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How To Teach Syllables to Children

Teaching syllables to children is essential to improve their reading, spelling, writing, and overall word-processing abilities. there are many fun and engaging syllable activities out there to print and play, but how do you teach syllables to children effectively?

To teach syllables to children, you will need to simplify the word’s meaning by using clapping or counting how many times your jaw drops. This will help to illustrate how to divide a word into syllables. For older learners, there are four-syllable division rules they can apply.

Our guide on teaching syllables to children will help you navigate this more complicated literary concept and help your kids better understand how to identify and isolate syllables in multi-syllabic words. We have included downloads and links to syllable worksheets, activities and online games to help you build a teacher toolkit on syllable instruction as well.

Explaining What A Syllable Is

One of the first steps in teaching children how to identify and work with syllables is to explain what a syllable actually is.

The definition of a syllable is a letter, or group of letters, that are spoken or uttered together. Of course, this may be difficult for a child to understand and comprehend. So, instead, you’ll need to simplify your explanation.

It may help to explain that a syllable is a sound in a word, and it can often sound like a beat when you say the word. By using a word and concept that a child is already familiar with, you can assist them in grasping the idea much more quickly.

Demonstrating Syllables

As part of your explanation, you can demonstrate how to identify syllables or sounds in a word. You can illustrate this in a few different ways, but the most common two are through clapping or through feeling when your jaw drops as you sound out a word.

Using a few multi-syllabic and straightforward words, you can demonstrate the concept by clapping as you say or sound the words out. For example, you would break up a word like “butterfly” as “but,” “ter,” and “fly.” With each syllable, you can clap to signify the number of sounds the word has.

It would help if you always encouraged participation when teaching new concepts. You can repeat the demonstration as many times as you need to ensure that the child or children fully grasp how to identify a syllable or sound.

If you want to keep your classroom free from noise and other distractions, then you can use a different technique of identifying syllables.

By placing your hand under your jaw, you can count how many times your jaw drops as you say a word. Using the same example, you would feel your jaw drop three times as you sounded the word “butterfly” out. if needed you can explain this drop of the jaw is on the vowel sounds.

You can always use both techniques to showcase this new learning concept. This may come in handy if a child finds it easier to identify syllables through clapping rather than feeling their jaw, or vice versa.

Teaching Syllables To Younger Learners

Younger learners may respond better to learning through fun and interactive activities. By integrating the use of syllables into games or other actions and activities, you may notice that the children are much more responsive and gain a better understanding more quickly.

You can integrate syllables into learning tasks by asking the children to split into groups depending on the number of syllables in their first name or by asking them to perform an action for the number of syllables in their given word.

  • For example, “Everyone with four syllables in their name should stand in this corner of the classroom,” or “If your word has two syllables in it, I want you to jump two times.”
  • Another great way to teach syllables to younger learners without involving physical activity is to help them break their words up into different parts. They can do this by covering certain parts of their word or by using a marker to “cut” the word up.
  • For example, your learners can use a piece of paper to cover the second syllable of the word when you ask them to find the first syllable.
  • Alternatively, you can ask your learners to draw a line down the sections of the word when there are different sounds. A word like “banana” divides into three segments or sections – “ba,” “na,” “na.”

Teaching Syllables To Older Learners

As learners grow, they are exposed to more complex multi-syllabic words. You can teach them how to identify syllables through syllable division.

There are four rules to syllable division, including VC/CV, V/CV, VC/V, and V/V. In these division rules, ‘v’ stands for vowel and ‘c’ stands for consonant.

VC/CV Syllable Division

VC/CV stands for “vowel-consonant/consonant-vowel”. To teach your learners how to identify syllables using this rule, they will first need to identify the vowels in the word that they are given.

If they are given the word “sunrise,” then they will need to circle or underline the “u” and the “i” and mark these two letters with a v to indicate that they are vowels.

Next, your learners should identify whether or not there are consonants that sit between the vowels. They should mark the consonants “n” and “r” with a c to indicate that they are consonants.

When your learners look at the word now, they should see a pattern of “VC/CV” underneath the word’s letters. By dividing the word where the two consonants meet, they will be able to identify that the word “sunrise” has two syllables.

V/CV Syllable Division

To use the v/cv rule, your students will still need to apply the same rules as before when looking at their given word. This time, you can use a word like “flower.”

By correctly identifying “o” and “e” as the vowels and “w” as the consonant that divides these two vowels, they will be able to split the word into two syllables. After the first vowel, the word should split up to look like this: “flo/wer.”

VC/V Syllable Division

Like the V/CV rule, this type of syllabic division occurs after the consonant rather than the vowel. You will use this rule when V/CV can’t apply.

For example, you cannot split the word “moment” before the consonant. This is because the first syllable shouldn’t be open. Because you pronounce the letter “o” as a short vowel rather than a long vowel, it can’t stand alone when you split  the word.

We can split the word as “mom/ent” using the VC/V rule in these cases.

V/V Syllable Division

This rule can be pretty tricky but is easy enough once your students get the hang of it. For these words, the vowels will sit directly next to one another in the word.

As an example, we’ll use the word “diet.” Although the vowels are next to one another, they must be split to divide the word into two syllables correctly.

You can divide the vowels because they are spoken differently and do not join to form one uniform sound.

Alternatively, a word like “sheep” cannot be split using this rule. This word cannot be divided because the two vowels join to form a long “e” sound and are spoken or uttered as one sound within the word.

Teacher tip: Counting the Vowel Sounds

the way i do this is (using some of the worksheets on this page (yes the dreaded worksheet) I first teach students about vowel sounds, and how two vowels (or three) can make just one sound, then explain that every syllable in English has a vowel SOUND.

That sound may be spelled with a “y” with two vowels “oa” or multiple letters. “eight” or of course a single letter.

So if they know that every syllable has a vowel SOUND, they can look at huge words and try to work out the syllable count, and then try to say it. (which can be very funny as they try to say 7 syllable words), or even words like


They do this simply by counting the vowel SOUNDS! not the individual letters.

I have always found dinosaur names to be great for this, mainly as they are interesting, most people struggle to say them and it gives students a REAL boost to be able to say things that their parents and even their teachers can’t say!

There is actually a printable sheet with dinosaur names with both the answers and blank worksheet if you want to try this on the link below.

Here is a table with 5 tricky Dinosaur names to try ( with the answers just in case!)

Table1 : Count the vowel Syllable Practice

Dinosaur nameHow to Say the Dinosaur NameSyllable Count
VelociraptorVeh – loss – ih – rap – tor5
Tyrannosaurus rextie – Ran – Oh – Sore – Rus – rex6
Triceratopstry – seh – Rah – tops4
StegosaurusSteg – Oh – Sore – Russ4
PachycephalosaurusPatch – ee – seff – ah – low – sore- rus7


Most words in the English language are made up of two or more syllables, making multi-syllabic words essential to learn and understand for children whose primary language is English.

By using these tips and tricks to help your learners correctly identify the syllables within a word, you can help to improve their word-processing skills.






I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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