What's This About Six Syllable Types?


One of the core components of Structured Literacy Intervention using the OG methodology is instruction in Syllable Types & Syllabication (Division of Words into Syllables).

Interestingly enough, most of us never learned syllable types in our own path toward reading. So it's a process for sure learning all of these patterns and then coming up with engaging ways to teach them. Fortunately, there are a number of great mnemonics like CLOVER and fun teaching strategies to get these syllable types to stick.

But - a major question remains. Why does it matter? Who cares what syllable type the word is? Isn't the goal just to be able to decode? Why do we need to go through the sometimes painful process of labeling word parts? It seems to be just one more step. Well, a couple of things.

1. Knowing the syllable type can help predict vowel sounds.

Vowel sounds are often the most difficult part of the English language. Especially American English in which we have become quite lazy in our vowel production making it harder than ever to fully grasp the sound-symbol correlation.

2. Knowing the syllable type and appropriate division pattern can break long words into more manageable pieces.

Words like antidisestablishment can cause a great deal of panic for our dyslexic readers. But in reality, if we break this word into syllables we can be left with an-ti-dis-es-tab-lish-ment which are all open or closed syllables that are quite easily decodable for students at that level.

So... What are the six syllable types?

1. Closed Syllables

This is a syllable containing one vowel that is closed in by a consonant and the vowel sound is short. (Examples: cat, ship, rest, thick, in)

2. Open Syllables

This is a syllable containing one vowel that is left open at the end and the vowel sound is long. Examples: hi, be, she, go, shy

3. Vowel-Consonant-E (Magic E or Silent E)

This is a syllable with a vowel immediately followed by one consonant and then an E. The E is silent but makes the preceding vowel long. Examples: bike, fate, share

4. R-Controlled

This is a syllable with an R immediately following a vowel. The vowel sound becomes distorted and is neither long or short. Examples: car, horn, shirt, bird, turn

5. Vowel Teams (Digraphs & Diphthongs)

This is a syllable with two vowels (generally - sometimes the W likes to sneak in here) that work together to make one sound (digraphs) or one sliding sound (diphthongs). Examples: team, boy, sheet, train

6. Consonant-LE

This is a syllable with a consonant, followed by an L, followed by an E. The E is silent. This is always a final syllable in a multi-syllabic word. Examples: apple, Skittle, shuffle, purple.

Teaching these syllable types and their division patterns empowers students to feel more confident than simply guessing all possible vowel sounds within a word. And it's a skill many of their peers may not have and so it gives them a deeper understanding into the "why" of our language. There are many fun ways to engage students in the learning of syllable types. One activity we LOVE is helping students differentiate between open and closed syllables.

Click the image below for a PDF of the lesson activity!