Syllables, also known as word chunks, are letters or groups of letters that make one sound. Some words contain only one syllable, while others contain multiple syllables. Teaching children to discover syllables will aid them in both reading and spelling. There are many rules in learning about syllables, but with adequate teaching and review, the students will be able to master the concept quickly.
Explain that words are broken into chunks called syllables. Demonstrate by saying the word "cat" and clapping on the syllable. "Cat" has one syllable. Demonstrate again using the word "elephant" -- el (clap), e (clap), phant (clap). Say random words, and have the students clap out the syllables with you. Once students understand the concept, move on to explaining the rules of dividing words into syllables.
Explain that each syllable can only contain one vowel sound. This does not mean that a syllable can only contain one vowel. Often two or more vowels are placed together to make one vowel sound (i.e. “bread”). Ensure they understand that while “bread” has two vowels, only the "e" sound can be heard.
Inform the students that a closed syllable ends with a consonant and contains a short-vowel sound. Write the following examples on the board: “cat,” “dog-food,” and “ap-ple.”
Explain that an open syllable ends with a long-sound vowel. Write the following examples on the board: “a-pron,” “pro-gram,” and “e-vent.”
Describe the vowel-consonant-e syllable as one that contains a word that ends with a silent “e.” Write the following examples on the board: “toe-nail,” “hope-chest,” and “com-plete.”
Introduce vowel-team syllables, which are vowels that are placed together to produce a new sound, such as “ie” and “au.” These are also known as special sounds. Write the following examples on the board: “chief,” “fau-cet,” and “a-bout.”
Explain that a consonant-le syllable is just as its name implies. It is a syllable containing a consonant followed by “le.” Write the following examples on the board: “han-dle,” “bea-gle,” and “bi-cy-cle.” Often the natural tendency when sounding out these words is to separate the final consonant from the “le” (i.e. “hand-le”). Reinforcement of this rule will help students to remember the proper place to divide the word.
Inform students that any word containing a double consonant should be divided between those consonants. Middle should be “mid-dle.” Little should be “lit-tle.” Giggle should be “gig-gle.” Point out that this corresponds with the previous rule.
Instruct the students that an r-controlled syllable is one that contains a vowel followed by the letter “r” and therefore producing a different sound (ar, er, ir, or, and ur). Write the following examples on the board: “car,” “part-ner,” and “girl-friend.”
Review suffixes, which are letters or groups of letters that can be added to the end of an existing word to form a new word (i.e. -ing, -ly, -er). Inform the students that most suffixes are syllables in and of themselves and should be separated from the root word as such. Write the following examples on the board: “slow-ly,” “lick-ing,” and “tight-er.”