How to Teach Syllable Types & Syllable Division
One of the most effective ways to teach reading and spelling skills is to teach students about the Six Syllable Types and how to divide words into syllables using syllable division strategies. When we teach reading, we teach our students that sounds (consonant sounds and vowel sounds) come together to create syllables, syllables come together to create words, words come together to create phrases and sentences, and sentences come together to create paragraphs, which come together to create stories or information text.
Using this framework, teaching students about syllables is just as important as teaching students about letter sounds.
So, first are you familiar with the 6 Syllable Types? If not, go check out our blog over here:
In that blog, we go through each of the six syllable types (closed, open, vowel-consonant-e, r-controlled, vowel teams, and stable final syllables - as well as one of our absolute favorite games we use to teach the syllable types.
We also love using this fun interactive notebook to help students begin to conceptualize each of the six syllable types. It’s always critical that students have a big picture overview of what they’re learning. So while some systematic, Orton-Gillingham based programs have organized their program around the six syllable types, they don’t necessarily ever go through all of them ahead of time so that students know there are many different types of syllables.
Once students are familiar with the six syllable types, we must teach them syllable division strategies.
Why Teach Syllable Division?
You may have also heard of this as “Syllabication” which is a really fancy term that just means dividing a word into syllables. However, while many people are familiar with the idea of breaking a word into syllables by clapping out the word, far fewer are familiar with the idea of dividing a word into syllables based on the structure of the word.
WHY divide words into syllables!?! -
Okay yes, valid question. One of the more well known reasons is that it helps break words that seem impossible into manageable chunks. But another less known reason is that dividing words into syllables in order to help students predict the vowel sounds which are often the most difficult for struggling readers.
Knowing where to divide the word is of critical importance however in predicting the vowel sounds.
Syllable division strategies teach students how words break into their individual syllables. Once students know about the different types of syllables they have to connect the fact that sometimes words are made up of multiple syllables. You may have words that are made up of syllable types that are all the same syllable type (e.g., fan-tas-tic is made up of 3 closed syllables) or you may have words that are made up of multiple different types of syllables (e.g., rep-tile is made up of a closed and vowel-consonant-e syllable).
We start by using a reference (we love reference points and frameworks around here in case you didn’t know) to help teach students the big picture. We love trying to create memory devices and loved this traditional OG approach of using animals to help remember the different division patterns. If you don’t know about the syllable division patterns or want to learn about these in more depth you can check out our blog here: Syllable Division Strategies
First, we start with these syllable division anchor charts:
Rab/bit Division - Spot and dot the vowels and divide between the consonants.
Rep/tile Division - Keep Magic E syllables together.
Hor/net Division - Keep Bossy R syllables together.
Ti/ger - When you cannot divide between consonants, keep the first syllable open.
Cam/el - When you cannot divide between consonants, keep the first syllable closed (we try this if an open syllable doesn't create a real word).
Tur/tle - Consonant LE, count back three and scoop.
Li/on - Typically vowel teams stick together, every once in awhile they repel and we divide between the vowels.
Next, we have students practice syllable division at the word level.
After we have gone through each of the syllable division patterns, we systematically teach students how to work through the patterns using words lists that will further solidify the patterns. This takes a LOT of practice. You can check out the word lists and strategy sheets that we like to use by clicking here!
We like practicing these syllable division strategies by going through one page together with our students either individually or as a group, and then we send home a second page to practice to see how well our students remembered the rules without us. You know that always shows us a different picture of how well students are remembering the strategies we work on together!
Finally, we have students practice syllable division with games and activities.
While we absolutely use word lists to show our students how to apply their syllable division knowledge - we know that they need A LOT OF PRACTICE! And there is only so much practicing that can be accomplished with word lists before our students lose their minds and become bored and disengaged with us. So we mix this up by using fun games and activities to keep things exciting!
We have a syllable division game that we use for every syllable division pattern we talk about. One of our favorites is the Rabbit Syllable Division game. We love this because it’s one of the first syllable division strategies we teach.
This is often where we get the “a-ha” light bulb that we LOVE as educators and therapists. It’s often here, where for the first time, students start to get how words come together and break apart to support both reading and spelling. You can grab our bundle of all of our syllable division games by clicking here!
So that’s how we do it! We start by teaching the syllable type, then we layer in the syllable division strategy. If you’re interested in seeing how this all comes together as part of a systematic and structured literacy approach we would love to have you join our totally free upcoming training!