Next up in my syllable series, I’m going over the open syllable – what is the open syllable and how to teach open syllables using multisensory and Orton-Gillingham methods.
If you missed the previous syllables posts, you can find them here.
What is a an open syllable?
An open syllable is a syllable with a long vowel sound where the vowel is open, meaning there is no consonant after it. See the graphic below for examples of open syllables.
What’s happening in an open syllable is that there is no consonant after the vowel, so the vowel can say its name (the long sound). Remember that in a closed syllable, there is a consonant after the vowel which forces the vowel to make the short sound. In the open syllable, the vowel is free.
Open syllable words
Open syllables are often found in words with more than one syllable, although there are some one syllable words that are open syllable like a, me, I.
2 Syllable Words
o/pen ca/ter fi/ber be/hind men/u
3 Syllable Words
fe/ver/ish en/a/ble ar/gu/ment ra/di/o
Teaching Open Syllables
It’s very important that you get students into the habit of marking vowels and consonants when learning about syllables. This really helps them see the syllable patterns, especially when you get into multisyllable words.
To mark an open vowel, I have my students use the macron, the dash right above the vowel (pictured below). This is what you will see in the dictionary so it helps them to learn this symbol. This way when they look up words they don’t know, they can understand how to pronounce them from the dictionary listing.
When should you teach the open syllable?
You should teach open syllables along with or after closed syllables in first or second grade. It’s easy to use CVC words students already know and simply pull away the last consonant to make it open. Also, students will know many open syllable words like me, I, and a.
Procedure for introducing open vowel syllables:
It really helps to use a good open syllables word list. I really like the one in How To Teach Spelling.
- Start off with using nonsense syllables such as: a, mi, dro, mu, bo, dre, pie, sla, pre, and so on.
Have students mark each long vowel with a macron and read them aloud.
2. Work on words with open syllables such as: cra/zy, du/ty, e/go, bo/nus, po/lo, and so on.
Again, have students mark the open vowels with a macron and read the words aloud.
3. Work on words with both closed and open syllables such as: va/cant, a/pron, be/gan, po/et, ha/ven, bo/nus, and so on.
Have students mark the closed and open syllables with the breve and macron, then they should read the word aloud.
Be sure to use lots of visuals like color coding (red vowel, black consonants for example), letter tiles, phonogram cards, and posters like the one below when practicing.
Open Syllable Activities
I strongly recommend using nonsense syllables to work on the open syllable. This is the best way to see if a student truly understands the syllable and fluently decodes.
Other ideas include sorting syllables, playing memory games using open syllable flashcards, and playing games where students have to read open syllables aloud.
I will be creating resources for all of these soon so stay tuned! In the meantime, subscribe to my list get access to all my literacy freebies!
If you’re looking for more tips on teaching reading to struggling learners, check out these other posts:
- Reading Strategies for Struggling Readers – Elkonin Boxes
- Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies – My Secret Tip To Improve Reading Comprehension
- Multisensory Strategies for B & D Reversals – Dyslexia Intervention
- Multisensory Spelling Strategy for Struggling Learners – Dyslexia Spelling Strategy