The Six Syllable Types: A Brief Overview

Let’s talk about the six syllable types.  It is so important to teach students the code within our language.  It is not magic when learning to read! There are rules that provide the key to reading.

One of the key elements is the six syllable types.  Let’s break each of them down!

But first… let’s define some things..

phonological awareness- the ability to hear and recognize the different sounds in our language as well as manipulate them. This work is done auditorily and without printed letters.

phonics- refers to letter and sounds and the understanding of the relationship between printed letters and their sounds. This work uses printed letters.

This post is focused on phonics, and specifically the six syllable types. However, phonological awareness is an essential precursor to the skill of reading.

​1. Closed Syllables

So where to start? Always begin with closed syllables. You start with closed because they are the most common syllables you see in print.
These syllables have one vowel that is short because it is ‘closed’ or followed by a consonant. Here are some examples of one syllable words that are all closed syllables.

When teaching closed syllables, it is important to teach one vowel at time. The typical order to introduce the vowels are a, i, o, u, and e (ex. cat, nap, had, Dan, at etc. would be taught first).

We typically do not teach word families because when teaching students the closed syllables, you open the door to being able to decode hundreds of words as opposed to the handful that are apart of a word family.

Before you even begin to teach closed syllables, be sure students have the ability to segment a word into sounds as well as blend sounds together to make a word. Students should have a strong understanding of the letter-sound correspondence as well as an understanding of the alphabetic principle.

Once you teach what the syllable type is, it is essential to practice reading what you taught! That means decodable text. It may not have a lot of rich language at first, but that is saved for read alouds. Here are some resources for decodable texts.

SPIRE books​​

CVC passages with lesson plan (free)

​2. Vowel-Consonant-e Syllables

I think these syllables are more straight forward than other syllable types. They are easy to identify for both students and teachers.

Here are some facts and tips for teaching this syllable type.

⭐the vowel before the consonant will always be long

⭐the e will always be silent

⭐be sure to come up with common language. Will you use magic e, bossy e? Whatever you use be sure it is consistent.

⭐ the vowel u has two slightly different sounds (be sure to teach both!) ex. tube and mule

Here are some resources that I love and find useful!

Video of student learning VCE syllables​​

Games to play

Magic E- Boom Cards

3. Open Syllables

Open syllables always have a long vowel. They are called open because the vowel will be at the end of the syllable and is not ‘closed in’ by a consonant.

I love to do some word study activities with these words and CVC words. Here is an example of a hands on visual I like to make.

On the left side of the door, I write the open syllable (in this case is a word) and on the door I write a consonant.  The idea is when the door is closed, it is a closed syllable and the vowel is short.  When the door is open, it is an open syllable and the vowel is long.

Kids have so much fun practicing this way and seeing how vowel sounds change in different syllables.

Another teacher hack- laminate these houses so you can use white board markers to wipe them off and easily write another word!

4. Vowel Team Syllables

Have you ever used the rhyme… “when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking?” Well what about vowel teams like oo, ea, aw, au, ou, oi?

Don’t fret, I used that my first year too because I didn’t know any better! When teaching vowel teams it is important to know the rules.  There are SO many, but teaching these rules can help kids figure out the correct spelling when writing or to sound out unknown words.

Here is an example…. The spelling pattern ow will always be at the end of a syllable like in cow, or snow. (This is still a vowel team because there are two letters and w is acting like a vowel so it is not a closed syllable). The spelling pattern oa will always be in the middle of the syllable like in goat and soap.

Here are some fun activities to practice with vowel teams!

Vowel Baseball

Vowel Slides

5. R Controlled Syllables

The fifth syllable type is r controlled syllables. So many times I see people labeling these as CVC or closed syllables, like car or far. I cringe when I see this.

Why?

In r-controlled syllables, the r changes the vowel sound. It is no longer a short vowel or long vowel sound. It is so important to teach the new sound for these.

When you look closely at some of these words like car, if you were to sound that out, there are only two phonemes or sounds. It is essential students know what letters make the /ar/ sound and that when they are reading car, the a will not have the short vowel sound.

Tips:

⭐directly teach each new vowel sound with the r controlling it. I put them on a flash cards together to help students realize it is one new sound.

⭐just like with magic e- be consistent with the language. Is it going to be called bossy r? R controlled? Pick one and use it every time you talk about it.

⭐compare and sort words with the r controlling the vowel and words without. Get the students to really analyze the words they are reading.

6. Consonant-le syllables

Finally, these syllables are a bit different than the rest. They are taught typically last because they are never in a single syllable word. A consonant -le syllable will be at the end of a multisyllabic word. The e is always silent.

Some examples of these syllables are -ble, -cle, -dle, -gle, -ple, -sle, and -zle.

Tips:

⭐if you have not already, start teaching syllable division rules.

⭐teach students the reason there is a silent e is because every syllable needs a vowel

⭐continue using decodable text! Once you taught this, find print that has lots of consonant-le words in it. This will help solidify these skills for your students once you have taught it.

Want to add in vocabulary next? I love to use adapted book for vocabulary purposes. Click here to learn about them!

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