After students understand that sentences are made of words and words are different lengths, the next important concept for students to understand is that words are divided into syllables, or word parts. Syllable awareness is one component of phonological awareness. Students gain the ability to hear phonemes that comprise words and to explore speech sounds as syllables.
Why Is It Important?
Students who have well-developed phonological skills generally learn to read with more success. These abilities are important in learning about the language and provide the foundation for learning the sound-print connection. An effective reading program includes many components, including syllable awareness. The National Reading Panel, created by Congress in 1997 to assess the effectiveness of different research-based approaches used to teach children to read, issued the following statement in its April 13, 2000, press release:
"…the most effective way to teach children to read is through instruction that includes a combination of methods. The panel determined that effective reading instruction includes teaching children to break apart and manipulate the sounds in words (phonemic awareness), teaching them that these sounds are represented by letters of the alphabet which can then be blended together to form words (phonics), having them practice what they've learned by reading aloud with guidance and feedback (guided oral reading), and applying reading comprehension strategies to guide and improve reading comprehension."
When Should It Be Taught?
Most phonological awareness skills can be taught with some overlap, but the sequence usually moves from larger units of sound to smaller units of sound, starting with the skills of listening and being attentive to sounds, words, and sentences, and ending with manipulating or substituting phonemes within words. Syllable awareness is developed toward the beginning of the phonological awareness sequence of skills.
The sequence of phonological awareness skills starts with understanding words in a sentence, recognizing and producing rhymes, and then recognizing and manipulating syllables. Syllable segmentation activities are easiest with compound words. Syllable deletion activities can be done with compound words, taking one part away and seeing the word that is left. Students can count the number of syllables in words and categorize words by that number.
Syllable awareness is generally mastered in kindergarten as an auditory skill, but once children start to become familiar with the concept, teachers can introduce letter tiles or squares and manipulate them to form sounds and words.