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Open Syllables for Reading and Spelling

Open syllables are one of the six syllable types. After teaching closed syllables, open syllables are the next type to teach to beginning and remedial readers and spellers.

What is an open syllable? It is a syllable in which the vowel is the last letter. Some examples of one-syllable words with open syllables are me, go, we, be, no and she. It is easy to see in these one-syllable words that the vowel is “open”; it is not closed in by a consonant.

The vowel in an open syllable is usually long. A long vowel says its own name. When beginning readers know this fact, it helps them decode unfamiliar words. The long vowel sounds are:

/A/ as in acorn
/E/ as in even
/I/ as in silo
/O/ as in open
/U/ as in uniform

Notice that in each of the above words, the first syllable is open and the vowel is long.

After the student can read and spell open syllable words consisting of just one syllable, it is time to combine open and closed syllables. There are many such words, including even, began, item, robot, depend, omit, refund, hotel, and frozen.

I have found that the most effective way to teach reading is with the use of letter tiles. The letter tiles make it easy to demonstrate abstract concepts, and they keep the child's attention focused on the words. Through manipulating the letter tiles, the child absorbs the concepts being taught.

To teach a multisyllable word containing open and closed syllables, build the word with the letter tiles, and divide it into syllables. Have your student read one syllable at a time. If necessary, help him to determine if the syllable is open or closed. Teach your student explicitly that if the syllable is closed, the vowel sound is generally short, and if the syllable is open, the vowel sound is generally long. This knowledge will go a long way toward helping him decode new words.

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