Syllables: Types & Principles

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Did you know that there are different types of syllables that can help teachers and students with decoding and spelling skills? In this lesson, we will learn how to break down syllables into six different types that can be used to teach decoding and spelling skills to students.

Breaking Words into Decodable Chunks

Why are syllables important? Syllables are units of unbroken sounds that combine to form words. When students understand syllabication, they are able to break down longer words into easily decodable chunks. In English orthography, or spelling conventions, six main categories of syllables have been identified. Let's learn more about different types of syllables students will encounter when reading and spelling.

Syllable Types

In this section each syllable type will be defined and examples will be provided.

  • Closed syllables are syllables that end with a consonant. One syllable words that are closed syllables include the words: train, belt, and at. Multisyllabic words, or words with more than one syllable, may consist of two closed syllables. For example, the following words consist of two closed syllables: banner and pilgrim. These words would be divided between consonants (ban ner, pil grim). Multisyllabic words may also consist of closed syllables combined with another syllable type.
  • Vowel-Consonant-e syllables contain a long vowel sound that is followed by a consonant and a silent 'e'. Examples of VCe syllables include: lake and care. An example of a multisyllabic word that contains both a closed syllable and a vowel-consonant-e syllable is folklore. 'Folk-' is a closed syllable, '-lore' is a VCe syllables.
  • Open syllables end with a long vowel sound that is not followed by a consonant. For example, one syllable words, such as 'be' and 'hi', are open syllables. The multisyllabic word, defend, combines the open syllable (de-), with the closed syllable (-fend).
  • Vowel Team syllables are combinations of between two and four vowel letters that combine to make one vowel sound. For example, the words coin and chief use two vowel letters to create a vowel team syllable. In some cases, the consonant letter acts as part of the vowel team. For example, in the words thaw, boy, and brought, the letters g, h, w, and y are consonants that are used to create vowel sounds.
  • Vowel-r syllables are syllables in which the sound of the vowel is changed because of the 'r' that follows it. Words that contain vowel-r syllables include: perforate and meteor.
  • Consonant-le syllables are syllables that are created by adding a consonant plus '-le' to an open or closed syllable. For example, words that combine consonant-le to an open syllable include: bible and ogle. Multisyllabic words that are a combination of closed syllables and consonant-le syllables include: ripple and mingle.

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