How often do your upper elementary students struggle with reading multisyllabic words in a grade-level text? Instead of coaching them through it with positive reinforcement like slow down, break it apart, reread it. . . think how powerful it would be to give them the tools to actually read the word? Teaching syllables in upper elementary is so beneficial!
When our students don’t understand the sounds various spelling patterns make, they don’t have the tools to break apart a multisyllabic word.
If you aren’t already, I encourage you to start teaching syllables with your upper elementary students. There are seven syllable types that will help your students feel more confident when they come across multisyllabic words.
What is syllabication?
- Syllabication is the act, process, or method of dividing words into syllables.
- So to do that, students need to know two things:
- Different syllable types and
- Syllable division principles.
What is a syllable?
- A syllable is a single unit of pronunciation that has one vowel sound.
- It can contain consonants, but the vowel sound determines that syllable.
- Words can be one, two, three, or more syllables.
There are seven types of syllables you should be teaching:
- Open Syllables
- Closed Syllables
- Magic E
- Vowel Teams
- Final Stable
- Consonant -le
To learn more about teaching these seven syllable types, check out my blog, which covers each syllable in depth.
Why should I be teaching syllables in upper elementary?
Students might have learning gaps.
If your students struggle to break apart and read multisyllabic words, they need more information and tools surrounding syllables. Teaching syllables will give them the tools to read bigger, more complex words!
Although syllabification and syllable types tend to be at the forefront of most scopes and sequences in earlier grades, that doesn’t mean our students have mastered them.
In fact, by the time they get to third, fourth, and fifth grade if students have not explicitly been using what they’ve learned about syllables to read. . . they probably don’t remember what they once knew.
Students may need help to apply what they know about syllabication to multisyllabic words.
Even if your students had a strong foundation of syllable types and division, they might not know how to apply the knowledge to multisyllabic words.
Multisyllabic words are words with more than one syllable. Upper elementary students will read more and more multisyllabic words as they move through the education system.
Students need support with word recognition.
Word recognition is seeing a word and immediately knowing how to read it/pronounce it. When students have higher word recognition, they have more brain space for comprehension when they read.
If you have a student who needs help to read words fluently and accurately, they will struggle with comprehension.
Teaching syllable types is another tool in students’ toolboxes to improve word recognition and comprehension.
Syllabication compliments other word concepts taught in upper elementary.
In upper elementary, there is a big focus on affixes and roots. Teaching syllables goes hand in hand with these concepts.
We want students to feel confident in their reading, right? The fewer word parts they have to deal with the more successful they will be when they come across multisyllabic words. When you are teaching prefixes, suffixes, and roots, you can teach syllables at the same time!
How should I be teaching the seven syllable types?
Whether you choose to teach whole group, small group, or or both, I encourage you to make sure your instruction is:
- Explicit – This means you introduce, explain, and model the syllable concepts to your students.
- Systematic – This means you’re teaching syllables in a logical order that builds upon your students’ prior knowledge.
Explicitly teaching syllables might look like introducing syllable types one at a time, explaining the definition of the syllable type, and teaching syllables with a known word.
Teaching syllables isn’t a time for us to stump or challenge our students. It is important to use words that are clear examples for each syllable type. Use single-syllable words and multisyllabic examples.
Don’t forget to teach exceptions.
Systematically teaching syllables is equally important. Once you’ve introduced a number of syllable types, the next step is to provide opportunities for students to become familiar with them.
What does systematic instruction look like? There are so many activities!
- Words Sorts
- Syllable Hunts
- Literacy Workstations
- Small Group Practice
- Independent Reading
- Whole Group Read Alouds
- Daily Warm-Up Activities
Syllable Hunts are one of my favorite ways to bring syllable practice into an existing lesson. They take a small amount of prep work and have a big impact. For example, if you are teaching a lesson on ecosystems and have several texts and read-alouds picked out for your students to read, go through them to see if you can find words connected to a syllable type. It might be a syllable hunt activity as simple as finding words with 1-syllable, 2-syllable, 3-syllables and so on.
I love Syllable Hunts because they encourage your students to be more aware of the vocabulary within a text and challenge them to use syllable knowledge in a text relevant to their learning.
You can check out my Syllable Types Bundle on TpT for low-prep syllable activities! This set of lesson plans, anchor charts, and activities will help you review some basic concepts of syllables and introduce your students to the different types of syllables. For each syllable type, students will see examples of one, two, and three-syllable words so they can start to transition what they know about syllables to read big words. These activities work for whole group, small group, or even workstation activities!
And the last thing I want to mention is: be flexible when teaching syllables. Sometimes we try to teach syllables and syllable types as absolutes, when they are generalizations.
There are exceptions, especially as students start to read longer words.
But if they have a solid foundation of knowledge around syllable types, they are more likely to break apart and correctly read multisyllabic words. The goal isn’t for students to become syllable experts, but to know and understand enough to feel more confident reading BIG words.
Put It Into Practice:
- Don’t forget to check out my blog post, 7 Syllable Types to Teach to help you better understand each syllable type and how you can introduce the 7 types to your students.
- Check out podcast Episode #121: Your Guide to Teaching Syllabication in Upper Elementary! In this episode I share a clear definition of 6 syllable types and activities you can incorporate in your school day to practice each concept.
- Join us inside The Stellar Teacher Reading Membership, where you will get access to a resource library filled with reading resources that will support you and your students in reading, writing, and vocabulary skills needed to be successful readers.