Phonics Part 6: Open and Closed Syllables

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

We used 2 snow days here, so we had some extra time to catch up (or sleep in).  This gave me time to reflect on my past phonics posts and determine that information on open and closed syllables might be helpful for this one. For those who use the Literacy First Assessment, this skill is tested in first and second grade. So what are open and closed syllables? And what are some ways to help students decode them? How can students apply this knowledge to multi-syllabic words? FREE activities below.

Closed Syllables

  • The vowel is closed in (or trapped) between two consonants and usually makes the short vowel sound.
  • Examples in one-syllable words:  cvc patterns such as hot, big, mat, pen, tub
  • Examples in two-syllable words: picnic (pic-nic), rabbit (rab-bit), pencil (pen-cil), tablet (tab – let)

Open Syllables

  • The vowel is open at the end of a word or syllable and usually makes the long sound.
  • Examples in one-syllable words:  go, she, glue, tree
  • Examples in two-syllable words:  lion (li – on), baby (ba – by), local (lo – cal), music (mu – sic), tiger (ti – ger)

Reading Open and Closed Syllable Words:

  1. If it is a closed one-syllable word, I advise students to try the short vowel sound first to see if that sounds right and makes sense. If not, flip the vowel sound to the long sound.
  2. With a two-syllable word: Use a small post it, a masking card, or your finger to block off part of the word so only the first syllable is exposed. This is often 2-4 letters. If it looks closed (vowel between two consonants), try the short sound first to see if it sounds right and makes sense. If it looks open (one vowel at the end of a syllable), try the long sound first to see if it sounds right or makes sense. If not, flip the vowel.
  3. Apply this to 3 and 4 syllable words (looking at one syllable at a time). Common rimes or chunks might be revealed in the process.
  4. Practice breaking words apart to hear the two syllable and the vowel sounds. Here is a matching activity I made which you can get for FREE. Click here for the Closed syllable matching 4 pages (2 pages of pictures, 2 pages of matching words). Click here for the Open syllable matching 4 pages (2 pages of pictures, 2 pages of matching words).
    • You can match the whole word to the picture.
    • You can cut the words apart by syllables and match picture with both syllable parts.
  5. Try this game format using some of the same above words. Click here for a FREE copy of the Open and closed syllable game.

Stay tuned!  Next week I will focus on a fabulous strategy for decoding (making analogies).  And . . . watch your email (and the next post) to see if you are the winner of the $25 gift card I announced early in January!!!!

Reading Fix-it Strategies: Part 4 (Decoding)

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Here are 12 decoding strategies you might like. These show various ways to help students break apart, analyze, and relate to known words. I only recommend sounding out words letter-by-letter in a few limited situations. Beginning readers do this to apply newly learned letter-sound knowledge. It is a successful method for cvc words and other small words which follow the phonics rules. However, if this is the child’s main method of reading, it begins to become unproductive and impede fluency. In addition to prompting students for meaning or use of structure (see Fix-it Strategies parts 1 and 2), try some of these strategies to help children decode words.

  1. Help the child think of a word that makes sense which also begins with that letter(s).alligator
  2. Use the picture and the first letter to help predict the word. Example: The alligator is green. I know it’s not crocodile because the word begins with the letter a.
  3. On a word which can be predicted using the meaning and structure of the story, show a student how to cover up the end of the word (with their finger) to “force” the student to focus on the beginning letter or blend. Or use a post-it note over everything except the first letter or blend. The cloze procedure works well here. For example: “The first time I got on an airplane I was feeling sc_____.” A student probably doesn’t need to even see the rest of the word to predict it says “scared.”
  4. Limit “sounding out” to highly predictable words. Use Elkonin sound boxes for students to “push” sounds of words and then blend them together. Click on this link to see a video of this process: Elkonin Sound Boxes When ready, replace chips with letter tiles.
  5. Use “continuous blending.”  The reader slowly blends the sounds together instead of segmenting one at a time.  Example with cat:  Instead of /k/ + /a/ + /t/ it might sound like /kaaat/.
  6. Show the student how to cover up parts of words to isolate known syllables, base words, or word parts.
    • Candy: look for known word part –and (or can)
    • Jumping: look for base word jump
    • Herself: look for compound words
  7. Help student relate the tricky word to another that is similar (word analogy). If a child is struggling with a word, it is often helpful to write a simple known word (on a handy small whiteboard) to see if they can relate the known to the new.
    • For week: You know we so this word is . . .
    • For star: You know are so this word is . . .
    • For chat: You know cat so this word is . . .
    • For dress: You know yes so this word is . . .
    • For perfect: You know her so this word is . . .
    • For wreck: You know write so this word is . . .
  8. Sometimes a student gets a word on one page and not another. Help them notice when this happens. “You read this word correctly on page 2. What did it say on page 2? Try it here on page 5.”
  9. Teach children to look for chunks and break the word apart. Example: For standing break into /st/ + /and/ + /ing/. Children will learn more of these “chunks” through spelling instruction. Or, make new words using word families so they can see similar chunks, such as: -ame, -ell, – ick, -oat, -ug
  10. Tell the child to “flip the vowel.” This means if they try one sound and it doesn’t make sense, to try the other sound the vowel makes. This is a quick prompt without the teacher going into a mini-lesson on vowel rules. As a visual reminder, I flip the palm of my hand from one side to the other.
  11. For single or multi-syllabic words, practice these generalizations:
    • Closed syllable:  If a single vowel is “closed in” with consonants on each side, the vowel sound is usually short (tub, flat, bas-ket, lim-it, in-spect). This generalization often applies to vc syllables in which the consonant ends the syllable.
    • Open syllable: If a vowel ends the word or syllable, it is considered “open.” In this case, the vowel usually makes the long sound (be, go, be-gin, o-pen, ta-ble, cho-sen)
    • Two vowels in a syllable? Most often the vowel will produce the long sound (this includes vowel digraphs and the vce pattern such as coat, cone, treat-ing).
  12. Practice word sorting, so children can visually discriminate between words /patterns.

For those of you who use Journeys (Houghton Mifflin), you can access word study/spelling cards for sorting only through Think Central. Go to teacher resources, then choose the “Literacy and Language Guide.” Click on the word study link to find them.

As I mentioned in other posts, when the child is reading text let them complete the sentence before prompting for uncorrected errors. This is because the child’s use of the meaning and structural systems are huge. The visual aspect of a word is meant to help them confirm – not drive their system of reading. See previous posts (Fix-it Strategies parts 1-3 and freebies) for more information.

Have a great week!  Cindy