|How to Present Syllable Types in the Classroom:
A Discussion of the Guided Discovery Technique
by Peggy Barzilay, PhD
Introduction of Guided Discovery
In my last contribution to The Rag,I talked about the importance of discussing syllable types when teaching reading to beginning readers. This issue continues my presentation of syllable types by concentrating on a discussion of the Guided Discovery technique, which can be an extremely efficient means of introducing syllable types, or other grammatical points, in the classroom.
I believe that there are two basic principles in effective teaching:
- Never assume that your students know what you have not explicitly
taught them, and
- Never assume that because you have taught them, they "know".
As teachers, it is our job not only to teach, but to try and ensure that our students remember what we have taught them. Guided Discovery is one way of achieving this goal.
Guided Discovery is based on the principle that if you can get students to discover something on their own, it will be easier for them to understand and remember whatever it is they have discovered. Guided Discovery uses leading questions to achieve this purpose. Initially, using this technique may take a bit more time in the classroom, but it is an effective use of time because it facilitates comprehension of the rules, making it easier for students to remember.
Using Guided Discovery with Syllable Types
Since new material is normally based on the foundation you have already provided for your students, if you want to introduce the first syllable type--closed syllables-- start by reviewing the principle of syllables and long and short vowel sounds. After a short review, ask the student to tell you how he/she would know whether a vowel is long or short. At this point, students will probably not be able to give you an answer. Therefore, tell them that you are going to teach them about different syllable types, which will give them important information on how to pronounce the vowel sound within words.
Note: When teaching these principles, remember to make good use of the word 'normally'. This is important because there will always be exceptions to the rules and generalizations that you discuss. These exceptions do not detract from the value of the information you are giving you students, but students have to be aware of them. If you mention this before you start, it will make things easier.
- Start by giving them a list of words:
- Tell them that these words are all closed syllables. Then ask them what these words have in common. At first, many students may not understand what you are looking for. If this is the case, ask the following questions:
- How many syllables are there in each word. (1)
If students aren't sure, read the list of words and ask them how many claps they would make for each word. (Remember, students were first introduced to the concept of syllables by clapping out the number of syllables in their names.)
- Do these words end in a consonant or a vowel? (a consonant)
- Ask students how many vowels there are in each of these words. (1)
- Now read the words in the list and ask if the vowels are long or short? (short)
- Then ask: Who can put all this information together and come up with a definition of a closed syllable:
(Students should work towards the following definition):
A closed syllable is a one syllable word, ending in a consonant. It has only
one vowel and that vowel sound is short.
The fact that the vowel sound in closed syllables is usually short, is the important piece of information that you are looking for.
- Normally the next syllable type introduced is the open syllable. Follow the same procedure used for closed syllables, except that in this case, you will have two groups of words:
the 1st. syllable in these words:
- Show your students the words in group 1 first and ask what they have in common. If students have problems answering, ask the following questions:
- In group 1, the words are made up of how many syllables? (1)
- Do the words in group 1 end with a vowel or a consonant? (a vowel)
- Read the words in group 1 and ask students if the vowels are long or short? (long)
- Now read the words in group 2.
- How many syllables are there in the words in group 2?
Open = (2 syllables)
Apron = (2 syllables)
University = (5 syllables)
- The first syllable in each of these words ends in what kind of a letter? (a vowel)
Read the words and ask how the vowel in the first syllable is pronounced?
(The vowel is long (says its name)).
- Then ask if there is someone in the class who can put all this information together to come up with a definition of open syllables. You are looking for:
An open syllable ends in a vowel and the vowel is long (says its name).
Magic E syllables
The next syllable introduced will depend on the texts you are using in the classroom. However, in most cases, the next syllable will be the magic e syllable.
- As always, start by building upon what you have already taught them. As with open syllables, above, you will be using two lists of words. Start by giving your students the list of words in group 1.
- Then ask the following questions:
- What do these words have in common? (They all belong to the same syllable type? closed syllables)
- How do we know? (They all end in a consonant, have one sounded vowel and the vowel sound is short.
- Now give them a second list of words:
- Then ask the following questions:
- How do the words in group 2 differ from those in group 1? (They all end
in the letter 'e')
- Read the words in group 2. Do we hear the 'e' at the end of the words
in group 2? (no)
- What type of letter comes before the 'e'? (a consonant)
- What type of letter comes before the consonant? (a vowel)
- How is the vowel in the middle of the words pronounced? (It is long.)
- The words in Group 2 belong to a new syllable type called Magic e syllables. What is a Magic 'e' syllable?
- Now ask someone to define magic e syllables. You are looking for:
A magic e syllable ends in the structure vowel, consonant, e (vCe). The
e' at the end of the word is not pronounced, but because it is there, the vowel before it is long (says its name).
R Controlled Syllables
Regular Final syllables
- Show your students the following list of words and ask what they have in
- If students have problems answering, ask the following questions, ask them:
- How many syllables are there in each of the words? (1)
- What letter follows the vowels in all the words? (r)
- Then tell them that all the words look like closed syllable words. Then ask them to listen as you read the words out loud.
- Are the vowels short? Are the vowels long? (The vowels are neither short
- Now read the 'ar' words and ask them how the 'ar' combination is pronounced. /ar/
- Read the 'er', 'ir', and 'ur' words and ask how they are pronounced. /er/
- Now read the 'or' words and ask how the 'or' combination is pronounced. /or/
- Now ask students what an R controlled syllable is:
An R controlled syllable has the letter 'r' immediately following the vowel and as a result, the vowel is neither long nor short.
- Now review what happens when the letter 'w' appears before an 'ar' or an 'or' combination.
(When the letter 'w' appears before an 'ar' combination, the combination is normally pronounced /or/ as in war. When the 'w' appears before an 'or' combination, it is normally pronounced /er/ as in word.)
- Give your students the following list of words and ask them what they have in common:
- If students have problems answering, read the words out loud and ask the following questions:
- How many syllables are there in each of the words? (2)
- The words all end in what letters? (le)
- What kind of letter comes before 'le' in all of these words? (a consonant)
- Now tell students to listen as you read the words again. Ask them how to divide these words into two syllables. Then ask students if they can tell you what syllable type the first syllable in each of these words is and why. (closed, ends in a consonant)
- Now look at the list of words in Group 2:
&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;&nbps;&nbps; Able, rifle, stable, table, title
Read the words out loud and ask students to divide each word into syllables. Underline the regular final syllable.
- Ask them how the vowel in the first syllable is pronounced? (long)
- Ask them why? (because it is an open syllable)
- Now ask students if they can come up with a definition of regular final syllables.
You are looking for:
A regular final syllable consists of the combination consonant plus the letters le. (C + le)
- Tell students to note that the consonant immediately before the 'le' combination always stays with the 'le' combination. Now ask students why the first syllable in the words in group 1 is a closed syllable, but the first syllable of the words in group 2 is an open syllable.
The answer is that the consonant immediately before the 'le' combination has to stay with the le combination. Therefore, the first syllable of the words in group 2 is an open syllable. However, with all the words in group 1, there is another consonant before the C + le combination. Therefore, the first syllable of the words in group 1 is a closed syllable.
Double Vowel Syllables
Double vowels are by far the most complex of the syllable types. Here, it is not so much a question of coming up with a definition as noting how different vowel combinations are pronounced. The first two lists you give your students all contain vowel combinations which represent one sound.
Give your students the following list of words:
|Group 1||Group 2
|boat see||saw cause
|pain day ||draw pause
Hint: . . Read the words in group 1
- Ask you students how many vowel letters there are in each of these words.(2 because 'y' in this case, functions as a vowel)
- Then ask them how many vowel sounds they hear in each of these words. (1)
- Point out to students that the 'oi' combination is a diphthong. Diphthongs are "gliding vowels". In this case, after the /o/ sound is pronounced, the speaker glides into the /i/ sound. Diphthongs are considered a unit and not two separate sounds.
- Say the word 'day' and ask the students what sound the letter 'y' makes. (If the letter 'y' were a consonant, it would represent the sound /y/. Here, however, it functions as a vowel.)
- How many vowels are there in the words in both groups. (Note both 'w' and 'y' function as vowels.)
- Now read the words in group 1 again. Do you hear the first vowel or the second vowel?
- Read the words in group 2. How many vowel sounds do you hear? (1 /au/) Ask students how the /au/ sound is spelled. (aw/au) If students ask when to use which, tell them:
aw normally comes at the end of a word or before final 'l', 'n'. or 'k'(saw, dawn, bawl, hawk) Before other consonants, aw becomes au.
*( Bishop, The ABCs and All Their Tricks, 1986.)
Remember to tell students that although 'au' is normally pronounced /au/, it has two common exceptions: laugh, aunt.
Double Trouble Combinations
The first two lists contain vowel combinations which represent only one sound.
The last list of words contains a set of different vowel combinations which I call 'double trouble vowel' combinations because they all represent more than one sound.
When you introduce these vowel combinations will depend of your reading texts. Although, there are generalizations which can be made as to how to pronounce these combinations or when to use them, this will have to be the subject for another discussion.
|Oo = /oo/ as in spoon
/oo/ as in good
|ei = /e/ as in ceiling
/a/ as in reindeer
/i/ as in eiderdown/their
Ea = /e/ as in read
/e/ as in treasure
/a/ as in break
ou = /ou/ house
ue = /oo/ glue
ie = /e/ chief
It is perhaps fitting to end this discussion of Guided Discovery with double vowel syllables because this syllable type illustrates the complexity of reading in English. This complexity does not detract from the usefulness of teaching syllable types (in general), (and certainly,) because when combined with the technique of Guided Discovery, they make a vital contribution to proficient reading.