Teaching Syllables In Kindergarten

Looking for tips for teaching syllables in kindergarten? Explicitly teaching syllables is so important to building foundational reading skills. Keep reading for Science of Reading-aligned teaching tips and engaging activity ideas to use in your classroom!

Teaching syllables in an effective way that impacts reading is possible with the right instruction and activities! Go beyond clapping the syllables of a word with these teaching tips!

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Read all of the Science of Reading articles here.

This article goes well with these Simply Kinder Resources:

What is a Syllable?

According to Dictionary.com, a syllable is “a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word; e.g., there are two syllables in water and three in inferno. After blending consonants and vowels, syllables are blended into words, and words are used in meaningful sentences.

So it is a part of the word that has at least one vowel sound and needs to be blended together for reading to take place!

Teacher Tip: You can count syllables by listening to how many vowels sounds you hear! Note: vowel sounds not vowels written.

Why is it Important to Teach Syllables?

Syllable rules and types are important to teach so that students understand that English is logical and makes sense! As backed by the Science of Reading research, explicit phonics instruction is key to helping students understand spelling patterns and move to reading automaticity instead of memorization.

Knowing how to split words into syllables and decode them makes it easier for students to read accurately!

6 Types of Syllables

Did you know there are actually six different types of syllables? Wow! These are important for teachers to know and understand to help instruct their students.

Most kindergarten curriculums will not cover all 6 syllable types but some students might be ready to go beyond and learn them all.

# 1 Closed Syllables: Ends in a consonant and produces a short vowel sound.

This includes most CVC words and where reading instruction typically starts after sounds and letters are understood by students. Examples: hat, cat, sit.

This also includes VC words like on.

#2 Open Syllables: Ends in a vowel and produces a long vowel sound.

This includes CV words like hi, me, cry.

Open syllables should be taught alongside open or shortly thereafter, so students see, understand, and apply reading them differently!

#3 Silent E: Sometimes called a magic e, silent e changes the vowel to say its long sound.

Magic e has a final silent e with a consonant just before the silent e. This silent e makes the vowel before it have a long sound. Examples include kite, bike, cute.

A good way to transition to magic e is by adding e to the end of familiar CVC words and teaching the different sounds. An example is kit to kite.

#4 Vowel Teams: Two vowels that make one sound.

It’s important to teach that these vowels form one sound and not two! Examples include: mail, boat, play, meet. These are typically not taught in kindergarten but some students might be ready to start reading and writing these syllable types!

#5 R-Controlled Syllables: These syllables have at least one vowel followed by an r.

This combination gives a unique blended vowel sound. Examples include car, star, far, her, bird.

Use the All About the Sound Teacher Tip Cards to help teach and understand all 44 phonemes including r-controlled! Part of the Sound Wall Bundle Here or grab them separately here.

#6 Consonant-le Syllable: This syllable has no vowel sound as the silent e is the only vowel.

This syllable type is usually taught only after the first 5 are mastered. Examples include purple, table, and apple.

Teaching Syllables In Kindergarten

Understanding how to split words into syllables makes it easier to decode and understand which sounds to make when reading! This also transforms into writing skills! Especially for understanding the vowel sounds.

Tips for Teaching Syllables in Kindergarten:

  • Explicitly teach syllable types. In kindergarten, in my opinion, it is 100% appropriate to work with open and closed syllables as well as silent e.
  • Use mouth mirrors with students so they can clearly see their jaws open and close for each vowel sound! Remember vowels are sounds you can sing.
  • Talk like a whale (like from Finding Nemo). The syllables will be easily heard with whale talk.
  • Make it tactile – jump it, skip it, or whatever you can think of to make it fun
  • Watch videos about syllables like this one from Jack Hartman:

Explicitly teaching sounds, phonics patterns, syllables, and decoding skills is key to building a strong foundation for literacy. Consider using a Sound Wall with a Consonant Wall and Vowel Valley (shown below) to help students understand the sounds in each syllable.

Learn more about the Sound Wall Bundle here!

Use these key takeaways and tips to help guide your instruction:

  • Explicitly teach sounds and phonics patterns to build a strong foundation
  • Use a sound wall, modeling, and mouth mirrors to teach sounds
  • Build upon these skills by teaching syllable types and the phonics rules that apply
  • Guide instruction with decodable readers and word work activities to practice these skills
  • Reteach and provide support frequently to all students
  • Teach all of the phonics rules and syllables types to students that are ready so they’re not guessing any words

Do you have more tips to share? Join the conversation inside the Simply Kinder Teachers Facebook Group here!

At Simply Kinder we work together to bring you ready-to-use resources to partner with great teaching for any curriculum, a Facebook community where teachers talk all things Kindergarten, and low-prep learning ideas that your students will love. Be sure to stay up to date with all things kindergarten on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and through email. Simply Kinder: where teaching Kinder is definitely better together!

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