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Working with Syllables

First: Teach student to syllabicate

Teach students to separate words into syllables orally. Have students place their fingers on the under part of their chin. Students can feel each syllable as their jaws drop.

A couple of ideas:

  1. Count syllables in words as a group
  2. Sort words into groups according to the number of syllables (be sure to point out that # of letters does not correlate with # of syllables – ie. splash vs. oleo)

Then: Teach children to spell and read in syllables:

  1. Each syllable has a vowel sound; therefore each syllable has at least one vowel in it. (The vowel sound may be a vowel on its own, a vowel team, a magic e vowel, an r controlled vowel, a schwa, or a –cle syllable…)
  2. –cle is always a syllable (table, bubble)
  3. Twin consonants are always split into separate syllables (runner, rabbit)
  4. Blends are not usually split, but consonants that are not part of a blend usually are (silver, program)
  5. Look for words you know – compound words are separated (bookcase)
  6. Look for affixes you know (-ing, -ly, -ness, re-)
  7. Pronounce word correctly! As the years have passed, we have gotten lazy in our speaking, using the schwa often and sometimes almost making some syllables disappear altogether (sep/ar/ate, fam/il/y, in/ter/est)
  8. When reading an unknown word, see if it makes sense, if it doesn’t try syllabicating it a different way (quiet as a vowel team vs. qui/et as an open then closed syllable word). Also try other sounds (like the schwa sound) for vowels or emphasizing a different syllable.

A few ideas for working with syllables

    1. Spell long words by first identifying the # of syllables, writing a line for each syllable, then spelling each syllable and identifying the kind of syllable each one is (open, closed, -cle…)
    2. Use a pencil to draw light lines to separate the syllables in a word a child is struggling with. Often this is all a child needs to read the word independently
    3. Have students mark each vowel sound (one vowel or vowels working together like magic e or a vowel team) then split the word into syllables
    4. Copy words using a large font, have students cut the words into syllables, then put each syllable in the correct category (open, closed, r-controlled)

Special Note: The syllabication in the dictionary was decided by typesetters long ago, and sometimes has little to do with today’s pronunciation of a particular word.  When working with syllables – trust your instincts and don’t necessarily look to the dictionary as an authority!