The Importance of Syllable Segmenting

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Developing a child's phonological awareness is an important part of developing a reader. Many research studies indicate that kids who have weak phonological awareness also have weak reading skills.

When children are learning to read, the children who can segment and blend sounds easily are able to use this knowledge when reading and spelling. Segmenting and blending individual sounds can be difficult at the beginning. So, our recommendation is to begin with segmenting and blending syllables. Once familiar with that, students will be prepared for instruction and practice with individual sounds.


This image of our Phonological Checklist shows how the teaching of segmenting and blending should progress, starting at the sentence level, moving to syllable, and finally to individual phonemes.

Be sure to provide lots of practice at each level before moving on.

Early in phonological awareness instruction, teach children to segment sentences into individual words. Identify familiar short poems or songs and have children clap their hands with each word. This can even be done with spoken language or when giving directions to students. “It’s time to line up at the door.” Students can clap each word as they move to their spot in line, clapping a total of 8 times, representing the 8 words in the direction.

As children advance in their ability to manipulate oral language, teach them to segment words into syllables. For example, have children segment their names into syllables: e.g., Kel-ly, Mik-ay-la, and Al-ex-an-der.

Helping students develop a sensitivity to syllables will help them grow into stronger readers and spellers. The ability to correctly break a word down into syllable chunks helps readers decode large or unfamiliar words. Breaking words into syllables can also help with their spelling. Check out our “scoop spelling” strategy here.

Although some students will pick up these skills with relative ease during their kindergarten year — especially if the curriculum includes explicit activities — other students must be taught these phonological skills directly and systematically.