hands, tapping the desk, or marching in place to the syllables in children's names)
- Include a writing activity for more advanced learners.
See the research that supports this strategy
Adams, M., Foorman, B., Lundberg, I., & Beeler, T. (2004). Phonemic Activities for the Preschool or Elementary Classroom.
Ellis, E. (1997). How Now Brown Cow: Phoneme Awareness Activities.
Moats, L. & Tolman, C. (2008). Six Syllable Types.