Recognition and Production of Syllables

Before work on phonemes – sounds that make up a word, children must be able to divide spoken words into syllables or ‘beats’- a task which is easier than finding the individual sounds within words.

In the early activities children are provided with visual representations for the syllables to make the task more concrete. They should also be encouraged to move their body, clap, tap etc., to help them find the syllables as they day the words. Later, spelling is facilitated by matching syllables found in spoken words to their written equivalents.

Syllables can be represented by any number of letters from one to eight. The word understand has three syllables, each of a different number of letters. Un has two, der has three and stand has five letters. Each syllable contains a vowel sound.

Syllables: Suggested Activities
Clapping Syllables
To count syllables in words, activities such as clapping hands, tapping the desk, or marching in place to the syllables in children’s names (Ma-ry), items in the environment (win-dow), or words from a favourite story (wish-y, wash-y), allow the child to learn through a kinaesthetic approach.

Initially two syllable words should be targeted, building up to three. A suitable list is provided.

After determining the number of syllables in their name, ask the children to hold two fingers horizontally under their chins, so they can feel the chin drop for each syllable. To maximise this effect, encourage the children to elongate or stretch each syllable. (this “works” because there is a vowel sound in every syllable and vowel sounds are “open-mouthed sounds”)

As in the game Mother May I? Have your child line up some distance away and face you. Give directions that require them to count the number of syllables in a word. E.g. “You must count the syllables in the word “bunny” – jump that many spaces forward. Children respond “Mummy may we?” With your affirmative response the children say “bunn-y” and they jump two spaces forward. Vary the number of syllables and the type of movements. The first child to reach you is the winner.

Clap Clap Clap Your Hands

Adult: moun…./….tain (children respond ‘mountain”)
Adult: love…/…ly (children respond “lovely”)
Adult: un…./…..der (children respond “under”)

This example suggests two syllable words. However once children are comfortable with this activity, you may include words with three or four syllables.

Have children select pre-cut squares of coloured paper according to how many syllables in their name (Er-I-ca would take three squares, John would take one) Children glue the squares across a piece of paper and draw a picture of themselves. Afterwards children move around the room finding others with the same number of syllables and grouping themselves. Comment to reinforce learning as you move from group to group (“yes! John, Ann, and Jane each have one beat! Lets listen and clap – Ann, John, and Jane. Now lets move to the next group: Zoë, Peter, Richard, Terry. Do they have two beats? Yes! Lets clap them to make sure- Zo-e, Pet-er, Rich-ard, Terr-y”…and so on.

Word List for Syllable Games
1 2 3 4 5
red because potato horizontal alphabetical
nose before hospital extravagant representative
snake breakfast alphabet helicopter international
great cover explosion Australia congratulations
floor delay important electronic intellectual
lunch dinner holiday television examination
thumb distance animal invitation anniversary
book elbow mineral community supplementary
road enter kangaroo illustration ophthalmologist
set exit coconut machinery hypothetical
head flavour afternoon watermelon opportunity
lid himself dinosaur information civilisation
cheese kettle stereo appropriate exaggeration
drum koala wonderful dictionary creativity
door number computer caterpillar antibiotic
elf parent microwave decoration administration

Mrs. Quinn.


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