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icon of hand clapping with three words broken into syllables

Syllable Games

As students progress in their literacy understanding, they move from reading and writing single syllable words (often with consonant-vowel-consonant constructions) to reading and writing multisyllabic words. Instruction focused on teaching students about syllables often focuses on teaching different types of syllables (open and closed) and what occurs when syllables join together within a word.

Key Information


Phonological awareness

Appropriate Group Size

With small groups
Whole class setting

Why teach about syllables?

  • Dividing words into parts, or “chunks” helps speed the process of decoding.
  • Knowing the rules for syllable division can students read words more accurately and fluently.
  • Understanding syllables can also help students learn to spell words correctly.

Watch teaching demo:  quiet yell

Monique Ealey demonstrates the Quiet Yell, a fun and engaging strategy that helps students practice segmenting and counting syllables in words. Ms. Ealey is a former teacher and current director of education and programs at the Mississippi Children’s Museum. (Reading Universe)

Watch teaching demo: stomp and say

Former teacher and current Director of Education and Programs at the Mississippi Children’s Museum, Monique Ealey, talks about her fun and engaging “stomp and say” strategy to help students practice segmenting and counting syllables in words. (Reading Universe)

Watch lesson: segmenting and blending syllables

Students in teacher Liz Quezada’s class practice segmenting words by pulling apart syllables and then putting them back together to form the word. They’re at La Verne Heights Elementary School in La Verne, California. (Reading Universe)

Collect resources

Marker activity

This activity, from our article How Now Brown Cow: Phoneme Awareness Activities, is an example of how to teach students to use a marker (i.e., token) to count syllables.

The marker activity often used for word counting can be adapted for use in counting syllables. Teachers can provide each child with tokens and two or three horizontally connected boxes drawn on a sheet of paper. The children place a token in each box from left to right as they hear each syllable in a word.

Multisyllabic manipulation

This example includes several activities and a chart of multisyllabic words. One specific activity from this page is the Multisyllabic Words Manipulation Game. Teachers can divide words from reading selections into syllables, write each syllable on a note card and display the syllables in jumbled order. Have students arrange the syllables to form the words.

Multisyllabic words manipulation ›

Clapping games

Associating syllables with a beat can help students to better learn the concept of syllables within words. Here’s a clapping game to help young learners understand about dividing words into syllables.

Basic words clapping game › (opens in a new window)

Using mirrors

The following link includes information on introductory activities such as using mirrors for teaching students about syllables. Information is also provided about the different syllable spelling patterns.

Using a mirror to understand syllables › (opens in a new window)

Jumping syllables

This activity teaches student to separate words into syllables. Students move syllables around to create new “silly” words which gives them practice manipulating different sounds.

Jumping syllables ›

Find many more syllable activities developed by the Florida Center for Reading Research.

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and younger learners

  • Use pictures instead of words in activities for younger and lower level readers
  • Include auditory and hands-on activities (i.e., clapping hands, tapping the desk, or marching in place to the syllables in children’s names)
  • Include a writing activity for more advanced learners.

See the research that supports this strategy

Adams, M., Foorman, B., Lundberg, I., & Beeler, T. (2004). Phonemic Activities for the Preschool or Elementary Classroom.

Ellis, E. (1997). How Now Brown Cow: Phoneme Awareness Activities.

Moats, L. & Tolman, C. (2008). Six Syllable Types.

Children’s books to use with this strategy

Topics this strategy is especially helpful for

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness