We have a huge job as first grade teachers to really focus on the reading foundational skills, making sure that our students get a firm foundation in phonics so they are able to decode. When we teach our students how to decode and understand syllables they are really unlocking and "cracking the code" so to speak with our written language so they can not only read large words but also write them.
Why is this important?
As I was learning how to become a Common Core Trainer I came upon a quote from Dr. Joseph Torgeson who is among the staff for the Florida Center for Reading Research. He stated, "There is no comprehension strategy powerful enough to compensate for the inability to read the words."
We all want the best for our students. Think many years into the future. We want our students to achieve the Common Core Standards so they can be college ready, right? Let's look at the anchor standard for RL1.10. CCRA.R.10- Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently. Can they do this if they can't read large words?
Let's think about those papers they have to write in the future. Let's look at the first anchor standard for writing: CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. How can they effectively write an argument if their spelling is atrocious?
Today's lesson is the beginning of many lessons on both reading and writing multisyllabic words. In this lesson, I am working on giving my students the foundational understanding of how syllables are broken apart so they can essentially learn to write and decode large words. When I first approached teaching this, I knew I needed to become familiar with open and closed syllables. I found a great resource to help: click here to access it. I also have a list of words with open and closed syllables for you: Open and Closed Syllable List.pdf, and a syllable dividing rule chart: Syllable Dividing Rules.pdf. Your students are going to need note cards, pencils, and scissors. You also want to have envelopes or bags ready for your students to put their note cards in when they are finished.
My students have had some experience with both closed and open syllables during the course of our daily phonics lesson but I wanted to state my objective so the student would know exactly why it's important to learn about syllables. I said, "Today we are going to learn how to look at a word with more than one syllable and learn how to break it apart. The reason why we are doing this is because I want you to be able to have word attack strategies so you can read and write longer words. We are starting to experience these words more and more each day. We've reached the big time guys so let's learn how to attack these words!"
I brought up my Smartboard file. Instead of having a prepared lesson, I used the board like a regular whiteboard today. I wrote the word "absent" on the board. I said, "This is the word absent. Let's do our duck lips and see how many syllables absent has." If you don't know what duck lips are, it's a great strategy for kids to use to determine how many syllables are in a word. Check out my duck lips video: Duck Lips.
Then I said, "I am going to model how to divide this word.When you are learning how to divide syllables its all about the vowels. We've done this before but let's review. I put my left pointer on the vowel a. I put my right pointer on the vowel e. I see 2 consonants between my fingers. When I have 2 consonants between my fingers I split the word between the 2 consonants." Then we examined each syllable, talking about how the b's job in the first syllable was to close in the a an make it a short vowel sound. We also talked about how the n and t closed in the vowel e in the 2nd syllable to make that a short vowel sound as well. This word has 2 closed syllables.
Then I modeled a word that had an open syllable as the first syllable. I wrote the word "began" on the board. I put each of my pointer fingers on the vowels and modeled how to cut the word after the first vowel. This made the first syllable an open syllable. We then looked at the 2nd syllable and saw that the n closed off the syllable making the a a short vowel sound. My students were able to decode the word then.
Then I purposely wanted to try a word that was a "rule breaker". I wrote the word "apron" on the board. I put my fingers on the vowels. Since there are 2 consonants between the vowels I divided it between the consonants and marked each vowel as a short vowel. When we decoded the word it didn't make sense. I said, "Could this be a rule breaker? What do you think we should do? I told my students to do their duck lips and talk about where they think we should divide the syllable. We dividing the syllable after the a this time, marking the a as long and they were delighted when they decoded the word and it made sense.
I spent the next 10 minutes or so doing some guided practice with my students. I made sure to choose words that had both open and closed syllables and some rule breakers so we could practice what they would need to do if they split the word wrong and the word didn't make sense. I have words that you can use in the resource section here. Feel free to use whichever words you want.
I put a whole stack of note cards in the center of each table. Each time we worked on a word the students were able to take one card from the stack. This eliminated hording and fighting. Whenever we would work on a word, I had the students write the word very large on their note card. We talked about how we would split the word based on our syllable dividing rules. The students cut their cards into syllables. Then we marked our vowels and determined whether the syllable was open or closed and marked whether the vowel was long or short. This helped the students to decode the words. When the students were finished with a word they put their cards in their envelope.
I partnered my students up. I made sure that a weak reader was partnered with a higher reader who could lead the activity and help his or her partner out. I took 10 words from my list and wrote them on the board. Again, use whatever words you want to from the list. I said, "You will take these words and divide them based on our syllable dividing rules. Write the word really large and talk with your partner about how you will divide the word. Cut your card and then mark whether your vowels will be long or short based on whether it is an open or closed syllable. Finally, you will read what the word is." You can watch the video Syllable Dividng Rules.mp4 and see how my students did with this activity.
I did this lesson the week before we let out for Christmas Break, and my class was really antsy so I made the closure part of the lesson short and sweet. I had partners turn to each other and said, "You need to tell your partner at least one thing that you learned as a result of this lesson." I gave each partner about 2 minutes to talk and I circulated around the room to make sure we stayed on topic.
After completing the lesson, I collected the student's envelopes with their cards. I wanted to check for my student's understanding with their independent work. This information tells me whether to go on to more complex skills or whether I need to go back and reteach until my students have mastered the concept. You can see some of my student work samples in this video Student Work Analysis Syllables.mp4.