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March 05, 2021 2 min read

Learning how to spell words goes hand in hand with learning how to read and write, but oftentimes, parents wonder how to teach spelling to beginning readers. One of the easiest ways to do this is through syllable spelling. As children begin to develop phonemic awareness, which is defined as the specific ability to focus on and manipulate sounds (phonemes) in spoken words, they are able to identify syllables. Syllables are the parts of a word that contain phonemes. Another way to refer to a syllable is the “beat” of the word. 

Clapping out a word is an easy and fun way to hear the number of beats or syllables in a word.  Since all words have at least one or more syllables, children can practice clapping the syllables of any word.  To do this, say the name of a word such as “blanket”.  Then clap once for each part of the word you hear:blank(clap) -et(clap) so blanket has two syllables (claps).  

For example: 

                 cat cat(clap)   one syllable 

                 flower:  flow(clap) - er(clap)   two syllables

                 dinosaur:  din(clap) -o(clap) -saur(clap)   three syllables

                 television:  tel(clap) -e(clap) -vi(clap) -sion(clap)   four syllables 

Clapping syllables can be done anywhere at any time. If you want to take it a step further, you can sort household objects into groups depending on the number of syllables they contain.

 You may have noticed from the examples listed above, that every syllable has a vowel.  Once children have begun to learn about vowels and how to identify syllables, they are ready for syllable spelling.  Now they can spell a word by writing the sounds they hear in each syllable of the word (remembering that each syllable has to have a vowel).

 A good way to introduce syllable spelling is divide a piece of paper into at least four columns or make a line for each syllable. Say a word.  Write the sounds you hear for each syllable on the lines or in the column.  

For example: 

                 pen:    pen     (one syllable)

                 napkin:  nap  kin    (two syllables)

                 restaurant:  res  taur  ant  (three syllables)

                 watermelon:  wa  ter mel on (four syllables)

Breaking words into syllables is a great way to practice spelling words.  It works particularly well for longer words and is a helpful strategy to use in writing. 

Any questions?  Please email us at Janice@Neighborhoodlit.com.  Taylor Burke is a teacher and Director of Communications at Neighborhood Lit. and works closely with Janice Migliazza, a Reading Specialist and owner of Neighborhood Lit, Route 34, Colts Neck to bring you this information.