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Syllables Made Simple

Is it just me or does teaching multisyllabic words make you sweat? Sometimes I think the longer the word the more my students guess when they are attempting to decode. I learned how to teach each individual syllable type when I was completing my master's degree in special education. Over the last few years I have found a lot of success explicitly teaching each syllable type, my general education teacher friends are my inspiration for this post since the love when I share my syllable knowledge with their classes each year!

This blog post is the first in my Syllables Made Simple series. In this post I will explain the difference between the six syllable types, the rules for each syllable type, examples of words in each syllable type, and how the mark each type of syllable.

I created this syllable guide as a reference to help you and your students differentiate between syllable types.


Once your students understand the syllable rules for each syllable type they will be able to split multisyllabic words into syllables and decode each individual syllable.

The first syllable I teach is the closed syllable. The closed syllable is a word with one vowel that is closed in by a consonant letter. Closed syllables have short vowels. CVC words such as jam, kid, and bus are closed syllables. Words that follow  a VC pattern such as, on, in, and as are also considered closed syllables. In a closed syllables the vowel can be closed in by one consonant letter such as cat or dog, or multiple consonant letters such as spill, drink or junk.

The visual I use to represent closed syllables is drawing a cage around the vowel, this represents that the vowel is closed in.
Some examples of multisyllabic words that contain two closed syllables are catnip, chipmunk, polish, pumpkin, relish, bathmat, cabin, and goblin. When splitting two multi syllabic words the words are mostly split in between consonant letters. For example, the two syllables in catnip are cat and nip, the two syllables in chipmunk are chip and munk. Sometimes splitting syllables between the consonant letters won't work relish is split rel and ish and polish is split pol and ish, The meaning of the word polish can change depending on how the syllable is divided. Split like pol and ish the word is made up of two closed syllables. When split into two closed syllables the word is polish as in I will polish my silverware, split like po lish the word becomes Polish as in I am from Polish descant. When split like Polish the word contains an open syllable- Po and a closed syllable-lish There are words like polish/ Polish that do come up during reading, at these times I encourage my students to try the words both ways- then ask themselves is there a word that makes sense?

The next syllable type I teach is the open syllable. The open syllable is the opposite of the closed syllable. The vowel is left open in the syllable and make it's long sound.

I use legs as a visual under the vowel in the open syllable words to represent how the vowel is free in the open syllable and able to "run away" the vowel is also free to say it's long sound without a pesky consonant closing it in. The words I and a are considered open syllable words. An example of a word that contains multiple open syllables is solo.

Next, I teach vowel- consonant- e words. Some teachers call this spelling pattern magic e, or silent e.
To be a vowel-consonant -e syllable the vowel must make the long sounds and the e is silent. The visual I use for vowel- consonant- e is a leg "kicking" the vowel to remind the vowel to say it's long sound. I explain that the e is too busy reminding the vowel to say it's name that it doesn't make a sound.

Then I teach r-controlled syllables. R-controlled syllables are controlled by the r the vowel does not make a long or short sound.
I know some teachers the refer to this syllable as the "bossy r" because the r controlled the vowel, I like to use the visual of a coach because the r is coaching the vowel on the new sound they are making together, I also circle the r and the vowel to remind my students that these two letters make one sound. When teaching r-controlled words or syllables I teach or and ar separately since they make a different sound (think barn and thorn) and ir, er, and ur together since they make the same sound (think dirt, turn, and herd).

The double vowel syllable is next! Both syllables with vowel teams and diphthongs are considered double vowel syllables. Syllables with vowel teams are two vowels together in a word that make the long sound of the first vowel in the team. Examples of vowel teams are ai, ay, ee, ea, ey, ow (as in snow), oe, oa, ie, ui, ue. Diphthongs are what some people consider the "whiners" they are two vowels (and sometimes a w) that make a new sound examples are aw, au, oi, oy, ou, and ow (as in cow).
The visual I use for the double vowel syllable is a pot of soup. I use the pot of soup because I explain that the two letters work together to make something new like the ingredients in the soup work together to make a new flavor. I circle both letters to provide a visual to demonstrate how both vowels work together as a team to make one sound. 

Finally, the sixth syllable type is the consonant-le syllable type. The consonant- le syllable is part of a multi syllabic word that contains another syllable type. This syllable contains three letters a consonant, a l and an e. The consonant- le syllable ends a multi syllabic word. To decode consonant-le syllables the e is silent and the consonant and the l sound blend together.

The visual I use for consonant- le syllables is a pair of lips, when I read consonant - le syllables the notice the position of my tongue and my lips when I am producing the consonant and the l sound.

You can download my syllable guide and all six syllable posters for free in my teacherspayteachers store. Click here!

I'm looking forward to continuing to blog about syllables in my Syllables Made Simple series- what types of questions do you have about syllables that you would like answered? What types of products would you like to see created to help you teach syllables and syllable types? Let me know in the comment section below.


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