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Six Syllable Types - Teaching Kids to Read

Have you ever wondered why parents and teachers ask children to clap for each syllable they hear in words, often without really understanding the point of all that enthusiastic clapping? So, why do we teach children to hear syllables in words?

Children do benefit from learning the concept of syllables, such as hearing them in words, understanding the syllable-spelling connection, and knowing that every syllable has a vowel. There are six common types of syllables found in English orthography. Teaching how these syllable patterns work in reading and spelling can be a powerful skill building activity for students, especially those who struggle to read, write, and spell.

Once a child understands the concept of syllables, and can hear them in words, they are ready to begin learning the common syllable-spelling patterns. They can also learn how knowing these patterns will help them learn to read and spell.

I teach the six syllable types to explain things my older students wonder about. For example, why are certain vowels used, when should you double consonants, and how does one know the correct way to pronounce sounds in words? Reading and spelling no longer feel so random and mysterious once children learn how words work.

Breaking words down into syllables simplifies reading and spelling, especially for more fluent readers and spellers. Think about how you spell long, unknown words. You probably break the word down into manageable chunks as you spell it. Systematically teaching students how to hear syllables, then teaching the six syllable types, helps students read and spell challenging, multisyllabic words they previously would have misread or skipped.

The six syllable types should be taught to students only after they have learned the basic concept of what a syllable is. Here are the six syllable types:

Children who can build and read basic words with known letters and sounds are ready for syllable instruction, such as learning about short vowels and closed syllables. More fluent readers can begin learning spelling rules and the six syllable types. Effective instruction integrates syllable type instruction with reading books and writing a variety of texts, providing real-life, meaningful practice.

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