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.
|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.
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.
This video depicts a kindergarten small group engaging in a syllables activity. There are 5 students in this demonstration and they are using manipulatives. (From the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide: Foundational skills to support reading for understanding in kindergarten through 3rd grade.)
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.
Multisyllabic words manipulation >
Associating syllables with a beat can help students to better learn the concept of syllables within words. Here's a clapping game to help young learners understand about dividing words into syllables.
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.
Using a mirror to understand 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.
Find many more syllable activities developed by the Florida Center for Reading Research.
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
Island: A Story of the Galápagos
Young readers will explore the evolving terrain and animals of the Galápagos in this nonfiction picture book. Charles Darwin first visited the Galápagos Islands almost 200 years ago, only to discover a land filled with plants and animals that could not be found anywhere else on earth. How did they come to inhabit the island? How long will they remain? Thoroughly researched and filled with intricate and beautiful paintings by award-winning author and artist Jason Chin.
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.)
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)
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 even had my fourth graders last year clapping out syllables in larger spelling and vocabulary words to assist them with learning to not only spell words, but to break down big words in digestible chunks.
It is so important teachers ensure the students have the skills mentioned here, as a skill to assist them in the older grades as well.
I found some good games that will help me in my classroom. Thanks!!
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.
I loved the illustration behind Drive Thru Reading! I plan to implement it in my own classroom! Very grateful for this website! Please keep up the good work and thank you for not trying to profit off of the pennies that teachers earn.