Post 4: Syllable Types

A syllable is a word, or part of a word, with 1 vowel sound. A simple trick to help students understand and count syllables is to put your hand under your jaw. Due to the fact that each syllable has a vowel sound, your jaw will drop for each syllable in a word.

The type of syllable affects the sound the vowel(s) make(s). Here are the main types of syllables that you can teach to help with decoding and spelling.

Closed Syllable

  • a syllable where a single vowel is followed by 1 or more consonant(s), the vowel will make its short sound
  • e.g, cat, flip, hush, stop, stuck
  • it doesn’t matter what comes before the vowel, it’s what comes after the vowel that matters
  • exceptions are the wild, old words: ‘ild’ as in ‘wild’, ‘old’ as in ‘cold’, ‘olt’ as in ‘colt’, ‘ind’ as in ‘kind’

Open Syllable

  • a syllable with a single vowel at the end, the vowel will make its long sound
  • e.g., go, he, my (the y acts as the vowel), or multi-syllabic words like ta-ble (‘ta’ is an open syllable)
  • exceptions – to, do

Vowel – Consonant – e (Magic e)

  • the vowel says its name and the ‘e’ stays silent
  • e.g., cake, here, mile, home, cube
  • exceptions – when the consonant is a ‘v’ (English words don’t end in ‘v’, so words like ‘give’ and ‘live’ have the ‘e’ added on for that reason teach students to be flexible when they see ‘ve’
  • other common exceptions – come/some, there/where, were

Vowel Teams

  • two or more letters work together in a syllable to make 1 sound
  • e.g, eat, street, boat, day, snow (‘y’ and ‘w’ act like vowels when they follow another vowel)
  • occasionally, ‘gh’ words with a vowel to form a vowel team (-igh, augh, ough)

R-controlled vowels

  • when an ‘r’ follows one or more vowels, the ‘r’ controls the vowel sound
  • e.g, ‘ar’ in far, ‘er’ in her, ‘ir’ in first and ‘ur’ in hurt, ‘ear’ in early
  • ‘ar’ and ‘or’ are usually easy to distinguish, but ‘er’, ‘ir’ and ‘ur’ sound exactly the same


  • the “consonant-le” becomes its own syllable
  • e.g., table (‘ble’ is its own syllable), little (‘tle’ is its own syllable), gurgle (‘gle’ is its own syllable), etc.

Other – Stable Final syllables

It is also important to introduces ‘Stable Final Syllables’. These suffixes are stable (consistent spelling) and are only found at the end of words. Students need to be taught them as a unit to be heard and spelled.

  • ion, ion, ian, ure, ial, ure, age, ial, etc.,

If you are new to Structured Literacy and are looking for an entry point, learning and teaching about Syllable Types can be a great place to start. Consider teaching Syllable Types as a part of your Word Study program. As students begin to learn about the patterns inherent in our language, they become pattern detectives and begin to seek more patterns as they read and write. If you are new to Syllable Types, start with “closed syllables”. Don’t be afraid to created a “wonder wall” for words you are not sure about. Pattern hunting can be contagious for students and educators alike, and can cause a powerful shift in the way we view our language and the way we approach word solving when reading and writing.

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