As a homeschool parent, you have the unique opportunity to witness firsthand the magical moment when your child begins to unlock the world of reading. You have built a good foundation and are now ready to tackle syllables. Syllables are the building blocks of words, and understanding their patterns can help children read and write with confidence. This comprehensive guide will explore the six types of syllables and explain their characteristics. Join us as we explore the world of syllables and help you create a strong foundation for your child’s reading skills.
6 syllable types
There are six types of syllables that we are going to cover. Now let’s dig a little deaper int othe six types of syllables- a closed syllable ends in a consonant, an open syllable ends in a vowel, a vowel-consonant-e syllable is typically found at the end of a word, a vowel team syllable has two vowels next to each other that together say a new sound, a consonant+le syllable is found in words like handle, puzzle, and middle, and an r-controlled syllable contains a vowel followed by the letter r. Here are ways to learn all 6 syllable types.
This is a long post, so use the table of contents below to jump the section of interest.
What Are Syllables
Syllables are single, unbroken sounds that make up spoken (or written) words. They contain a vowel sound and may be accompanied by consonants. You can think of syllables as the ‘beats’ of spoken language that give words their rhythm and structure.
Why Do We Teach Syllables?
One may wonder why we put so much emphasis on teaching syllables when it comes to reading. The answer is that more than 80% of words in English have more than one syllable. Teaching children to identify and read syllables in longer words makes decoding new words significantly easier.
Breaking down long words into syllables also helps combat that classic long-word fatigue that many young readers experience. When a child encounters a lengthy word, they can tackle it one syllable at a time, making it less daunting and more accessible. Moreover, syllable awareness not only benefits reading but also improves spelling. It’s often easier and more accurate to think about longer words in terms of syllables rather than trying to remember all the individual letters separately.
Types Of Syllables
Ready to dive into the fascinating world of syllables? Let’s get started!
Our first syllable type is called a closed syllable. They are the most common of the six types of syllables in the English language and make up 43 percent of all syllables we encounter in reading. But what exactly is a closed syllable?
Definition: A closed syllable is one in which a single vowel is followed by a consonant. The vowel is usually short.
Examples: Cat, top, bed, rab/bit, pat, pen/cil, hat, bas/ket, hen
Characteristics Of Closed Syllables
Here are some key characteristics of closed syllables that will help you recognize and teach them effectively:
- The vowels in closed syllables typically have a short vowel sound. For example, “cat” and “dog” have closed syllables with short vowel sounds.
- A single syllable can have more than one consonant behind the vowel. These consonants can form what we call consonant blends. For instance, the word “blend” has a closed syllable with the consonant blends /nd after the short vowel sound /e/.
- A consonant doesn’t have to be in front of the vowel for it to be considered a closed syllable. The crucial factor is that the syllable ends in a consonant. Like the word “up.”
When Do You Teach Closed Syllables?
I recommend introducing the concept of closed syllables once students have a solid foundation in things like CVC activities and sight word worksheets. It is also an excellent time to start with two-syllable words, especially if they contain two closed syllables, like “pencil” or “rabbit.”
As we continue our journey into the types of syllables, it’s time to look at open syllables.
Definition: Open syllables that end in a vowel and usually have a long vowel sound.
Examples: ago, me, ago, ba/con, so/lo, mu/is, she, vio/lin, ze/bra
Here are some essential features of open syllables that will help you recognize and teach them effectively:
- The ending vowel sound in an open syllable is usually the long vowel sound, which is often the same as the name of the vowel itself. For example, in the word “she,” the first syllable has a long “e” sound.
- There can be more than one consonant in front of the vowel. Consider the word “draping where the first syllable is open. It contains the consonant blend “dr” followed by a long “a” sound.
- The critical characteristic of open syllables is that they end in a vowel. As long as the syllable ends with a vowel, it is considered an open syllable, regardless of the consonants that may precede it.
When Do You Start Teaching Open Syllables?
Introducing open syllables shortly after teaching closed syllables works very well. Early in grade one is an ideal time for this essential lesson.
Vowel-Consonant-E (Magic E Syllables)
Let’s delve into the enchanting world of Vowel-Consonant E syllables (also known as Magic E syllables).
Definition: Vowel-Consonant E syllables feature long vowels spelled with a single letter, followed by a single consonant, before finishing with a silent “e.” This magical “e” plays a crucial role in transforming the vowel sound within the syllable.
Examples: cake, kite, mine, fire/fly, hope, in/side, tube, cane, tube, life/time, save
Here are some insights into Magic E syllables that will help you teach and recognize them effectively:
- The Magic E has an array of jobs, but one of its most common roles is giving the vowel a long sound. For instance, in the word “cake,” the Magic E changes the short “a” sound in “cat” to a long “a” sound.
- Typically, Magic E syllables appear at the end of words. However, you might also find them in the middle of some compound words. For example, in the word “sideline,” the magic e is in the middle of the compound word.
When Do You Start Teaching Vowel Consonant E Syllables?
This concept is another one for first grade. Students must know their short and long vowel sounds and be familiar with closed and open syllables. It is fun to show students how to transform closed syllables into Vowel Consonant e syllables by adding an e. So “hop” is changed to “hope.”
Vowel Team Syllables
Let’s explore the world of vowel team syllables. This type of syllable brings variety and depth to the English language.
Definition: Vowel team syllables are made up of two vowels placed next to each other, working together to create a unique sound.
Examples: boat, meat, rain, strain, cheek, poo/dle, bean, pie, boat, av/oid tried
Here are some essential features and types of vowel team syllables to help you understand them better:
- Vowel teams can be found in various combinations of vowels that produce a single sound. For example, “oa” in “boat,” “ai” in “pain,” and “ea” in “meat” are all vowel teams.
- There’s a particular type of vowel team where the two vowels blend together to create a new sound different from the individual vowel sounds. Some examples include “oi” in “coin” and “ow” in “cow.”
- In some cases, consonants become a part of vowel teams. In these cases, the letter pairs with the vowel to make a single vowel sound. For example, the letter “y” can be paired with vowels. Such as ay, ey, oy, and uy. While the letter w is paired with vowels to create ew, aw, and ow
- Some other examples of vowel teams that include consonant letters include combinations like ough, augh, and silent al in words like talk
When Do You Start To Teach Vowel Team Syllables?
I introduce this concept in first grade once students recognize closed and open syllables and understand how the silent e works. However, it’s worth noting that a second-grade review is often necessary to reinforce understanding of these harder types of syllables.
FREE Printable vowel teams lists
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R Controlled Syllables
Moving along to the more complex Vowel-R syllables.
Definition: These syllables have a vowel followed by the letter ‘r,’ and the ‘r’ significantly influences the vowel sound.
Examples: car, bird, barn, torn, hard, far/mer, fern, yard, pur/ple, but/ter tried
To help you understand Vowel-R syllables better, let’s look at some of their key features:
- At first glance, Vowel-R syllables might look like closed syllables. However, there’s a crucial difference: in a Vowel-R syllable, the ‘r’ controls the sound, which means the vowel doesn’t produce its expected sound. An example of this would be a bar.
- When you encounter a vowel followed by an ‘r,’ they usually stay together in the same syllable. For example, in the words “car,” “bird,” and “turn,” the vowel and ‘r’ work together to create a unique sound
When Do You Start To Teach R Controlled Syllables?
It’s important to note that Vowel-R syllables can be challenging for students to master, as the ‘r’ changes the expected vowel sounds. Continuous review and practice will be essential in helping young learners grasp these types of syllables. Introducing this concept in first grade works well. It is best taught shortly after learning closed and open syllables and silent e. Reviewing this concept in second grade is usually needed. Harder r-influenced spelling rules can be explored in a later times.
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Consonant L-E Syllables
Let’s explore the Consonant-le syllable pattern.
Definition: Consonant-le syllables consist of a final syllable containing a consonant followed by ‘le,’ with the ‘e’ always being silent.
Examples: puz/zle, stum/ble, cas/tle, rat/tle, bot/tle, can/dle, ap/ple, gig/gle, tur/tle, mid/dle
Here are some key points about the Consonant-le syllable pattern to help young readers better understand its role:
- The Consonant-le syllable pattern is unique because, unlike other types of syllables, it’s always found at the end of a word.
- In words ending with Consonant-le syllables, the first syllable’s vowel sound can provide important clues. If the first syllable is open, there is a long vowel, while if it’s closed, there is a short vowel.
- Another noteworthy feature of Consonant-le syllables is that if the first syllable is closed, the consonant is doubled.
- When Do You Start To Teach L-E Syllables?
When Do You Start To Teach L-E Syllables?
This syllable type is typically the last one introduced, usually during second grade. It’s a good idea to wait until students are familiar with r-controlled syllables, as some consonant-le words contain controlled r syllables at the front of the word.
The Difference Between Spoken and Written Syllables
In our journey to better understand syllables and their role in teaching reading, it’s essential to distinguish between spoken syllables and written syllables. While both are crucial in helping children develop reading skills, they are different and will be taught at different times.
Spoken syllables are the rhythmic units of speech centered around a vowel sound. When we pronounce a syllable, our jaw drops open as the vowel sound is produced. A fun way to count syllables in spoken words is by placing your hand under your chin and feeling the number of times your jaw drops for a vowel sound.
Segmenting and blending spoken syllables are early steps in developing what is known as phonological awareness. Phonological awareness refers to the ability to recognize and manipulate the sound structure of spoken words. This skill is crucial when children start to read, as it helps them break down and understand the sounds within words.
Learn more about phonological awareness and it’s importance.
On the other hand, reading syllables involves recognizing patterns in written words. To master reading syllables, children must first develop phoneme awareness and learn phoneme-grapheme correspondences.
- Phoneme awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in words.
- Phoneme-grapheme correspondences involve understanding the relationship between phonemes and the letters (graphemes) that represent them.
You will start to teach this after your child has mastered such things as blends, word families, digraphs (two letters that make one sound, such as ch), trigraphs (three letters that make one sound, such as tch in match), and vowel teams.
Syllable Divisions In Spoken and Written Syllables
It’s also important to note that sometimes spoken syllable divisions don’t always align with (or explain) the conventions of written syllables.
For example, let’s look at the word waffle
- The spoken syllable breaks come between wa and ffle
- The written syllable breaks are waf (closed syllable) and file (consonant le ).
Furthermore, the way the two syllables combine lets us know there should be a double f in the middle of the word.
In conclusion, familiarizing oneself with the six types of syllables can make a significant difference in reading and spelling. We hope our guide gives you the confidence to begin teaching your kids about syllables. With practice and patience, children can master these concepts and become confident readers and spellers. So, let’s start exploring the fascinating world of syllables. Your kids will thank you for it!