I had a conversation with a student the other day. It was very similar to one I’ve had many times with many students over the years.
“Today we are going to be working on dividing words into syllables. Do you know what a syllable is?”
“It’s when you clap while saying a word.”
“Can you show me?”
“pig” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap
Talking about “word chunks” and practicing segmenting words orally can start very young. This fun free activity can get even your youngest students breaking words into syllables and blending syllables into words. Fall Syllable Segmenting and Blending
Once students are a bit older, you can talk about syllables having one vowel sound and said with one “push of breath.” We practice counting syllables in words.
I prefer to do this without clapping. I find that clapping is distracting. The sound of the claps drowns out the voices saying the syllables. Also, kids have a tendency to clap fast and counting to see if they’ve really identified the correct number of syllables is sometimes tricky, especially in a group setting. We’ve all seen the enthusiastic (but confused) student that says a word and frantically claps ten or more times!
Instead, I like to use hand gestures while segmenting the word into syllables.
I raise my left hand, palm up while saying the first syllable. “cab”
Then I raise my right hand and say the second syllable. “in”
For a three or four syllable word, I just go back to the first hand and continue.
I find the kids pick this up quickly and it’s a lot less noisy and much easier to hear who has it and who doesn’t!
We practice syllable division in many different ways; syllable puzzles, words in columns, syllable scooping and more.
One of my favorite ways is syllable strips. Syllable Division Strips