Teaching syllables to children doesn’t have to be a highly-intensive task! Here are a few simple ways to integrate syllable learning into the day, whether in the classroom or at home. These activities don’t require any prep work, so they’re perfect to use “on the fly”. How do you teach this important reading readiness concept?
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what are syllables?
Syllables are the chunks of words that we naturally create when speaking – unbroken sounds that make up words. They can be vowel sounds on their own or with accompanying consonant sounds. When I explain it to young children, I say something along the lines of , “a syllable is part of a word.” Yes, that’s incredibly simplistic! I find that the experience in breaking words down into syllables is more important than the definition (for young kids).
movement-based syllable activities
Little kids need to move around a lot, so why not incorporate some physical activities while teaching syllables!? In addition to being fun, it also really directs the children’s attention to the different number of syllables in words. Here are some ideas –
- The Syllable Hop – Explain that everyone will hop in time with the syllables of a word. Remind the kiddos what syllables are and model the activity quickly. Depending on what the kids understand, this could be a shadow activity – you say the word, model it, and then have the kiddos copy what you did. Say words that the children know and have fun hopping around!
- Syllable Number Run – Set up a space that has enough room for the kiddos to run around. Even better, take the game outside! Place a 1 in one area, a 2 in a different spot, and a 3 in a third spot. Shout a word and have the children run to the number that represents the correct amount of syllables. Say the word slowly, broken down into syllables, to help children self-correct.
- Kick the Syllable – Grab a couple of kick balls or soccer balls, of any are handy. If not, the kiddos can pretend to be kicking a ball instead. This is another one that would be great outside! If inside, I’d suggest a smaller, softer ball of some kind. Say a word slowly and have the kids will kick out for every syllable in a word. If some balls are on-hand, set them up based on the word. For example, ‘snow’ would have just one ball, while ‘kitten’ would have two. Kids can kick the ball for each syllable.
teaching syllables with kids’ names
Regular readers of Fun-A-Day know how much I love using children’s names in preschool! Names are super important to young kiddos, and children are more interested in learning when their names are involved. So use the children and their names when teaching syllables! Here are a few no-prep ideas to do just that:
- Incorporate the kids’ names into any of the above movement-based activities.
- Line the children up based on the syllables in their names! “If you have 2 syllables in your name, please get in line.” “Let’s clap the syllables in our friends’ names as we get ready to go outside. Mary is first! Mar-y! 2 syllables!”
- Play a silly stand up and sit down game with the kids. “Stand up if you have 1 syllable in your name. Sit down if you have 2 syllables in your name.”
- Sort the children based on how many syllables are in their names. “Let’s have everyone with 4 syllables stand by the reading center. If you have 2 syllables in your name, stand by the block center.”
- Play a quick “I’m thinking of . . .” game using the kids’ names. “I’m thinking of a person who has 2 syllables in her name. Her name starts with B.”
more simple syllable activities
As I mentioned above, teaching syllables doesn’t need to be a big production. It can be interwoven into the aspects of the home or preschool day. A few other ways to bring the kids’ attentions to syllables within words:
- Integrate a quick syllable comment into a consistent part of the day. For example, when discussing the calendar. At the beginning of the month, model clapping the syllables in the name of the month. The kids will start joining in soon. By the end of the month, most of them will be able to lead this without help.
- Break up known words into syllables, stretching the word out. “It’s time to go out-side. Oooh, outside has two syllables.” Clap along to bring more attention to the differentiation of syllables in the words.
- Make up silly tunes to go along with this. For example – “Kit-ten has two syllables, doo-dah! Doo-dah! Kit-ten has two syllables, oh the doo-dah day!” Nothing fancy at all, but it makes the kids giggle when I do that. Eventually, they’ll join in too!
What are some easy-peasy, no preparation required activities do you use when teaching syllables to the kiddos? I’d love to add some more ideas to my “toolbox.”
Be sure to keep up with The Ultimate Guide to Learning to Read! I’ll be updating that post throughout the year as more and more activities are shared!