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How to Effectively Teach the 7 Syllable Types


As a literacy coach I know that teaching students to read and helping teachers be better at teaching students to read is of the utmost importance. But, sometimes it can be overwhelming. Especially when trying to bridge young readers from the stage of sounding out each letter and sound individually to being able to have fluency and word attack strategies that are more effective than sounding out each letter in a word. That is where the instruction and understanding of the 7 Syllable Types and strategies for chunking longer words into syllables in order to sound them out becomes a critical skill for our students.

If the idea that there are seven (yes seven!) different syllables that are commonly found in English is a surprise to you – don’t worry you aren’t alone! It is common for many reading programs to spend lots of time teaching the common phonics sounds and letter combinations. They then gloss over how these can be explicitly reinforced in longer words through the identification and division of syllables. So, before we as teachers can teach syllables well we need to make sure we are familiar with each syllable and the rules that constitute each pattern.

The 7 Syllable Types

Find everything that you need to teach the 7 different syllable types, as well as all the rest of the phonics skills and patterns on Education to the Core Premium. Try out a few of our printables by clicking the button below. 


1. Closed Syllables: Closed syllables are the simplest and most common type, occurring when a vowel is followed by a consonant. In a closed syllable, the vowel is short. (example: pancake)

2. Open Syllables: Open syllables occur when a single vowel is not followed by a consonant, resulting in a long vowel sound. An open syllable can include consonants prior to the vowel or a single vowel can act alone as an open syllable. (example: banjo)

3. CVCe Syllables: Often called the Magic E or Silent E, CVCe is commonly the first long vowel pattern young readers are introduced to. The E at the end of the syllable makes the middle vowel say its name (or long sound). (example: snowflake)

4. Vowel Team Syllables: Vowel team syllables involve two vowels working together to create a single sound. We commonly teach the pattern using “two vowels go walking and the first one does the talking.” This mnemonic isn’t always true but does certainly help our little readers remember to say the first vowel’s name when spotting this pattern. (example: between)

5. Diphthong Syllables: Diphthong syllables involve two vowels or a vowel and a W within one syllable where the vowels say two distinct vowel sounds within the same syllable. These tricky pairs often throw young readers off because the sounds that diphthongs make are different and new and the vowels in this pattern do not simply say the name of the vowel. (example: joyful)

6. R-Controlled Syllables: R-controlled syllables occur when a vowel is followed by the letter R, resulting in a unique sound. An R-controlled vowel syllable can also have consonants in the syllable so in order to teach students to read this syllable type correctly help them look for an R after a vowel/vowels to know the syllable will say the r-controlled sound. (example: zipper)

7. Consonant -le Syllables: Consonant -le syllables, usually found at the end of words, only occur in multisyllabic words. In this syllable there is always a consonant +le and the e is silent. (example: table)


Tips for Teaching Syllable Types

Incorporate The Syllable Type Names When Teaching Phonics:

As we introduce vowel patterns and explicit letter-sound patterns we can also expose our students to the syllable pattern that matches each letter-sound pattern. All of the syllable patterns, besides -le, are found in one- and multi- syllable words. So even beginning readers benefit from learning the names of each syllable type.

Use Syllable Types Instructional Posters to provide visual support and explicit examples for each syllable. The best thing about this amazing resource is each syllable has its own poster. You can target the syllable that directly matches the phonics pattern your students are learning.

Use Hands On Approaches to Teach Syllable Division:

Once your students have moved into reading two and three syllable words they need lots of practice with how to break these longer words into manageable chunks in order to sound them out. This skill is called syllable division.

Students will break a word apart by looking for the vowels in the word first. The number of vowel sounds in a word tells how many syllables are in each word. Teach your students this quick strategy to divide multisyllabic words:

  • Find and Touch: Students point to the vowel sounds in the words.
  • Underline: Students underline the vowels.
  • Chop the Word: Divide the word into syllables – make sure each part has a vowel.
  • Cover & Read: Use your finger to cover the final syllable and read the first syllable, then do the same with the end syllable. 

  • Blend & Read: Read the whole word!

Lots of practice is necessary to build automaticity with this skill. Practice daily in small groups. In the Syllable Type Activities pack there are pages that are specifically designed to practice syllable division. These are perfect to incorporate into your phonics small reading groups.

Reinforce New Learning With Repeated Practice:

Practice makes permanent! So once you’ve introduced and taught your students the syllable types and how to divide syllables make sure to incorporate multisyllabic word reading and syllable division into your independent work. This Two Syllable Word Game  and the games in the Syllable Type Activities Pack make perfect centers for your students to play to practice their two-syllable word reading skills.

Activities to Teach Decoding Using Syllables

If you are looking for activities to practice the syllable types with your class here are few that have been favorites in my classroom.

Syllable Chains:

Syllable chains is a simple white board activity you can do with your class. Students start by spelling a two syllable word on their white board such as contest. Have students then change one of the syllables to a new part, for example change test to cert. Then students read the new word. Continue switching out syllables to form a chain of words reading each word out loud.

Blending Syllable Puzzles:

The Blending Syllable Puzzle set is a favorite center of my kids. Students mix up all the puzzle pieces and work together to assemble the multisyllabic words. Then students read each word, write it on their white board, and label each syllable type. The best part is the center has picture clues to ensure students can complete it independently!

Two Syllable Flip:

Two Syllable Flip is a fun hands on activity that is perfect for a small group. Students have two sets of syllable cards color coded orange and blue. A student picks an orange and a blue syllable card and puts the syllables together to read the word. The students write the word on the recording sheet and determine if the word is real or nonsense. For an extra challenge, have students label what syllable type each word part is!

Build Student Confidence with Handheld Visuals:

As with any new reading strategy, our students need lots of practice to make syllable recognition and division something they can do with independence and confidence.

In my students’ independent reading boxes I laminate the Syllable Division and Syllable Types one page posters. That way my students have their strategies right there with them when they are reading by themselves. The one page poster provides just the right amount of scaffolding and support for my students.

The best feeling I get as a reading teacher is when I see one of my students reach into their book box and get out their helper tools to decode an unknown multisyllabic word independently.

All our students, from our struggling readers to our quick learners, benefit from phonics instruction that is guided, explicit, hands-on and research based.

The addition of teaching your students the 7 Syllable Types and how to use syllable recognition and division to read multisyllabic words is vital. Your students will develop a new-found confidence when they get to those long words that they may have once skipped over. You’ll be amazed as you notice increased fluency and comprehension. No words will be too tricky to sound out with syllable recognition and division strategies.

Written By: Andrea Gudmundson

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