The 6 syllable types are the building blocks for all words in the English language. If you have not been teaching syllable types and are not familiar with the 6 syllable types don’t worry this blog post will explain them and the free anchor charts at the end of the post will be here for support! Word reading fluency is all about reading vowel sounds correctly. To decode vowels correctly, students must know the 6 syllable types fluently. It’s phonics knowledge that all children need to know.
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What is a Syllable?
A syllable is an uninterrupted segment of sound made from the opening and closing of the mouth to form vowels. Every syllable has at least one vowel sound. If a student has poor phonological awareness skills and cannot count syllables by the beat of the word then ask them “How many times did your jaw drop?” Every time your jaw drops, you have said one vowel sound and one syllable.
Being able to discern between types of syllables is an essential part of reading for beginning and struggling readers.
Take for instance single syllable words like ‘hat’ and ‘meat’; these contain just one syllable. By comparison, two-syllable words such as ‘bathtub’ or ‘napkin’ feature two distinct vowel sounds within them.
As you have likely noticed, the vowel count of a word is not always straightforward. – in some cases, 2 vowels come together to form one sound and one syllable. For example, the word ‘meat’ has a vowel team but only one syllable.
6 Syllable Types
Learning the 6 syllable types will help students be able to decode unfamiliar words.
Six main types make up all words:
- closed syllable-ends in one or more consonants
- open syllable has a single vowel in the final position in the syllable ( I usually introduce the concept of these first two syllable types together with simple one syllable words.)
- vowel-consonant-e syllable ends in one vowel, one consonant, and a final silent e
- diphthong syllable or vowel team syllable has two vowels
- R-controlled syllables
- consonant le syllables AKA final stable syllable
The phonics skills of learning how to recognize and read each of the 6 syllable types easily help students read and spell more accurately and fluently. Once you pair the 6 syllable types with syllable division rules beginning and struggling students will be on their way to reading more fluently with short vowels and long vowels.
Understanding the closed syllable is an essential part of early reading education, as closed syllables comprise a majority of English words. It features one vowel closed in by at least 1 consonant. When a single vowel is in a closed syllable the vowel makes a short sound; example words include ‘mom’, ‘bed’, ‘in’ and ‘jump’.
Not just smaller words
As students master syllable rules they are set up to decode multi syllabic words. Teaching students closed syllables can take them quickly to more complex words and longer words. I like to use syllable cards to build longer words using real and nonsense syllables so that they become skilled in using all syllable types.
Motivate Struggling Readers
Reading multisyllabic words is extremely important when doing interventions with older struggling readers. After teaching students how to divide words students can read two-syllable words like ‘bandit’, or ‘picnic’ or even three-syllable words like ‘fantastic’ or ‘Atlantic’. Teaching syllable types can truly open up the word of reading for struggling students. The first time they read a multisyllabic word I guarantee their face will light up! Learn more about teaching closed-syllable words here!
Open syllables and closed syllables are usually taught together or right after teaching closed syllables. Remember in closed-syllable words one vowel is closed in by one or more consonants and has a short sound. In contrast, an open syllable ends in a vowel and has a long vowel sound. Some examples are: we, no, and me.’
Also when the letter <y> is acting as a vowel it can end an open syllable. Some examples would be by, fly, my, and happy.
Open and closed syllables in multi syllabic words
Open syllables are in multisyllabic words as well. Some examples are spi-der, ba-con, hu-man, and ro-bot. I use syllable cards to show open syllables in a very visual way. When the first syllable is alone on a card the syllable type becomes more visually obvious than when it is just shown together on a word card or worksheet.
With this knowledge readily available for first graders who already have prior experience with closed syllables under their belts; teachers may benefit from teaching open and closed syllables side by side!
Scope and Sequence for Teaching Types of Syllables So Far
- Understanding short and long vowel sounds
- Understanding closed vs. open syllables
Vowel-consonant-e syllable – vce
Teachers should consider introducing the VCE Syllable (Vowel-Consonant-e) to their students next. By adding a silent ‘e’ at the end of Closed Syllable CVC words such (Cub–> Cube, Dim–>Dime, Hop–>Hope etc.), it signals the vowel before it to say its name or long sound This syllable type goes by many names: Silent E, Magic E or Sneaky E!
Examples of longer words with VCe Syllables
This syllable type is also found in two-syllable words. Examples words are: ‘complete’ athlete, and ‘extreme.’
Learning VCE syllables is a critical phonics skill for young learners and is an important building block when learning how reading works.
R-controlled syllable – vr
Vowel R syllables are often referred to as the “Bossy r”. This is a great name because with an r-controlled vowels syllable, the r “controls” the vowel sound. The letter R before vowel will change the pronunciation of the vowel. Bossy r is a tricky one! It’s tricky because it only changes the vowel sound when that vowel is before the r. Some words with r controlled vowels are: ‘her’, ‘bird’, ‘nurse’, and ‘fork’.
Speech Issues Can Become Learning Issues
The r-controlled syllable is also difficult for many students with speech and language issues to learn because many students with dyslexia or struggling readers also struggle with saying the letter <r> sound.
Syllable patterns with r-controlled vowels are not usually difficult for typically developing readers for reading fluency.
R controlled Spelling
However, this syllable pattern is often problematic for spelling because the graphemes,<er>, <ir>,<ur> all say the same sound, and spelling rules are not as helpful with these patterns. You can read more about r controlled syllables here.
Vowel Team Syllable (Including the Diphthong Syllable)
Vowel teams are made up of two or more letters that come together to form a single vowel sound. While Vowel Digraphs and Diphthongs differ in how they produce their sounds, both can be easily grouped under the umbrella term ‘vowel team’.
The difference between a diphthong and a vowel team syllable type
When studying vowel team syllable type, it’s important to explain the difference between vowel teams or vowel digraphs and diphthongs. Vowel teams involve two or more letters that together make a single sound.
These vowel sounds are usually long, but they can be a short vowel sound like <ea> saying the short ĕ sound (e.g. ‘ea’ in ‘head’ or the word ‘sweater’).
By comparison, diphthongs require your mouth to slide from one position into another while voicing both vowels – like with ‘ou’ as in the word trout. For example, try saying
/ē/ as in meat; there should be no changing mouth position since this is not a diphthong – now say /ou/ as in the word ‘south’, feeling how your mouth opens then closes before finishing up. While kids may not need to know the exact name of a diphthong, it is important to recognize how their mouths move.
Make Your Syllable Lesson Multi sensory
Make your lesson with vowel team syllables more fun and multisensory by having small mirrors available for your students so they can watch how their mouths move as they say these sounds.
Examples of Diphthongs
I like to keep things simple when teaching the 6 syllable types so I group both the vowel teams and the diphthongs into the vowel teams syllable category.
Common Diphthongs are a type of “vowel team” that includes combinations such as <ow>, <ou>, <au>, <aw>, <oi> and<oy>. Learn more about teaching Vowel Teams syllables here.
Can a Vowel Team Have a Consonant in it?
Have you ever wondered why <ow> (as in glow) and,<igh> like in “right” are classified as vowel teams because they contain consonants? It’s all about their vowel sound.
It is not based on the look of two vowels so we need to focus on the sounds and point these variations in syllables out to our students.
Consonant-le syllable – v-le
Consonant + le is a fun syllable to teach and learn. A silent e acts as the marker of this type of syllable, providing structure for the syllable because every syllable must have a vowel. The silent e is present but without making any sound itself! The consonant le syllable is always unaccented and in the final position in words. Examples are -cle, dle, tle ple, fle ,gles kle ble and zle . Because it is always in the unaccented syllable it says the schwa sound /ŭ/ with /l/. This is usually the last syllable type I teach so it is not confused with the CVe “magic e” syllable.
Do you want to become an expert at syllable division now that you know syllable types? Syllable division needs to be paired with the 6 syllable types to be successful. Be sure to check out this guide on division rules for everything you need.
By understanding the 6 syllable types, you can help your students become skilled readers and spellers. Learning types of syllables is helpful for all readers but is essential for struggling readers. Without this knowledge, students lack the tools they need to attack unfamiliar words. This leads to guessing which is very harmful to reading proficiency. With practice and repetition, you can help your students master each syllable type and become stronger readers. Why not download all the wonderful 6-syllable types posters contained in this article and grab some of the games for syllable types in my store? Have fun with syllables and Happy Smart and Special Teaching!
Download the 6 Syllable Types Posters
What are the 6 syllable types?
The 6 syllable types are open, closed, vowel team, consonant-le, r-controlled and silent e.
Why teach the 6 syllable types?
When children learn syllable types it gives them the tools to know how to read the vowel sounds in a word correctly without having to guess. This leads to more accurate and fluent reading for all children but especially for older students who struggle.
What are the 6 syllable rules?
A closed syllable has 1 short vowel followed by 1 or more consonants closing it in. An open syllable end in a vowel sound and says its long sound. A silent e syllable ends in a silent e and signals that the vowel will say its long sound. A vowel team syllable has 2 or more letter that come together to say one sound. An r-controlled has a vowel followed by the letter <r> and the /r/sound is the prominent sound in the syllable. The consonant +le syllable is always at the end word in an unaccented syllable and says the schwa sound /ul/. The <e> is silent.