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How to Introduce the 6 Syllable Types

Literacy, Multisyllabic Words, Phonics, Spelling & Word Work

Written by: Krys Warstillo

I equate teaching syllable types to learning the steps to a new recipe. Initially, I’ll look at the picture of the final product and think, “well, I can’t make that.” That’s how our struggling readers feel when they come upon multi-syllable words. “I can’t read that. That word is too hard. It’s too big.” 

How to Introduce the six syllable types to 2nd grade students

Breaking daunting tasks into bite-size pieces to make them manageable is important to keep us moving forward and growing as learners. Instead of letting a complicated new dish overwhelm me, I can look at the individual steps. Dice? Easy. Saute? Done! Puree? I got this. That’s exactly what syllable types do! They help our students break those big scary words into manageable chunks. These chunks give them the opportunity to use their decoding skills instead of guessing. They also really help with spelling. 

In this post, we’ll go over the six syllable types and some fun ways to introduce them to your students. Keep in mind that as I teach these syllable types and the phonics skills that go arm in arm with them I refer to my Sound Wall often. I want to make sure I always have a reference point for my students to be able to use independently.

classroom sound wall to aid in the teaching of phonics and spelling patterns
Classroom Sound Wall

What Are The Six Syllable Types?

Don’t worry if you don’t know the six syllable types. Many of us were never taught them during undergrad (or even grad school). I know didn’t learn them until I started diving into the Science of Reading. You can watch the video below for a quick breakdown of each syllable type – or read on for a detailed rundown and activities for introducing each type. They’re described in the order I teach them.


Closed Syllables

This is the first type I teach because it is the most common. Closed syllables have one vowel and end in one or more consonants. The vowel sound is usually short. Closed syllables are what we’re teaching when we teach students to read CVC or CVCC words. Those are all closed syllables! Although we generally focus on CVC & CVCC with our youngest learners, closed syllables can vary in length:

  • 2 letters: at, on
  • 3 letters: cat, bit, kin
  • 4 letters: stop, jump
  • 5 letters: crunch, insect

We could go on but you get the idea. All those words have one vowel and end in 1 or more consonants. 

closed syllables have a single vowel followed by a consonant and are often referred to as a CVC pattern

Once students are comfortable sounding out individual closed syllables, introduce multisyllabic words out of context. I try to pull them directly from whatever book we’re currently reading aloud. Examples of closed syllable words include cactus, napkin, rabbit, finish, basket, and problem. Practice breaking multisyllabic words up as a group first. Label the vowels & consonants in each word you’re practicing. As your students gain confidence, gradually release responsibility to your students. 

The two closed syllable words napkin and cactus written on a white board with a line dividing the two syllables in each word

Activities For Introducing Closed Syllables

Shut The Door 

One of my favorite ways to introduce closed syllables is to use the high-frequency words my students already know, and model how adding a consonant at the end (closing the syllable) changes the vowel sound. You can do this activity by drawing it out on a whiteboard, using your actual door, or by folding paper to create a door. I always revisit this activity when I teach open vowels. 

door with five CVC words to demonstrate open versus closed syllables

Candy Bar Closed Syllable Chart

A really easy way to get student buy-in is with candy. When you begin explicitly teaching syllable types use candy to create a delicious anchor chart. Write the name of the syllable type, the definition and glue a candy bar that fits that rule onto the chart. Easy and engaging. 

candy bar syllable chart with a Kit Kat wrapper in the closed syllable column

Collecting Candy Syllable Types Center

This center has a gameboard that focuses on each individual short vowel sound. Students can practice reading closed syllables while playing a fun game. For added practice, ask students to label or highlight vowels & consonants with different colors on their answer sheets. 

closed syllable literacy center game
Collecting Candy Closed Syllable Phonics Center

Open Syllables

open syllables end with a single vowel that is usually a long vowel sound

An open syllable ends with a single vowel. That vowel usually makes a long vowel sound. Open syllables are briefly discussed when students were learning about closed syllables. When I am ready to fully introduce open syllables I go back to my “close the door” models and open those doors back up to make a long vowel sound. Words like him, bed, at, men, went, and got become the words hi, be, a, me, we, and go. My students practice opening and closing the door to reinforce the difference between these two syllable types. 

use an open and closed door visual to show how open and closed syllables work

After my students understand the basics of open and closed syllables I begin pulling in multi-syllabic words that mix the two together. Follow the same routine you used with closed syllables. Choose words like robot, token, and donut. Label all the vowels & consonants and model breaking these words into syllables then sounding them out. 

The two open syllable words token and robot written on a white board with a line dividing the two syllables in each word.

Activities For Introducing Open Syllables

Candy Bar Open Syllable Chart

Keep adding to your candy bar syllable anchor chart. For open syllables, you can add a tube of Rolos.  

candy bar syllable chart with a Rolo wrapper in the open syllable column

Under Construction Open Syllables Center

The Literacy Centers include the Under Construction center that gives students the opportunity to build multisyllabic words with open syllables. This center can be used as independent work or during small group instruction for targeted practice. 

open syllables word construction phonics center activity
Under Construction Open Syllables Phonics Center

Vowel-Consonant-e (VCe) Syllables

A Vowel-consonant-e syllable is called by a lot of other names- silent E, bossy E, magic E, or just VCe. All of them refer to the same thing. There’s a vowel, followed by a consonant and an ending E. The final E turns the vowel before it into a long vowel sound. 

when one vowel is followed by one consonant and the letter e the syllable type is called vowel plus silent e

I introduce this syllable by using some of the CVC words from my closed syllable lessons and showing my students what happens when silent E (I usually call him “bossy E” because it “makes” the vowel say its name) is tacked onto the end. 

I make sure to gradually include words that would end in e but don’t follow the VCe pattern like the words cuddle or little. They end in e but they are not VCe syllables. I want to make sure they know to look carefully at what they’re reading. Silent e has other jobs, after all. As always, map out all the vowels and consonants with students. 

Activities For Introducing VCe Syllables

Candy Bar Silent E Syllable Chart

Keep adding to your candy bar syllable anchor chart. For the VCe syllable, you can add a box of Mike & Ikes.  

candy bar syllable chart with a Mike and Ike wrapper in the silent e syllable column

Take Control VCe Syllable Activity

As a quick exit ticket for my VCe lessons I use an activity I call Take Control! Since that final e is so bossy he can take control and change a word just by being there. I hand out a post-it to each student and review that final E is so powerful that it can change the sound of another vowel. I put CVC words around the room. Some will make a real word when an E is added and some will be nonsense words. Each student will write a giant E on their post-it note. Students will then walk around the room, stick their E to the end of each word and write down all the real words they can create in their literacy notebooks or on a separate sheet of paper. 

"Take Control" silent e syllable type activity in which kids add the letter E to CVC words hidden around the room and determine if the new word is a real word or a nonsense word.
Take Control Silent E Activity

Building New Words Silent E Center

This center has a gameboard that focuses on each individual short vowel sound. Students can practice reading closed syllables while playing a fun game. For added practice, ask students to label or highlight vowels & consonants with different colors on their answer sheets. 

building new words silent e phonics center
Building New Words Silent E Center

Vowel Team (including diphthongs) Syllables

These syllables have two or more letters that work together to create a vowel sound. Normally these are two vowels to create one vowel sound but diphthongs are included in this category too. 

when two or more letters together make one vowel sound the syllable containing that pattern is called a vowel team

I know I am definitely guilty of teaching the phrase, “when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking” in the past. It’s so catchy! Unfortunately, something like half of vowel team syllables don’t follow that rule so into the vault it goes. Instead, I focus on teaching each vowel team and the sound they make. Refer to your reading curriculum for the sequence to teach these teams in. Like all good phonics instruction, these teams should be taught explicitly & systematically. We have a great post on teaching vowel teams if you need some more ideas.

Activities For Introducing Vowel Team Syllables

Vowel Team Literacy Centers

The 1st Grade Phonics Centers has a huge assortment of vowel team centers to choose from. They all review specific vowel teams making it easy to focus student learning. If your students are fluent readers and need something with a little more complexity try out the vowel team centers in the 2nd Grade Phonics Centers

student sorting word and picture cards by the vowel team that is used to spell each word
Long A Vowel Team Sorting Phonics Center

Candy Bar Vowel Team Syllable Chart

Keep adding to your candy bar syllable anchor chart. For open syllables, you can a package of Reese’s. 

candy bar syllable chart with a Reese's wrapper in the vowel teams syllable column

Vowel-r (R-Controlled) Syllable

When a vowel is followed by an r, the vowel is controlled by that r and makes a new sound. The most common name for this syllable type is r-controlled but you may see it called vowel-r, as well. 

when a vowel is followed by an r the vowel is controlled by the r and makes a new sound

These syllables are some of my favorite to teach. Learning r-controlled syllables opens up so many words for students! However, these syllables can be tricky for students so there’s a lot of repetition. 

Generally, I introduce r-controlled vowels in the same order every year- ar, or, then er/ir/ur. Mastering these takes a lot of repetition. When discussing this syllable type with your students remember to practice analyzing and reading multisyllabic words that include all the syllable types they’ve already learned. Some examples are lobster, tiger, corndog, and tutor

The two r-controlled vowel syllable words lobster and tiger written on a white board with a line dividing the two syllables in each word

Activities For Introducing Vowel-R Syllables

Candy Bar R Controlled Syllable Chart

Keep adding to your candy bar syllable anchor chart. For R-controlled syllables, you can add a bag of Starburst. 

candy bar syllable chart with a starburst wrapper in the syllable column

Upgrade Your Burger Center- Multisyllabic Silent E + Review

Now, this center says that it’s targeting silent E and it is but it includes multisyllabic words with all the syllable types your students have learned so far. It’s a great wrap-up to the first 5 types of syllables! You’ll find it in the 2nd Grade Phonics Centers. This is also a great place to stop and check for understanding. If your students are having trouble with this center then some reteaching would benefit your students. Check out these free self-checking CVC/CVC-e Comparison Task Cards. They are great for review and easy to use in the classroom.

Upgrade Your Burger Silent E Burger Center

Consonant-le (C-le) Syllables

when a word ends in a consonant and then le, it is considered a final stable syllable

When a word ends in a consonant followed by LE. It is considered a final stable syllable.  

The two conconant le syllable words cuddle and little written on a white board with a line dividing the two syllables in each word

This is the last syllable I teach my students. I have a little story that I use to introduce it because I somehow turn everything into a little tale. For this syllable, I tell my students that ending LE are the very best of friends and they want to throw a party so they invite their consonant neighbor. I map out this syllable type by labeling the vowels and consonants but underlining the ending LE and then scooping up the neighbor. 

The two consonant le syllable words table and puzzle written on a white board with a line dividing the two syllables in each word

Activities For Introducing Consonant-le Syllables

Candy Bar Consonant LE Syllable Chart

Finish your candy bar syllable anchor chart. For consonant-le syllables, you can add a bag of Skittles.  

syllable chart with candy bar wrappers in each of the six different syllable columns

Magic Sparkles Final Stable Syllable Center

This center (found in the 2nd grade Phonics Centers) has magical final stable syllables that your students will practice adding onto multi-syllable words that feature all of the other syllable types. For added complexity and practice ask students to label the syllable types they find in each complete word on their answer sheet. 

final stable syllables magic sparkles phonics center activity in which students practice adding final stable syllables onto multisyllable words that feature all syllable types

Multisyllabic Toothy Activities

Another great wrap-up activity is the Multisyllable Toothy Pack. It is a wonderful self-paced and self-correcting way for students to review all the syllable types they’ve learned. You can use it whole group to begin. Discuss each word as it comes up and break each down into syllables and name each syllable. Then, gradually give the reins over to your students until they’re working on their own.


What Order Do I Teach The Syllable Types In?

I use the order I laid them out above. This order follows along with most Science of Reading aligned phonics curriculums. While you’re teaching these syllable types don’t be afraid to pull individual or groups of students who are struggling with a specific syllable type.


Syllable Types Resources Mentioned in This Post

For starters, a Science of Reading Sound Wall will set your phonics lessons up for success!

SHOP THIS POST

sound wall and phonics posters

Sound Wall & Phonics Posters


If you’re in need of some small group intervention materials for your literacy block take a look at the Small Group & Intervention Literacy Kit. From the basics of decoding to the tricky business of encoding, it’s got you covered.

SHOP THIS POST

toothy task kits

Small Group & Intervention Literacy Kit


If independent, partner, or small group practice is what you’re after, our 2nd grade Phonics Centers have all kinds of activities to keep kids interested and learning about syllables! Bonus: These activities make AWESOME whole group lessons too!

SHOP THIS POST

toothy task kits

Printable & Digital Phonics Centers


How about the perfect engaging activity to review syllable types during centers or morning work? Our Multisyllable Toothy Pack is just the ticket!

SHOP THIS POST

toothy task kits

Multisyllabic Words Toothy


Decoding Multi-Syllable Words 

This is part of the Decoding Multi-Syllable Words series. Click the links below for more posts in this series:

ideas for teaching the six syllable types

8 Comments

  1. Mrs. Mary Bauman

    I love these activities

    Reply
  2. Katie

    Is there a bundle of the activities that are featured in your post for syllable types???

    Reply
    • Jess Dalrymple

      Hello Katie, we are working on creating more resources to support the teaching of multisyllabic word decoding. Right now, you can download a set of free multisyllabic teaching tools here: https://luckylittlelearners.com/multisyllabic-freebie/

      Reply
  3. Trisha Langley

    How can I get all your materials that go with all of the 6 syllable types you used? I love what you have done.
    Thank you
    Trisha Langley

    Reply
  4. Tea

    Hi! I’m confused. Where do I purchase the resources for the six syllables?

    Reply
  5. Chris

    These are wonderful! Teaching syllables is a huge part of my word work that we apply in our reading and writing. I love your resources and ideas. I’ll put them to good use! Thank you for the freebie.

    Reply

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Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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