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Skill Overview

What is a syllable?

A syllable is a unit of pronunciation or word part that contains only one vowel sound (Blevins, 1998).  As with all phonological awareness skills, no print should be visible when practicing syllable awareness.


What tasks should students be able to demonstrate to indicate mastery of this skill?

  • Blend syllables

  • Segment syllables

  • Manipulate syllables (delete, add, substitute)


Why is understanding syllables important to reading?

Students must recognize that words are made up of parts that can be decoded and then blended with other word parts to decode the entire word.  The ability to  blend, segment, and manipulate syllables in spoken language is a precursor to doing so with written/printed language.

What diagnostic can be used to determine if syllable awareness is a deficit?


Structured Literacy Tools

Sequential and Cumulative

Systematic and Explicit

To Mastery

In order to avoid gaps in learning, it is important to regularly assess students to ensure they have mastered the task taught before moving to the next task. Students need sufficient time to practice the skill independently before assessing for mastery. 


Pay close attention to the criteria for mastery.  If students meet or exceed the mastery goal, move to the next skill. An assessment for mastery has been provided. 

Syllable awareness is the first skill on the phonological awareness continuum.  For students to master syllable awareness, they should engage with syllables through direct, explicit instruction and guided practice with each of the tasks in the following sequence: 

  • blend syllables

  • segment syllables

  • delete syllables

  • add syllables

  • substitute syllables

Students should engage with syllables beginning with compound words, then two-syllable words, next three-syllable words and lastly four- and five-syllable words.

Syllables, as well as other phonological awareness skills, can be taught in both whole group and small group. Because there is no reference to print when teaching phonological awareness, this is a great skill to practice during transition times and down time throughout the day.  


Each task of syllable awareness should be taught systematically and explicitly.  A systematic approach includes modeling the skills and the strategies before students practice independently. Recommended strategies for practicing syllables are Quiet Yell and Touch and Say.  The strategies for both routines are below, as well as procedures for teaching each skill. 

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