Open Syllables, the Third Pattern on the Six Syllable Types Poster


May 3, 2011 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Articles


I briefly introduced open syllables in my former blog on closed syllables. An open syllable has one vowel at the end of a word, or of a syllable in a word. Closed and open syllables make up about 75 percent of the syllables in the English language. Combined with magic e, it’s up to about 85 percent. That’s why these three patterns are often the first three introduced. If you are using my syllable poster, you can show your students how much they’ve learned, as a way of helping them keep track of their progress, and explain that this top row of patterns is what most of the syllables are in our language. They are making excellent progress!

On the poster you see a very happy V (standing for any vowel), going through an open gate. Remind students that vowels like to say their name, and when there is no mean consonant in their way, that is just what they do. Above the V there are the vowels with their long or name symbol (macron) over them.

Open syllables can be taught first with the one syllable words: no, go, so, we, me, be, he, hi, my, by, she, and why (see my closed syllable blog for discussion about i and y at the end).

But the real power of understanding open syllables becomes apparent when learning to decode multisyllabic words (words longer than one syllable). Students can practice reading words like “robot,” “solo,” “belong,” “tulip,” “frozen,” “open,” and “begin.” When my kindergartners (regular education) learned about open syllables, I provided them with an exposure to reading “monster words” by showing them colorful word cards with a division line at the proper spot for words like those above. Then, after they learned that y at the end of longer words will say the long e sound, they read words like “tiny,” “pony,” “lady,” and “ruby.” With mastery of the  r-controlled syllable concept, they could read “super,” and “paper,” and after consonant-le syllables they read words like “title” and “table.” They were so proud of themselves.

By the way, it seems like there’s a lot of confusion about when to double consonants in the middle of words. Consider words like “super,” versus “supper.” When there are doubled consonants in the middle of a word, you will need to divide between those consonants. When you do that, the first syllable will be closed by one of the consonants, and the vowel will have its short (hurt) sound.  If you want the u to say its name instead, you will need an open syllable, and therefore only one p. For the same reason, “table” has only one b. In my years assessing regular education students’ reading skills, I found that many struggled to read unfamiliar words with the consonant-le ending because they had never been taught about open versus closed syllables in front of  consonant-le syllables.

In order to attack longer words, students who have dyslexia will need to learn syllable division patterns. Check out my syllable slider product, where I explain the five basic syllable division patterns.