Teaching the Six Types of Syllables

As a reading teacher, it’s important to explicitly teach your students phonics and spelling skills. Understanding the different types of syllables is a crucial part of becoming a better reader and speller. Students need to know how to break down words into syllables to be able to decode and encode.

Syllables are a fundamental unit of spoken and written language. Understanding syllables and their role in language can help improve reading, writing, and pronunciation. In this post, we will explore the six types of syllables and some fun strategies for teaching them.

What are syllables?

A syllable is a word part that contains a vowel or vowel team. For example, the word “computer” has three syllables: com/pu/ter. The first syllable “com” has a vowel that makes the schwa sound. The second syllable “pu” is an open syllable, causing the vowel sound to be a long u. The final syllable “ter” has an r-controlled vowel.

There are six types of syllables (or seven, depending on If you differentiate diphthongs from vowel teams). Understanding how to divide a word into syllables will take your students’ decoding skills from good to great!

The Six Types of Syllables

  1. Closed Syllables: A closed syllable is one that ends with a consonant, thus closing in the vowel.
    Example: nap/kin – both nap and kin are closed syllables and therefore, the vowel sounds are short.
  2. Open Syllables: An open syllable is one that ends with a vowel. It doesn’t have a consonant closing it in.
    Example: si/lent – the first syllable, “si”, is open and therefore makes a long vowel sound.
  3. Vowel-Consonant-E Syllables: A VCE syllable is one that has the silent or magic e at the end, causing the vowel sound to be long.
    Example: cup/cake – the second syllable contains a vowel-consonant-e (a, k, e) and therefore makes the vowel sound long.
  4. Vowel Team Syllables: A vowel team syllable is one that contains two or three vowels that make a single sound. This also includes diphthongs (the seventh syllable type).
    Example: rain/bow – both syllables have vowel teams that can’t be broken up (ai, ow).
  5. R-Controlled Syllables: A v+r syllable is one that contains a vowel followed by an “r”.
    Example: tar/get – the first syllable has the v+r (r-controlled) pattern.
  6. Consonant-le Syllables: A c+le syllable is one that ends with a consonant letter followed by the letters -le.
    Example: ta/ble – the second syllable has a b+le, which makes it a c+le syllable.

Why teach syllables?

Teaching syllables is important because it helps students break longer words into manageable chunks. This allows students to read multisyllabic words with more accuracy, leading to better fluency. Discovering patterns in words builds confidence as students are able to accurately decode unfamiliar or new words. Understanding syllable parts can also act as a bridge to morphology, as students can pull out syllables that are roots, prefixes, suffixes, and derive meaning from them.

Ways to Teach the Different Types of Syllables

While there are many ways to teach syllables, here are a few fun strategies to try in your classroom:  

  • Teach Division Rules: When teaching syllables, it is important to model the process and actually teach the division rules. Before asking your students to break words into syllables, demonstrate how to label a word with vowels and consonants while looking for the rule. For example, show them how you break a word like “apple” into its two syllables: “ap” and “ple” and explain the division rule and the two types of syllables within the word. Try doing a “word of the day” each day as a warm-up.
  • Syllable Scavenger Hunt: Give students a collection of words and have them hunt for the different types of syllables. Encourage them to keep a tally and see if they can find all six types of syllables.
  • Fold the Syllables: For a hands-on strategy, give students words written or types on notecards or larger pieces of paper (the letters need to be spaced out a bit). Have them fold the paper whenever there is a syllable break in each word.
  • Syllable Sort: Take it a step further by having students cut each folded syllable break and then sort each of the syllables into a syllable sort.
  • Incorporate Games: The goal of teaching syllabication is to increase students’ decoding skills. Try a “roll-and-read” game for multisyllabic words that fall under each type of syllable.

Targeted Instruction Resources

If you are looking for an easy and fun way to teach the six types of syllables, check out our Syllable Types Phonics Booklets.These booklets use a variety of words (single syllable and multisyllabic) to teach and provide practice for the six types of syllables! You can use them in small group, centers, or for independent practice!

Now that your students know the six types of syllables and have practiced decoding multisyllabic words, you can expect to see their accuracy, fluency, and overall confidence improve in their reading! 

Hi! I’m Toluca from Markers and Minions, where I help teachers feel more effective and confident with high-quality resources and an awesome teacher community!

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