Click play below to hear why syllabication in elementary classrooms is essential:
In elementary school, having a solid foundation of word knowledge skills is essential as students move throughout the grades. But one word study topic that’s on a lot of lower elementary teachers’ minds, but not so much for upper elementary teachers, is syllabication. With what seems like a simple concept, it actually correlates to bigger literacy skills. So in today’s episode, I’m sharing 3 reasons why you should prioritize teaching syllabication in elementary classrooms this school year.
If you are anything like I was and unsure about what syllabication is and all it entails, I’ve got you covered! After giving background information, there are two important things that are needed to understand and have success with it. Additionally, with each reason why syllabication in elementary classrooms is crucial, I discuss how this knowledge is utilized with success for other literacy skills for your students.
Although teaching syllabication in elementary classrooms might not be a top priority for you, it definitely should be. It helps both you and your students with literacy discussions, common language, and a starting point for further literacy practice. Make sure you implement syllabication in your plans this year!
In this episode on syllabication in elementary classrooms, I share:
- 3 reasons why you should teach syllabication to your students
- The 2 things you need to know to be successful with syllabication
- How to create common language for decoding big words
- What teaching syllabication can show you about a student’s phonics knowledge
- Ways syllabication is connected to comprehension
- Syllable Types: Lesson Plans, Posters, & Student Activities
- Sign up for my Private Podcast: Confident Writer Systems Series
- Check out the Stellar Literacy Collective Membership
- Free Literacy Block Workshop
- If you’re enjoying this podcast, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts!
Related episodes and blog posts:
- Episode 147, Teach Syllabication [Small Steps to S.O.R. Part 6]
- Episode 122, A 5-Step Process for Decoding Big Words (That You Can Implement TODAY!)
- Episode 121, Your Guide to Teaching Syllabication in Upper Elementary
- Episode 94, 4 Word Study Concepts Every Upper Elementary Teacher Should Teach
- Episode 93, 3 Steps to Having Effective Word Study Instruction This School Year
- 7 Syllable Types to Teach in Upper Elementary
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More About Stellar Teacher Podcast:
Welcome to the Stellar Teacher Podcast! We believe teaching literacy is a skill. It takes a lot of time, practice, and effort to be good at it. This podcast will show you how to level up your literacy instruction and make a massive impact with your students, all while having a little fun!
Your host, Sara Marye, is a literacy specialist passionate about helping elementary teachers around the world pass on their love of reading to their students. She has over a decade of experience working as a classroom teacher and school administrator. Sara has made it her mission to create high-quality no-fluff resources and lesson ideas that are both meaningful and engaging for young readers.
Each week, Sara and her guests will share their knowledge, tips, and tricks so that you can feel confident in your ability to transform your students into life-long readers.
Hey, there. Happy Monday. Welcome back to another episode of the podcast. I am so excited that you are tuning in. Today we are going to talk about one of my favorite word study topics. And that is syllabication.
Now if you are a lower elementary teacher, because I know we do have some primary teachers in our podcast audience, I feel like it’s pretty safe to say that more than likely, at some point this year you are going to be teaching your students about syllables. Teaching syllable types and syllable division rules often shows up on phonics scope and sequences in the primary grades, especially in first and second grade.
But if you are an upper elementary teacher, which I know is the majority of our podcast audience, the reality of it is is that syllabication might not be on your radar. And that’s okay. It was not on my radar when I was in the classroom.
When I taught fourth grade, I did not explicitly teach my students about syllabication. And looking back, I wish that I had the knowledge that I have now when I was in the classroom. Because I have realized that syllabication is such a significant concept and has such a big impact on students ability to successfully read. I really do think that syllabication is one of the most important word study concepts that we teach our students in upper elementary, which means that it’s something that we should be teaching.
So if you have not made a plan yet to incorporate it into your Word Study block this year, my goal with this episode is really to convince you to spend some time teaching syllabication. And if you have already taught syllabication, then virtual high five to you. You’re awesome. Way to like jump in.
But I also want to remind you that just because you’ve taught it doesn’t mean that we want to forget about it and not bring in the conversation of syllables for the rest of the year. It is something that really needs to be ongoing. And hopefully, even if you’ve taught it after listening to this episode, you’ll realize it’s like okay, this is something that we need to constantly come back to throughout the year because it is so significant.
Now before I share with you really the reasons why you should be teaching syllabication to your students. Let me briefly explain what it is because I feel like you know, as an upper elementary teacher, when I was in the classroom, I was like, Yeah, I know what a syllable is. But I don’t know if I could really explain it or go in depth and I definitely did not know everything that it entails. So let me break it down for you.
Syllabication is the act or process of breaking words into their syllables. And a syllable is a single unit of sound within a word. So really, we’re breaking down words into single units of sound.
So in order to successfully do that, students need to know two things. There’s really two primary things that students need to know in order to be successful with syllabication. And that is they first of all need to know the different syllable types. There are really six different syllable types. So we’ve got closed syllables, open syllables, magic e syllables, r controlled syllables, vowel team syllables, and then final stable syllables, which also includes the consonant L, E, A, L and E L syllables, which can be taught on its own.
But in addition to the syllable types, students also need to know different syllable division rules. For example, if students are familiar with the different division rules, then they know that if they see two consonant sounds between two separated vowels, then they’re going to divide between the consonants.
So for example, the word mascot has vowel, consonant, consonant vowel, they divide between the S and the C to get mascot. Or if you have the word napkin, you have vowel consonant consonant vowel, students would divide between the two consonants and get nap and kin.
So another example of a syllable division rule is that if there are two vowels side by side that don’t work together as a vowel team to make one sound, then you’re going to divide them. So like the word create has the two vowels E and A right next to each other, but they don’t work as a vowel team. So that’s where we would divide the syllables, or the same thing would be in the word violin.
So these are just some of the examples of syllable division rules, there’s actually quite a few. But when students have knowledge of these syllable division rules, it really helps them know where to split words into syllables. So they know how to actually break the words up into syllables. And then when students have knowledge of the different syllable types, it gives them the knowledge to understand what vowel sound to assign to the vowels in the words.
So they really need to have a strong understanding of both syllable types and syllable division rules. And that’s going to help them be successful with syllabication.
So now that you know what syllabication is, and really all that it covers, let’s jump into the three most important reasons why you should dedicate word study time to syllabication in upper elementary.
And let me just first of all give you a little bit of encouragement that if you’re hearing this, and you’re like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, I have never heard about a magic e syllable or an r controlled syllable. And you explained those syllable division rules, but I’m still fuzzy on it. That’s okay. I felt the exact same way when I was first learning about this as well.
The important thing is, is that I want you to understand that teaching syllabication is going to have a positive impact on your students, you don’t have to know how to actually teach it, you just need to know that this is something that you want to teach.
And the reason why I say you don’t have to necessarily know how to teach it. And that’s because we have a really great resource that we have for sale on Teachers Pay Teachers, and it’s also a part of the Stellar Literacy Collective. And it breaks down all of these things.
So it tells you exactly what a closed syllable is. It tells you exactly what an r controlled syllable is. It gives you lessons to be able to communicate these concepts and the syllable division rules to your students. So you don’t have to necessarily know all of the language to be successful in teaching these concepts to your students, you just have to know that, hey, this is important. I’m going to do this and grab the resource that we are sharing with you to make it easy.
So if after listening to this episode, you’re like, Yep, I need to teach syllabication to my students, you can go to stellarteacher.com/syllables get that lesson se. It has, like I said, Everything spelled out for you. So if you’re like, I need some more information, it’s included in that set of lessons. Okay.
So let me now explain to you why you should be teaching syllabication in upper elementary, and really why it’s something that you should also prioritize towards the beginning of the school year.
And the first reason is, is that teaching syllabication gives students tools to help them decode big words. So I want you to think about your students right now. Do you have a student that you’re noticing is starting to struggle with reading? And maybe this is a student that you’re starting to look into their data, and you’re noticing that on past report cards, they’ve always had good grades in the past.
You look at their past assessment data and it seems like they’ve always been a decent reader in k two. And even when you go back and talk to their previous teacher or their parent, the reports that you get indicate that this student was a great reader in kindergarten, first grade and second grade.
But you’re definitely starting to notice that something is a little bit different this year, and you’re not 100% sure why. Obviously, there’s a lot of reasons that impact a student’s ability to read. But if you’re just starting to notice in third, fourth and fifth grade that a student is struggling with reading for the very first time, it very well could be that the tools and skills that your student had in the lower grades, it served them well in K-2 when they were mostly reading texts with single syllable words.
But as students progress through upper elementary, their texts become more complex. And this doesn’t just mean that they become longer, but the words themselves actually become more challenging. And really, starting in third grade, students start to encounter more multisyllabic words in the texts that they are reading.
And as students only have tools to decode and fluently read single syllable words, they are going to start to struggle when they see these three and four syllable words that start to pop up in the texts.
So one of the things that we really need to do as upper elementary teachers is to give students tools that will help them decode the big words that they encounter in the text that they are reading. And, you know, when we have a student that is struggling in upper elementary with reading with actual decoding, you know, we often are tempted to say things like slow down, read the word again. Okay, break that word up into smaller chunks.
But if a student doesn’t actually know what word chunks they are looking for, then those prompts aren’t going to be helpful. But here’s the really cool thing is when you teach each syllable division rules and when you teach syllable types to your students, then you are giving them tools and you’re giving them a common language that you can prompt them with so that way they can successfully read the big words.
So rather than just telling a student you know, read that word again, slow down, break that word into chunks, you can give them very specific prompts. You could say something like, look, there’s a consonant vowel vowel consonant in the middle of that word. Because we know our syllable division rules, we know that we’re going to split the syllable and between the two vowels. So when we do that, does that help you figure out the word?
Or you could say something like this chunk of words, looks like an r controlled syllable, you know how to read that part. So not only does teaching syllabication gives students tools that will help them confidently read multisyllabic words, but it also gives you as the teacher tools to really confidently provide intervention and reinforcement to students who really need it.
And that’s because our second reason why syllabication is so important to teach is because it gives you an opportunity to review key phonics concepts for your students. And it really gives you as the teacher an idea of which phonics concepts your students might need to explicitly practice.
So I think this is one of the really great benefits of teaching syllabication towards the start of the school year, and it can be really powerful for teachers. And that’s because as you are introducing or reviewing the different syllable types with your students, you’ll also get the opportunity to check in and see what their phonics foundation looks like. And that’s because the syllable types are really rooted in so many key phonics principles that students need to have in order to be fluent readers.
For example, a closed syllable is a syllable that ends in a consonant, it’s the most common type of syllables, and the vowel sound in a closed syllable is usually short. So if your student is struggling to read a word like fantastic, which is all closed syllables, you know, if they want to use a different vowel sound they are, then you know, that they might actually have gaps in their understanding of short vowel sounds. You know, if they can’t read closed syllables, it’s like okay, wait a minute, they’re missing some understanding here in what a short vowel is, and when to use that sound.
So another example is if you are introducing and reviewing vowel team syllables, and a vowel team syllable is a syllable that has two vowels side by side, that are working together to make one sound. And they can also be called vowel digraphs, or diphthongs.
So let’s say you are introducing or reviewing the syllable type the vowel team syllables with your students, and you have a student who’s trying to read the word, employee. And this word actually has two vowel teams, the O Y and the E E. Both are different vowel teams.
And maybe your student sees that word, and they try to read it as Amplo ye. And that would give you a clue that it’s like, okay, they’re really unfamiliar and not confident with the diphthong. OY, and they probably could also use some help reviewing different vowel teams.
And those are just two examples of information you might gather while you’re teaching and introducing the syllable types to your students. And like I said, in order for you to teach the different syllable types, you absolutely have to review key phonics principles, you have to talk about short vowels and long vowels and r controlled vowels and vowel teams. And these are all concepts that come up when you’re teaching syllabication. And they’re also concepts that are essential to being a fluent reader.
But usually, these things aren’t necessarily on the radar of an upper elementary teacher, because they usually get taught in lower elementary, and we assume that our students already know about short vowels, and they already know about long vowels and r controlled vowels and vowel teams.
But when you teach syllabication, you really have the opportunity to check in with your students and see if they have any gaps and would benefit from additional phonics remediation. And if you start focusing on syllabication early on in the year, it’s a really great way just to do a quick check to see it’s like okay, what do my students know in general about vowel sounds and these things that maybe they learned in first and second grade, and you can start to give them intervention early on in the year if you realize they struggle through your syllabication instruction. So really good benefit there.
Okay, the third reason why I think teaching syllabication in upper elementary is so important, is because word recognition is essential if we want our students to be able to comprehend a text and understanding syllable types and syllable division rules is a really big part of being able to successfully decode a text, especially one It has multisyllabic words.
So I feel like word recognition is not something that we talked about a time in upper elementary. And we focus so much on comprehension. And let me be clear, comprehension is always the end goal. Whatever grade we are teaching, ultimately, we are working to help our students fluently read a text with complete understanding, that is the end goal.
But comprehension is also pretty complex. And it’s also dependent upon our students having a strong foundation and other reading skills. And I know that if you’re an upper elementary teacher, you are probably really dialed in to comprehension and teaching comprehension. I know this because you have a lot of standards that connect to a student’s understanding of a text and having them show their understanding of what they’re reading. And you also have that great end of your state tests that in theory, assesses a student’s comprehension on a variety of texts.
But also, comprehension is dependent upon so many other things. So let’s think about this. If you have, you know, I know many of you are already a couple of weeks into the school year. And let’s say you’ve already jumped in, and you are starting to teach key plot or story elements to your students.
And you’ve taught them all about, you know, setting, characters problem solution, theme, they know how to summarize, you’ve done a really great job of teaching all of those key story elements. And you gave your students an assessment where they had to read a passage and correctly identify all of the key story elements, character, setting, problem solution, so on and so on.
Now, if your students bombed that story element assessment, it might not be because they have a poor understanding of story elements. It might be because they actually have poor word recognition skills. And we know that from Scarborough’s reading rope, that in order for students to become a skilled reader, which means fluently reading a text with understanding, then they need to have a good combination of both word recognition skills and language comprehension skills.
And teaching something like story elements would fall under the language comprehension side of things, which is where we tend to put a large percentage of our instructional focus is upper elementary teachers. But if our students are still struggling to decode a text, then it does not matter how much help we give them with language comprehension.
So if your students bombed that story elements assessment, you might be tempted to be like, okay, they need to come to my small group and practice story elements again, and we need to review this whole group and they need more practice. But if they are still struggling with word recognition, then it doesn’t matter how much review you give them of the language comprehension skills. Until we strengthen their word recognition skills, they’re still going to struggle to successfully read and comprehend a text independently.
So word recognition really does need to take up more time and space in our upper elementary classrooms. And syllabication is a really essential part of word recognition. And it’s also a really great way to support students in that area.
Okay, so are you convinced? Are you ready to jump in and start teaching syllabication in upper elementary, especially as we are still in the beginning part of the year? Let me remind you of the three reasons why I think this is such an important concept to teach our students.
First of all, when we teach syllabication it gives students tools to help them decode big word. The second reason is, is that it gives you as a teacher the opportunity to review key phonics skills, and also for you to get an idea of which phonics skills your students might need to explicitly practice throughout the year. And then the third reason is, is that word recognition is really an essential part of the reading process. And if we want our students to be able to comprehend a text, then they need to have strong word recognition skills, and syllabication is really an important part of word recognition.
So like I said, if you are ready to jump right into teaching syllabication, but you need more help getting started, don’t forget to go check out that resource I mentioned earlier in the episode. Our syllable types lesson plan is available on TPT. And it’s also a part of the Stellar Literacy Collective.
And like I said, if you know nothing about the syllable types, but it sounds like something that you want to teach your students then grab this lesson. It has scripted lesson plans, it has Google Slides, you can display it to your students and walk them through the lesson. It’s got anchor charts, student practice pages, really everything you need to be able to clearly teach your students syllable division rules and the syllable types. So you can grab it at stellarteacher.com/syllables. And if you are part of our membership, then you can find it in the word study section.
And I hope you found this episode helpful. And of course, I hope you’re feeling super excited to dig into syllabication with your students this year. Have a stellar week. We will see you back here next Monday.