Phonological awareness lessons: introducing syllables

This is a series of three lessons.

Lesson 1 

Curriculum link

Victorian Curriculum (English), Speaking and Listening, Language: Phonics and word knowledge

Foundation: Identify rhyming words, alliteration patterns, syllables and some sounds (phonemes) in spoken words (Content description VCELA168)

Resources required

  • Clave sticks or untuned musical instruments
  • A4 posters with 1, 2, 3 and 4 printed separately

Learning intention

I am learning that words are made up of syllables.

Success criteria: 

  • I can clap the beats (syllables) in my name.
  • I can count the number of beats (syllables) in my name.

Lesson sequence

  1. Introduce what a syllable is (beats in a word). All syllables must contain a vowel or vowel-like sound in them. We break words into syllables to help us with our reading and writing.
  2. Model clapping the syllables in teacher names (eg. Lin.da-2 syllables, Mo.ham.med-3 syllables, Lil. i.an.na-4 syllables).
  3. Ask students to turn and talk to a partner to say their name and clap the number of beats (syllables) in it. Rove pairs to check.
  4. Place a number 1, 2, 3 and 4 around the room. Students who have one syllable stand under the 1, 2 syllables stand near the 2 and so on.
  5. Using clave sticks, ask students in each group to say their name and clap using clave sticks. Which name has the most syllables? Which has the least? 
  6. Students turn and talk in their numbered groups. Can they think of different names that have the same number of syllables as their names? Can they think of other names that have more/less syllables than their names syllables? Test using the clave sticks. Each group share.
  7. Return to the main group. Revisit the success criteria and check student understanding. 

Lesson 2

Curriculum link

Victorian Curriculum (English), Speaking and Listening, Language: Phonics and word knowledge

Foundation: Identify rhyming words, alliteration patterns, syllables and some sounds (phonemes) in spoken words (Content description VCELA168)

Resources required

  • Clave sticks 
  • Pictures of objects or animals-enlarged for modelling and smaller for group work (sourced through an internet search)

Learning intention

We are learning to break words up into syllables.

Success criteria: 

  • I can look at the picture and say the word that matches it.
  • I can clap the number of syllables (beats) for that word.
  • I can count the number of syllables (beats) for that word and write the number on the picture to show how many.

Lesson sequence

  1. Revise what a syllable is (beats in a word). All syllables must contain a vowel or vowel-like sound in them. We break words into syllables to help us with our reading and writing.
  2. Revise clapping the syllables in student names (e.g. Sa.may.sa-3 syllables, Parv-1 syllable, Si.mon-2 syllables)
  3. Ask children to turn and talk to a partner to say their name and clap the number of syllables in it. Rove pairs to check.
  4. Return to the main group. Select a picture for students to see (e.g. enlarge an example of an object with 1,2,3 and 4 syllables such as door (1), ta.ble (2), oc.to.pus (3), hel.i.cop.ter (4)). Say the word. Clap the number of syllables and count them. Write the number on the picture. Check with clave sticks. Repeat this process for all 4 examples. Reinforce the success criteria.
  5. Students break into pairs. Each pair has one pair of clave sticks, a pile of small pictures and something to write with. Choose a picture from the pile, say the word, clap the number of syllables, record the correct number on the picture.
  6. Teacher roves pairs and assists where necessary. 
  7. Return to the main group and select some students to share. 
  8. Revisit the success criteria and check student understanding. 
  9. Model how knowing how to break a word up into syllables is critical to hearing and segmenting the words students want to spell. Use an example from one of the pictures to demonstrate (e.g. picture of a kangaroo-kan.ga.roo. Ask students to identify the sounds they hear in each syllable and use a think-aloud process to match those sounds to letters and record where all students can view).

Lesson 3

This lesson builds on the previous two where students broke words into syllables and could segment the word parts. Building on this phonological knowledge, students are extended by being encouraged to match the sounds in syllables to letters and record their phonic attempts. This process is important to demonstrate to students because it explains how their knowledge of syllables can help them with their writing.

Curriculum links

Victorian Curriculum (English), Speaking and Listening, Language: Phonics and word knowledge

Foundation: Identify rhyming words, alliteration patterns, syllables and some sounds (phonemes) in spoken words (Content description VCELA168)

Victorian Curriculum (English), Writing, Language: Phonics and word knowledge

Foundation: Understand that spoken sounds and words can be written and know how to write some high-frequency words and other familiar words including their name (Content description VCELA157)

Victorian Curriculum (English), Reading, Language: Phonics and word knowledge

Foundation: Recognise all upper- and lower-case letters and the most common sound that each letter represents (Content description VCELA146)

Resources required

  • Pictures-enlarged animal pictures for modelling (four pictures) and smaller pictures for group work (sourced through an internet search).
  • Small individual whiteboards, markers and erasers.
  • Alphabet strips to assist encoding.

Learning intention

We are learning to break words up into syllables to help us with our writing.

Success criteria

  • I can look at the picture and say the word that matches it.
  • I can clap the number of syllables for that word.
  • I can listen for the sounds in each syllable, match to letters and write them down.

Lesson sequence

  1. Whole group: Revise what a syllable is. All syllables must contain a vowel or vowel-like sound in them. We can break words into syllables to help us with our writing.
  2. Select an animal picture for students to see (e.g. enlarge two examples for modelling-kangaroo and panda). Name the animal. Clap the number of syllables and count them. Ask students to listen for the sounds in each syllable. Use the think-aloud strategy talking through how to match sounds to letters. Write the matching letters on a large whiteboard so students can view easily. Refer to an alphabet strip to assist with correct formation and starting points of letters. Discuss how breaking words into syllables can help us hear the sounds more easily.
  3. Display two more pictures (e.g. use examples-frog and zebra) but this time get students to turn and work with a partner. Pairs say the animal name and clap the number of syllables in it. Ask them to listen for the sounds they can hear in each syllable. Rove pairs to check.
  4. Return to main group and ask students to share what sounds they heard in frog and snake. The teacher again models matching sounds to letters and records on a large whiteboard so students can view easily. 
  5. Students break into groups of three. Each group has some animal pictures and individual whiteboards, markers and erasers (one per student).
  6. One student selects a picture, says the name and claps the number of syllables. All 3 group members discuss the sounds they hear in each syllable, and using the alphabet strip as a reference, writes down the letters that match the sounds.
  7. Turn boards around to show each other. Continue the process until all students have selected a picture and had a turn clapping the syllables. The teacher roves groups to assist students or works with a small group while the others work independently.
  8. The teacher selects some students to share at the conclusion of the lesson. All students return to the main group. Students share picture, number of syllables and phonic attempts at recording. 
  9. The teacher again makes the explicit link between knowledge of syllables and how   the strategy can help with encoding of words.
  10. Whole group checks success criteria.