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Exploring the 6 Syllable Types: A Closer Look

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Updated on
Modified on November 17, 2023
Quick Takeaway
Syllables form the core structure of words, with six primary types playing a pivotal role in literacy development: closed, open, vowel-consonant-e, vowel team, consonant-le, and r-controlled. Mastery of recognizing these syllables is vital for reading, spelling, and decoding. While spoken syllables divide around the vowel sound, written syllables align with specific patterns, helping determine word pronunciation. Familiarity with these syllable types aids students in segmenting and blending unfamiliar words, boosting reading confidence. Effective teaching strategies, like clapping or tapping out syllables or visually segmenting words, can help students grasp these concepts, laying a strong foundation for lifelong literacy.

Syllables are the building blocks of words, and understanding the different types of syllables is crucial for literacy development. Syllables produce one continuous segment of sound that contains one vowel sound, whereas syllable types are specific syllable patterns of vowel and consonant combinations within a syllable. Proficiency in recognizing and decoding syllable types is a fundamental skill for proficient reading and spelling.

At Voyager Sopris Learning®, we are dedicated to helping students and educators achieve success in literacy, and that begins with understanding syllable types. Our products and resources, like the Sound Library included in our reading intervention Voyager Passport®, play a pivotal role in aiding students at all levels in understanding syllable types and effectively improving their foundational literacy skills.

Understanding Syllables

Understanding syllables is vital for literacy because it forms the foundation of reading and spelling. Learning key foundational literacy concepts like phonics, syllable division, phonological awareness, and decoding all rely on a solid grasp of syllables themselves. They all build upon the other: 

  • Phonics teaches the relationship between sounds and letters. Understanding syllables goes hand in hand with understanding how to break down words into manageable units for pronunciation and decoding. Understanding the structure of words allows students to recognize syllable division in words. 

  • Phonological awareness encompasses the ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds within words, including syllables, contributing to improved reading skills.

  • Decoding refers to the ability to convert written words into spoken language, and understanding syllables helps decode multisyllabic words.

  • Syllables can be singular, one-syllable words, or multisyllabic words (as in more than one syllable sound) making them essential for comprehending the structure of words. 

The Difference Between Spoken and Written Syllables

Understanding syllables is essential to becoming fluent readers and writers. However, there is a difference in spoken and written syllables and how we divide them. When we speak, we divide the syllable around the vowel sound in each word. Syllable division in spoken language relies on phonological awareness and phonemes, with examples found in both one-syllable words and multisyllabic words. Students must first understand the units of sound and how they structure words.

Let’s take a look at words with different types of syllables. Say them aloud as you read:

  • Mat
  • Brittle
  • Gain
  • Late
  • Literacy
  • A
  • Middle
  • Shatter

Notice how your pronunciation of each of these syllable types does not necessarily match how we see them written. That is because spoken syllable divisions do not always coincide with the syllable patterns we see in written words. In written language, syllable division involves recognizing syllable patterns like vowel-consonant-e syllables, closed syllables, and open syllables, in their distinct spelling patterns. These spelling patterns help readers determine how to pronounce a word they read in print, considering the context and word structure. 

Both spoken and written syllables are essential for effective communication and literacy. Phonological awareness skills help students decode and blend words when speaking, and understanding how phonemes correspond with graphemes helps them advance to reading and writing. These skills set the foundation for a lifetime of reading, learning, and communication.

The 6 Types of Syllables

1. Closed Syllables

Words with closed syllables have a short vowel sound and are enclosed with consonants. These words can have one syllable or be multisyllabic. Examples of common one-syllable words with closed syllables are “cat,” “bed,” and “stuff.” Words that follow the consonant-vowel-consonant pattern (like “cat” and “bed” but not “stuff”) are known as CVC words. CVC words have closed syllables and they are one-syllable words with a short vowel sound in between two consonants. Examples of multisyllabic words with closed syllables are “napkin,” “kingdom,” and “magnet.” 

2. Open Syllables

An open syllable ends with a long vowel sound and is spelled with a single vowel, usually without any consonants. Open syllables can be in the first syllable or second syllable of a word. Common open syllables are: “I,” “a,” “go,” and “open.” The vowels are not attached to each other and may stand alone.

3. Vowel-Consonant-e Syllables

Vowel-consonant-e words are also known as VCe words. They end in a final “e,” also known as a silent "e," making the preceding vowel a long vowel. Educators may also call VCe syllables magic “e” when teaching them to students, so they can remember what sound the vowels should make when learning to read. We see the magic “e” in words like “bike,” “gate,” or “fine.”

For a more seamless teaching transition toward the VCe pattern, add the silent “e” to common CVC words to turn them into VCe words so your students can see how it changes the vowel sound.

4. Vowel Team Syllables

Reading becomes more advanced when learning vowel team syllables. These syllables are also known as diphthongs or vowel digraphs. Vowel team syllables involve two vowels working together as a team to create one vowel sound. The vowels do not have to be the same letter to form one sound. For example, “boat,” “moon,” and “eight” are all vowel digraphs.

5. Consonant-le Syllables

Consonant-le syllables do not have a vowel sound. The “-le” syllable comes at the end of a word and tends to show up in longer words. It falls in the last syllable of a word and ends with a consonant, followed by "le" or variations of it, such as “cle,” “dle,” “fle,” “gle,” “ple,” “ble.” The silent “e” at the end gives the word a unique pronunciation. We see this in words like “table,” “purple,” and “turtle.”

6. R-controlled Syllables

An r-controlled syllable contains one vowel followed by the letter "r," resulting in a distinctive sound. R-controlled vowels are also known as “bossy r” words because the “r” after the vowel indicates how the vowel is pronounced. R-controlled words include “bird,” “barn,” or “fern.”

Teaching Syllable Types

Teaching syllable types is vital for helping struggling readers, especially those with dyslexia or other learning disabilities. When learners come to an unfamiliar word, they may get frustrated or discouraged if they can’t decode it. This may lead to them skipping words, which inhibits comprehension, or frustration with reading altogether. When students understand the six syllable types in spoken and written form, they can better segment and blend unfamiliar words, resulting in more confident, fluent readers. Teaching students syllable types gives them the confidence to tackle longer words and comprehend the text. 

When teaching syllable types, demonstrate spoken syllable divisions by clapping out the syllables in a word as a class. Students can also tap the syllables they hear on their fingers to demonstrate divisions and understand syllable patterns. Teachers can also “chop” words on the board to demonstrate how words divide based on syllable patterns. Identifying the vowels, consonants, and divisions as a class can help readers understand how to do it themselves when reading and speaking.

Rules of the English language can be tricky, especially for young learners. We are committed to unlocking the power of literacy through resources that are aligned with the science of reading. With teachers equipped with evidence-based solutions, we can create confident readers.

Importance of Understanding Syllable Types

Understanding syllable types is a cornerstone of literacy, contributing to proficient reading, spelling, and decoding skills. Teaching syllables helps students recognize syllable patterns in spoken and written language, which determines how they will read and pronounce words for the rest of their lives. 

Voyager Sopris Learning provides valuable intervention programs that empower educators to lay a strong foundation in literacy for students who need additional support. We know that effectively teaching syllable types is a key part of laying those foundational skills. Explore how our intervention programs help students master and enhance their literacy skills.

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