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Reading Room – November 2022

by Chris Fox & Jessica Powell, TAP Consultants

In this month’s Reading Room, we will be discussing Syllable Instruction: Part 1 (Closed, Vowel-Consonant E, and Open syllables) and why syllable instruction is important to teach to our students.  There are six syllable types in the English language. Syllables are units of sound made by one impulse of the voice, and they are spoken or written units that have at least one vowel and may include consonants that precede or follow that vowel. When encountering unfamiliar words, skilled readers look for syllables, prefixes, and suffixes, which are the underlying structures of the words.   When students don’t have a strategy for chunking longer words into parts that are manageable, students often look at a long word and resort to guessing or skipping it.  Understanding syllable patterns helps students read longer words with accuracy and fluency not to mention promotes correct spelling. Knowing the syllable type also ensures that students will know how to pronounce the vowel sound (short or long sound). For example, when explaining two syllable words like table or rabbit, the student will divide the word as /ta/ /ble/.  /Ta/ in table is open because the syllable ends with a long vowel sound.  The syllable /rab/ in rabbit is closed because it has a short vowel and must end with a consonant.  These spelling conventions are among many that were invented to help readers decide how to pronounce and spell words. As with all of the components of Structured Literacy, syllable type instruction must be explicit, direct, and multisensory.  Struggling readers will need lots of practice with each syllable type before moving on to the next one.  Typically closed syllables are taught first.

Closed Syllables:

This is the most common spelling in English, and it accounts for around 50 percent of the syllables.  When the vowel of a syllable is short, the syllable will be blocked by one or more consonants.  Examples are hat, dish, sack.  When a closed syllable is connected to another syllable that begins with a consonant, the two consonant letters will come between the syllables as in /let/-/ter/ or /bas/-/ket/.   

Vowel-Consonant-E Syllables:

VC-E syllables contain long vowels spelled with a single letter, followed by a single consonant, and a silent E.  Examples are bake, tale, crude, bare. These syllables are often referred to as the “Magic E” syllable.

Open Syllables:

When a syllable is open, it will end with a long vowel sound.  There is no consonant to block or close the sound.  When syllables are combined, there is not a double consonant between an open syllable and the syllable that follows.  Examples are me, equal, program, music.

Example Activities

Introduction to Syllable Types:


Open & Closed Syllable Activity



Roll and Read – Short Vowels

Syllables, Words and Pictures


Example Resources




Short-Vowel CVC_Word-Lists-rev

For questions, please contact. Chris Fox – cfox@ces.org, Jessica Powell – jpowell@ces.org, TAP consultants