You are currently viewing One of the Best Ways to Guarantee Reading Success: Teach the 6 Syllable Types

One of the Best Ways to Guarantee Reading Success: Teach the 6 Syllable Types

You sit and listen as your student struggles to read a multisyllabic word aloud to you. You patiently listen but it’s painful and you just want to tell her what the word is. It could be that she doesn’t know the 6 syllable types.

I’ve found a lot of success teaching them, each as its own mini-lesson during the first weeks of school. And an extra syllable type that I mention later in this post.

I’m going to go through each of the 6 syllables and the prefix and suffix irregular sight syllables (With a freebie!) that are essential for decoding big words.


What is a closed syllable?

A closed syllable is a syllable that ends with a consonant. Usually the vowel sound makes a short sound.

For example the word cap is a closed syllable because the syllable ends with a consonant and the vowel makes a short sound.

Lets look at a closed syllable in multisyllabic word. The word magnet has two closed syllables:

mag– first syllable and ends with a consonant

net– second syllable and ends with a consonant

Both vowels make short sounds.


What is an open syllable?

An open syllable is a syllable that ends with a vowel. The vowel usually makes a long sound.

For example the first syllable in the word tiger is an open syllable. Ti- is the first syllable and ends with a vowel. We’ll talk about the second syllable later.

Another example of an open syllable in a multisyllabic word is pi- in the word pilot. The word ends with a vowel and makes a long sound.


Teaching Syllables with Silent “e”

I like to tell kids that silent “e” at the end of a word is silent because it gives its power to the vowel. The vowel then has enough power to say it’s name. When the vowel says its name, it has a long sound.

For example in the word hope, the silent “e” gives power to the o so it can say its name.

In a multisyllabic word like compete, the silent “e” gives its power to the first e. The reason it doesn’t give power to the first o is because the o is in a separate syllable which is closed: com/pete


Teaching Syllables with Vowel Teams

A vowel team is made up of two vowels that appear in the same syllable. They are called vowel digraphs but I prefer to call them teams when I teach this to kids because it’s simpler to understand.

I like teaching vowel teams in two separate categories: vowel teams and whiner vowel teams.

Some examples of vowel teams are ai, ui, ue and ay.

A note about y: Y is considered a vowel when it forms a diphthong. A diphthong is two vowel sounds joined in one syllable to form one sound like in the word play.

I like to tell the kids that in vowel teams, most of the time, the first vowel talks and the second one walks.

So in the word steam, the vowels ea are a vowel team. The first vowel talks and says “e” and the second one walks so it’s silent.

I like to teach whiner vowel teams separate because they don’t follow this same rule.

Examples of whiner vowel teams: aw, oi, ou, oy

The students learn that whiner vowel teams are made up of two vowels and sometimes when they’re next to each other they make whining sounds.

For example, in the multisyllabic word awkward, the aw make a whining sound at the beginning of the word.


Teaching Syllables with Consonant+le

Here’s an easy way for kids to learn the syllables with a consonant +le: When there is a syllable that contains a consonant followed directly by le, the le grabs the consonant.

For example, in the word table, the le grabs the b and creates a syllable: ta/ble.

In the word shuffle, the le grabs the second f and creates a syllable: shuf/fle.


Teaching Syllables with R controlled vowels

I like using the term Bossy “r” when I teach kids about r-controlled vowels. Bossy “r” vowels are vowels that are followed by an –r and found in the same syllable. The letter r is bossy and controls the sound of the vowel.

For example in the word sharp, the r is being bossy and controls the sound of the a.

Another example is the word turtle. The r is bossy and controls the sound that u makes. So instead of a long or short sound it makes a new sound that is overpowered by the r.


Special Vowel Patterns

There are special vowel patterns that don’t fall under any of the 6 syllable types.

I tell kids that these vowel patterns just don’t fit any of the other categories so they’re special.

Some examples of special vowel patterns are igh, augh and ough.

This is the last type of syllable I teach because they don’t have a set rule like the other 6 syllable types. I tell students that we just need to remember that sometimes vowels or syllables don’t follow a rule and we have to memorize the sounds they make.

For example, the word bought has a special vowel pattern: ough. But once the kids learn the sound, they can read other words like fought and enough.


Irregular Sight Syllables

There’s a set of prefix and suffix syllables that kids should know by sight. They’re called irregular sight syllables.

Just like sight words, these syllables should be learned by students so that they can quickly identify them when decoding big words.

The syllables -tion and -ture don’t sound like they’re spelled. Kids need to know their sounds by just looking at them.

I find it helpful to give students a list of these syllables when they’re learning to decode multisyllabic words. The first thing I have my students do is check for these syllables in the word before decoding the rest of the word.

I have a FREE download for you of the most common irregular sight syllables. Just sign up below and I’ll send it to you!

Get Free Irregular Sight Syllables List

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