Counting syllables in words is a foundational literacy skill in preschool and kindergarten, just like learning the alphabet and rhyming! Syllables are an important stepping stone to reading. To make the learning process easy and fun, we’ve gathered some of our favorite counting syllables activities for young children!
Related: The Best Learning to Read Books
Counting Syllables in Words
Why do we count syllables in words? It helps with phonological awareness.
Phonological awareness is, “the ability to notice and manipulate the sounds of spoken language.” But where do syllables fit under that umbrella? Counting syllables is an important building block of words, along with rhyming, alliteration, and phonemic awareness. In fact, it’s one of the 7 skills children need when learning to read.
A recent study through Scientific Reports found that teaching syllables first, even before teaching the letters of the alphabet, led to “a greater increase in phonemic awareness in the letters-to-syllable group than in the letter-to-phoneme group. The study suggests that teaching prereaders letters-to-syllable correspondences is a key to successful reading.”
Learning to read requires many steps along the way! Intentional planning around these phonological awareness components, like counting syllables, gives young readers all the tools they need along the journey.
Teaching About Syllables Develops Literacy
Decoding syllables is easier than sounding out individual sounds. In other words, we are teaching children to hear the big parts of words so that through practice, they can learn the smaller parts of words too.
When children learn how to chunk words into syllables, they are practicing the skills of blending and segmenting. Then they can use those skills to segment by individual sound. For example, the teacher says the word ‘marker’ by saying “mar-ker” and asks the student to blend the syllables to make the word ‘marker’.
Syllable practice also teaches young children to use syllables to decode longer words. For example, if a student doesn’t know the word “seeing,” they can look at it and identify the sight word “see.” By decoding that “see” is the first syllable, it is far easier to determine the unknown word. Finding the chunks in words makes learning to read a much easier process.
As children start writing, counting syllables in words to break them into smaller parts helps children to become more confident and successful writers.
How to Teach Counting Syllables in Preschool and Kindergarten
Explaining how to count syllables to preschoolers doesn’t need to be complex. Simply tell young children, “A syllable is one part of a word. When I say the word “cupcake”, I hear two parts: ‘cup-cake.'” Practice makes this process become perfect! Repeated exposure and practice opportunities are the best way to teach how to count syllables. That’s true for all phonological skills!
Counting Syllable Activities
Learning Syllables Through Movement
We’ve created colorful counting syllable cards that can be used in a multitude of ways! All of them involve movement, which is critical with your youngest learners. These counting syllables activities are perfect for getting out the wiggles, as well as counting syllables in words!
Be sure to pop on over to our store to grab the counting syllables cards!
Take a pocket chart (or any flat surface) and make a graph with the provided number cards. Have children choose how they want to identify syllables: robot voice, clapping, tap or stomp, etc. Help them count the syllables and put it under the corresponding number!
Here are all the fun ways they can choose to use movement to learn syllables:
- Alligator Syllable Chomp – Stretch out your arms and use your hands to ”chomp” up each syllable in the word. Each alligator bite is a syllable. Invite the children to march around the classroom gobbling up syllables!
- Tap/Stomp the Syllables – Using sticks or feet, tap or stomp out the syllables in each word.
- Count the Syllables with a Robot Voice – Just as it sounds…this strategy is talking slowly and robotically to break apart a word. Invite children to move around the classroom robotically as they find the word parts.
- Clap the Syllables – Clapping the syllables in a word can be compared to clapping to the beat or the parts of the word. If you have drums available, invite children to drum out the syllables!
- Chin Drops – Young children love to find the syllables in a word by opening and closing their mouth as you pronounce the word. Count each chin drop as one syllable!
- Whale Voice – Channel your inner whale (think Dory from Finding Nemo) and stretch out the parts of the word with your best whale voice! Invite children to move around the classroom as large whales and ‘swim’ through the word!
- Syllable Number Hop – Give each student the number 1, 2, and 3 and lay on the floor. Say a word slowly, enunciating the parts of the word. Invite the students to hop on the number that represents how many syllables in the word. Head outside and try this activity with sidewalk chalk too!
Another great way to learn syllables through movement is with videos! Check out these two videos below by Jack Hartmann and GoNoodle. They both encourage children to count syllables in words and use fun actions!
Related: The Best Movement and Action Songs
Games for Preschoolers to practice Counting Syllables in Words
- Teaching Syllables Through Student Names – Names are a high-interest place to start teaching syllables! You can have students transition or line up by how many syllables are in their name. You could also sort student names by syllables during circle time. Alternately, go on a scavenger hunt for student photos, then sort the photos in a pocket chart by the number of syllables in the student’s first or last name.
- Syllable Sorting – Gather a variety of materials from around the classroom like blocks, animals, or classroom supplies. Lay out the numbers 1-4 and invite individuals or small groups to sort the object by how many syllables are in the word. Encourage them to use a syllable strategy such as clapping, tapping, or robot voice.
- Syllable Dot or Punch – Using the syllable cards from our store, invite students to hole punch or use a dot marker to mark the number of syllables in the word.
We hope that teaching syllables in preschool becomes an part and consistent part of your lessons and these tips make it a breeze to plan for!
For another fun early literacy resource, fill out the form below to grab a copy of our FREE unicorn lowercase writing cards!