Syllables and explaining them to your child
Recognising syllables in words makes spelling and reading an easier task for children. When children are able to say one syllable at a time, spelling and reading becomes much easier as the child can break the word into parts. Recognising syllables is an easy concept to teach.
Tips to explain syllables to children:
- All words have syllables. A word might have one, two, or even more syllables. Reading has two syllables: read (clap)—ing (clap). Clap as you say each syllable to demonstrate the breaking sound between syllables.
- Red has one syllable: red (clap).
- Purple has two syllables: pur (clap)—ple(clap).”
- Now you try. Clap your hands for each syllable in the word happy.
Words to practice breaking into syllables
Another good method for teaching how to count syllables is to put your hand under your chin. Say the word and count the number of times your jaw drops.
Types of syllables
1. A closed syllable ends in a consonant. The vowel has a short vowel sound, as in the word bat.
2. An open syllable ends in a vowel. The vowel has a long vowel sound, as in the first syllable of apron.
3. A vowel-consonant-e syllable is typically found at the end of a word. The final e is silent and makes the next vowel before it long, as in the word name.
4. A vowel team syllable has two vowels next to each other that together say a new sound, as in the word south.
5. A consonant-le syllable is found in words like handle, puzzle, and middle.
6. An r-controlled syllable contains a vowel followed by the letter r. The r controls the vowel and changes the way it is pronounced, as in the word car.
How to divide a word into syllables
- Divide off or separate any compound words, prefixes, suffixes, and root words that have vowels, such as sports/car, house/boat, un/happy, pre/paid, re/write, farm/er, hope/less
- Divide between two middle consonants, such as hap/pens, bas/ket, let/ter, sup/per, din/ner.
- Never split up consonant digraphs as they really represent only one sound ("th", "sh", "ph", "th", "ch", and "wh").
- Usually divide before a single consonant such as o/pen, i/tem, e/vil, re/port.The only exceptions are those times when the first syllable has an obvious short sound, as in "cab/in".
- Divide before an "-le" syllable such as a/ble, fum/ble, rub/ble, mum/ble. The exceptions would be "ckle" words like "tick/le".
Find more about kids speech and language development:
- Speech and language development for pre-kinder children
- Speech and language development for 5-6 year olds
- Speech and language development for 7-8 year olds
- Speech and language development for 9-10 year olds
- Speech and language development for 11-12 year olds
- What is phonetics
- What is phonics
- What is phonemics
- How tongue twisters aid speech and language
- The importance of nursery rhymes
- Simple songs to boost speech and language
- Learning a second language
- All about syllables
Discover more School Zone
This article was written by Alex Brooks for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading education resource.