Syllable Games

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.

When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

More phonological awareness strategies

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.
  • Understanding syllables can also help students learn to spell words correctly.



Watch: Drumming Out Syllables

Students use a drum or tambourine to take turns drumming out the syllables in their names or other words. See the lesson plan.

This video is published with permission from the Balanced Literacy Diet. See many more related how-to videos with lesson plans in the Phonemic Awareness section.


Marker activity

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.

Multisyllabic manipulation

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)*

Clapping games

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 >

Using mirrors

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 >

Jumping syllables

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 > (77KB 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.

Differentiated instruction

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.

Children's books to use with this strategy

Where Else in the Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed & Revealed 

By: David Schwartz
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

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.)


By: Andrew Clements
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

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

By: Linda Sue Park
Genre: Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Like haiku, sijo – a little known, brief poetic form from Korea – looks at everyday activities from breakfast to the weather. Sophisticated illustrations complement the seemingly simple language to delight readers and listeners.


I play the clapping game all through the course of the day...we clap our names, our centers, places we go throughout the school...just words in general.

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"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." — Dr. Seuss