Teaching closed syllables is so helpful to beginning and struggling readers. Closed syllable type words are those that have a single vowel letter followed by one or more consonant letters, such as in a one-syllable CVC word as “hat” or with an ending consonant blend as in “fast.” Open Syllables end in a vowel and the vowel says its long sound or its name.
The Most Common Syllable Pattern
Teaching Closed Syllables is like finding pieces of a puzzle. Closed syllables make up about 50% of all written words. With so many words using this syllable type, teaching kids these familiar patterns can help students tackle one-syllable words and then multi-syllable words as well with this one closed syllable type.
What are the 6 Syllable Types?
It is helpful to know that there are six main syllable patterns. Utilize the useful VELCRO acronym–Vowel Team Syllable, Vowel Consonant E syllable, Consonant +Le syllable, Closed, R controlled syllable, and open syllable!
To help students remember each type, we’ll start with one of the easiest: closed syllable words. They are the most common syllable type so it makes sense to teach this syllable type first. In this article, we’ll go over how to easily introduce it in your classroom.
Why Teach Syllable Types
In a structured literacy program, children need to learn syllable patterns with explicit syllable rules and instruction. Without this guidance, students may become prone to random errors and guessing when decoding or encoding unfamiliar words.
Syllables Give Students a Strategy for Unfamilar Words
Kids will be able to have a strategy to decode words that are unknown to them if they understand syllable types and syllable division. Teaching closed syllables will help students gain confidence as readers and increase their capacity when working on multisyllabic words in more complex texts down the line.
What Are Closed & Open Syllable Types?
Kids can easily learn closed syllables, which are composed of a short vowel letter followed by one or more consonants. Take ‘bat’ as an example–the short vowel is <a> closed in by the <c> and the letter <t> that ends it off.
The same principle applies to words like ‘an’; here just a single consonant closes out this word. The word ‘fast’ is another example because there are two consonants closing in the vowel.
In a closed syllable, the vowel makes a short vowel sound. Although there may be a few exceptions such an<i> or <l> followed by two consonants -ind, -old,-ild and-ost which are known as closed syllable exceptions.
How to Teach Closed Syllables
Review the difference between vowels and consonants
Before teaching closed syllables, students need to have a clear understanding of the difference between vowel sounds and consonant sounds. So always start the lesson with an alphabet strip and have the students identify the vowels. Have students say the vowel’s short sound and then tell them that the long sound for a vowel is the name of the letter.
Have students say long vowel sounds and short vowel sounds
My struggling readers and those with dyslexia often struggle with remembering vowel sounds. I will often use hand gestures or keywords to trigger the sounds for them.
- The hand pretending to hold an apple is the hand gesture for short vowel sound <a>.
- An index finger running along the desk edge for short vowel sound <e> for edge.
- Pretend to scratch their arm for the short vowel sound <i> ‘itch’.
- Wiggle your fingers to imitate an octopus for the short vowel sound <o>.
- Point up for the short vowel sound <u>
These hand gestures are great because students can make a mental picture of the keywords if they are struggling with vowel sounds.
Use letter tiles to tell a story
I like to begin teaching teaching closed syllables and teaching open syllables with a story. Open Vowels can travel a long way on a trip and closed vowels can only travel a short way because they are closed in. I like to first teach closed and open syllables with letter tiles. I will make a word like ‘met’ and show how the consonant closes in the vowel <e> so the <e> says its short vowel sound. The <e> cannot take a long trip. It can only travel a short way because it is closed in.
Contrast between Open and Closed Syllable Types
But if my <t> is not closing the <e> in then it can travel a long way and it says its long vowel sound. It says ‘me’. Then I tell the same story with ‘hid’ and ‘hi’. ‘Wet’ and ‘we’ can also be used.
An open syllable ends in a vowel and says its long sound that is the vowel’s name.
Give students lots of opportunities to practice simple closed syllables
Students can read real closed syllables and nonsense closed syllables to gain fluency and accuracy with this syllable type. When teaching closed syllables teachers may want to have students mark closed syllables with a breve to indicate the short vowel.
|Open Syllable||Closed Syllable|
Have students read nonsense words
Nonsense words enable students to practice reading new and unfamiliar words by breaking down syllables, helping them decode challenging word structures. They are not real words but they follow typical spelling patterns in English. If you are teaching closed syllables. I highly recommend you use wordlists that contain real and nonsense words. I will explain why below.
Nonsense closed syllable words become real multi-syllable words
Students may be uncomfortable with a word if it doesn’t look like something or sound like something that they know, but the reality is many these syllables come together to form real words. /Viv/, /eth/ and /id/ are a few examples of nonsense words with this type of closed syllable structure.
They are nonsense syllables but when put in words make ‘vivid’ and ‘ethnic’ not every part of a multi-syllabic word is real, but our students have to know that they can decode anything in front of them. It can be useful to have students read nonsense words with closed syllables.
Teaching closed Syllables can help Students read multisyllable words
The first step in teaching closed syllables is to teach students to read CVC words. Once CVC words have been taught the closed syllable in a one-syllable word. Then students must practice reading closed syllables with some automaticity and accuracy.
Then it can be very motivating to read multi-syllable words with two or more closed syllables. This is especially true for older struggling readers who need remediation that is appropriate and motivating for them. Here are some questions that you can have your students ask to be able to read a multisyllabic word.
Questions to guide multi-syllable closed syllable words
Let’s pretend your student will be reading the word subtract with letter tiles.
We would first ask some questions:
- Do you see some vowels? (Yes)
- Are they together or are they apart? (Apart)
*This will be important with vowel team syllables
And if I see two vowels and they are apart from each other, meaning that they’re separated by consonants, that’s a strong indication that this word is going to have two syllables.
- Pull down the vowels.
- Will the vowel will say its long vowel sound or its short sound in a closed syllable? (their short sound).
- What are the short vowels for the syllables?
- Bring down my consonants for each syllable and close in the short vowel. (The student may want to keep the blend <tr> together.)
- Touch and say the first closed syllable. (sub)
- Touch and say the second closed syllable. (tract)
- Blend the 2 syllables. My word ‘subtract’.
Mastering Closed Syllable Patterns for Reading Success
Closed syllable patterns are a critical component of learning to read. Teaching students to decode and blend these syllables correctly is an important part of their reading journey.
By teaching closed syllables to students and providing practice with real words and nonsense words, students have the opportunity to become more accurate, confident readers.
Giving them the chance to see how two or three closed syllables can make a new word gives them an even greater sense of accomplishment. With lots of practice and support, teachers can help their students gain mastery of the strategies for decoding words with closed syllables. Students can become more fluent readers who recognize words with confidence.
|Open Syllable Words||Closed Syllable Words|
FAQ: What is a closed syllable?
A closed syllable is a syllable in which the vowel sound is followed by at least one consonant. It has a short vowel sound and ends with at least 1 consonant.
FAQ: What makes a closed syllable different from an open syllable?
An open syllable is a syllable in which the vowel sound is not followed by any consonants. It has a long vowel sound. Open syllables are found at the ends of words, such as ‘go’ or ‘me’, or in a prefix such as: pre- or de-.