Decoding: Syllable Sleuth | EL Education Curriculum

You are here

ELA G1:S3:C14:L71

Decoding: Syllable Sleuth

You are here:

Daily Learning Targets

  • Opening A: I can identify the long or short vowel sound in a one-syllable word. I can explain why the vowel makes a long or short sound. (RF.1.2)
    • I can identify long and short vowel sounds in single-syllable words that I hear.
    • I can say a three-phoneme word and segment it (break it apart) into individual phonemes (sounds) (in order).
    • I can blend three phonemes (sounds) to form a spoken word.
  • Work Time A: I can identify the vowel sounds in a word to help me determine how many syllables are in the word. (RF.1.2a, RF.1.3d)
    • I can identify the short vowel sounds for each of the five vowel letters.
    • I can listen to a single-syllable word and identify the short vowel it contains.
    • I can identify vowel sounds in the spelling of a multisyllabic (more than one syllable) word.
    • I can identify the number of syllables in a word based on the number of vowel sounds.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Observe students during work with whiteboards.
    • Determine whether they can identify the number of syllables by identifying the vowel sounds in the word.
    • Also determine whether they can break each word into two syllables correctly.

Agenda

Agenda

1. Opening (3-5 minutes)

A. Introducing Vowel Sounds: Open vs. Closed Syllable: "me," "we," "go," "no," and "met," "wet," "got," "not"

2. Work Time (10 minutes)

A. Introducing Decoding: Syllable Sleuth with Two-Syllable VCV Words: "begin," "donut," "hero," "open," "tuna," "zero," "habit"

B. Decoding: Syllable Sleuth Practice

3. Closing and Assessment (3-5 minutes)

A. Reflecting on Learning

4. Differentiated Small Group Instruction and Rotations (40 minutes)

In Advance

  • Prepare:
    • Vowel House (see supporting materials)
    • Syllable Sleuth Word List inside clear sheet protectors (one per student or pair)
    • Snapshot Assessment (optional; one per student)
  • Gather materials for differentiated small group instruction (see Differentiated Small Groups: Work with Teacher).

Vocabulary

Key: Lesson-Specific Vocabulary (L); Text-Specific Vocabulary (T)

  • decode, division, proficient, syllable (L)

Materials

  • Vowel House (see supporting materials)
  • Syllable Sleuth Word List inside clear sheet protectors (one per student or pair)
  • Clipboards (one per student or pair)
  • Whiteboard markers (one per student)
  • Whiteboard erasers (or tissues, socks, etc.; one per student)
  • Snapshot Assessment (optional; one per student)

Opening

OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Introducing Vowel Sounds: Open vs. Closed Syllable: “me,” “we,” “go,” “no,” and “met,” “wet,” “got,” “not”

  • (Suggested transition song, sung to the tune of “The More We Get Together”):

“Sit down and come together, together, together. Sit down and come together, together, right now. Open up your ears now, and listen for the vowel sounds. It’s time to hear the vowel sounds we’re making right now.”

1. Teacher says: “Today, we will look at two similar words. Each word has the same vowel, but it makes a different sound in each word. We will listen for how the vowel sound is different and discover why that change happens. Listening to the vowel sounds in words helps us become better readers and spellers.”

2. Teacher shows the Vowel House with the closed door displaying “met” and asks for a volunteer to read the word.

3. Students repeat the word to hear the vowel sound: “met.”

4. Teacher asks:

“What vowel sound do we hear in ‘met’?” (/e/)

5. Teacher says: “Right! The vowel sound we hear is /e/.”

6. Teacher asks:

“How do we know that the letter ‘e’ makes the sound /e/ in this word? Let’s look carefully at how it’s spelled.” (It is between two consonants; it is a vowel sandwich.)

7. Teacher says: “Yes, the vowel sound is between two consonants. And when the vowel sound is between two consonants, we hear the short vowel sound. You used this knowledge when you were syllable sleuths to divide two-syllable words.”

8. Teacher says: “In this Vowel House with the word ‘met,’ I notice that the door is closed to show how the vowel sound /e/ is closed in by the consonant ‘t.’ If I open the door, what high-frequency word do you see?” (“me”) “That’s right, we know that word ‘me.’ So the word changed from ‘met’ to ‘me.’”

9. Students repeat the word “met” as they see the door closed and “me” as they see the door open.

10. Teacher asks:

“What do you notice about the sound of the letter ‘e’ in ‘me’ compared to ‘met’?” (In “me,” it says /ē/, and in “met,” it says /e/.)

“What do you think caused the sound of the letter ‘e’ to change?” (The consonant “t” at the end of the word made the letter “e” say /e/.)

11. Teacher says: “Right! The vowel sound changed when we opened the door. In the word ‘me,’ there is not a consonant closing the ‘e.’ The ‘e’ can shout its name out for all to hear! The name ‘e’ is the same as its sound!”

12. Repeat steps 1–9 with Vowel Houses for “we”/“wet,” “go”/“got,” and “no”/“not.”

13. Teacher writes the words “me,” “we,” “go,” and “no” in a list on the board and invites students to read the words.

14. Teacher asks:

“How many syllables are in each of these words?” (one) “Are any of these syllables closed by a consonant at the end?” (no)

15. Teacher says: “These words are all open-syllable words. In all of these words, the vowel is open so it can shout its name out for all to hear.”

16. Teacher writes the words “met,” “wet,” “got,” and “not” and asks:

“How many syllables are in each of these words?” (one) “Are any of these syllables closed by a consonant at the end?” (yes, all)

17. Teacher says: “These words are all closed-syllable words. In all of these words, the vowel is closed by a consonant, so it cannot shout its name out for all to hear. It makes its short sound.”

  • Consider using mirrors so students can see their mouth movements to contrast the short "e" and long "e" vowel sounds.
  • Allow students to use child-friendly language to describe their observations about the vowel sound changes. Reinforce academic language when restating their observations for the whole group.
  • A key understanding for young students is that the long sound made by a vowel is captured in its name.
  • Consider reinforcing the concept of "open" vs. "closed" by asking students to notice their mouth position when pronouncing the vowel in "we," "me," "go," and "no." Their mouths are open, just like the door in their Vowel Houses.
  • Consider extending the Opening after step 10 by writing "me," "we," "go," and "no," and demonstrating how other consonants (beyond "t") result in the same change in vowel sound when added to the end to close the vowel (e.g., "me"/"men," "we"/"web," "go"/"gob," and "no"/"nob").

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Decoding: Syllable Sleuth with Two-Syllable VCV Words: “begin,” “donut,” “hero,” “open,” “tuna,” “zero,” “habit”

  • (Suggested transition song, sung to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”):

“We’ve been workin’ on long words, sound by sound by sound. We’ve been workin’ on long words, so we can read more words aloud. We take a word like ‘exit’ and break it into parts. ‘Ex’ plus ‘it’ makes ‘exit,’ and now it’s time to start!”

  • Begin the Syllable Sleuth instructional practice:

1. Teacher says: “Today, we are going to be syllable sleuths again. We will find some clues to help us figure out how to break longer words into parts so we can read them. Let’s start with a new word.”

2. Teacher says word aloud: “begin.”

3. Students echo word back to teacher: “begin.”

4. Teacher asks:

“How many vowel sounds do you hear in ‘begin’?” (two)

5. Teacher says: “Right! There are two vowel sounds.” Teacher asks:

“What are the vowel sounds we hear?” (/ē/ and /i/)

“How many syllables are there in the word ‘begin’?” (two) “How do you know?” (hear two “beats” or two vowel sounds)

“What is the first syllable?” (“be”) “What is the second syllable?” (“gin”)

6. Teacher says: “There are two vowel sounds and two syllables. One vowel sound for each syllable.”

7. Teacher writes “begin” on the board and reads it aloud.

8. Students repeat “begin” as teacher slides finger underneath the word.

9. Teacher asks:

“Which letter is making the long sound /ē/?” (“e”) “Which is making the short sound /i/?” (“i”)

10. Teacher circles vowels “e” and “i.”

11. Teacher says: “begin” again and asks:

“Why is the ‘e’ in this word long,” (says: “/ē/”) “and why is the ‘i’” (says: “/i/”) “in this word short?” (One or two students share their ideas with the group.)

12. Teacher says: “Let’s be sleuths to figure out why the ‘e’ makes a long sound and the ‘i’ makes a short sound in this word.”

13. Teacher says: “I’ll start with the vowels and look to see what’s between them, just like we did when we were syllable sleuths with the two syllable words we worked with last week.”

14. Teacher underlines the letter “g” and says: “Last week, there were two consonants between the vowels in all of the words we saw, and we divided between those consonants. In this word, there is only one consonant between the vowels. I’m not sure where to divide it.”

15. Teacher asks:

“Where do you think we should try dividing it? Before or after the consonant? Why?” (One or two students share their ideas with the group.)

16. Teacher tries dividing the word after the consonant, drawing a line between the “g” and the “i.”

17. Teacher thinks aloud: “Now let’s look at the first syllable. The ‘e’ is closed by the consonant ‘g,’ so that must say ‘beg.’ Okay, now let’s look at the last syllable. That one is closed too, so it must be ‘in.’ That makes the word ‘beg-in.’ That doesn’t make sense. ‘Beg-in’ isn’t a word. Maybe I need to divide the word before the consonant.”

18. Teacher asks:

“What do you think? ‘Beg-in’—does that make sense?” (no) “No, that doesn’t sound right. Let’s try dividing it before the consonant.”

19. Teacher removes the line from between the “g” and “i” and draws it between the “e” and “g.”

20. Teacher thinks aloud: “Now let’s look at the first syllable. Oh, look! The ‘e’ isn’t closed by a consonant anymore; it’s open. It can say its name for all to hear. Just like we saw with our Vowel Houses. This must say ‘be.’ Now let’s look at the last syllable. The ‘i’ is closed by the consonant ‘n,’ so it must be ‘gin.’ This is just like what we saw with our Vowel Houses. Now let’s read each of the syllables and put it together to make a word.”

21. Teacher runs a finger under each syllable in the word and, with the students, says: “be-gin.”

22. Teacher asks:

“Does that sound right now? Where did we divide the word?” (before the consonant)

23. Teacher says: “Remember, a sleuth is a detective. When you’re a syllable sleuth, your job is to search for the clues that let you know you have found a syllable. As a syllable sleuth this week, you will look for vowel sounds to see how many syllables are in new words.”

24. Teacher distributes materials: Syllable Sleuth Word List in a transparent sleeve, clipboards, whiteboard markers, and whiteboard erasers.

25. Teacher asks:

“When we saw that there was only one consonant between each vowel, where did it work to divide it? Before or after the consonant?” (before)

26. Teacher says: “Let’s try that first if we find only one consonant between the vowels. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try dividing it after the consonant.”

27. Teacher guides students as they apply the steps described above to divide the words into syllables: “donut,” “hero,” “open,” “robin,” “tuna,” “zero,” “habit.”

  • Use language that supports students in identifying the number of vowel sounds they hear in words rather than just the number of vowels they see.  This supports students' development when vowel teams are introduced in Module 4, where students see that those two vowels make just one sound. As they continue to work with words beyond one syllable, students must understand that it is the number of vowel sounds in a word, not the number of vowels, that indicates how many syllables it has.
  • Refer back to students' work in Opening A with the Vowel House. This supports transferring that skill as a building block for knowledge in syllabication as students contrast open and closed syllable patterns.
  • In Work Time B, step 5 when dividing the words into syllable types, students notice that the word "habit" is different from the others; when the word is divided before the consonant "b," it results in the non-word "ha-bit." Page 21 in Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards describes a useful principle for dividing longer words into syllables where there is one consonant between the two vowels (VCV words):

A. First, try dividing before the consonant. This makes the first syllable open and the vowel long.  This strategy will work 75 percent of the time with VCV syllable division.

B. If the word is not recognized, try dividing it after the consonant. This makes the first syllable closed and the vowel sound short. This strategy works 25 percent of the time with VCV syllable division.

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reflecting on Learning

  • Emphasize that successful learners keep track of and reflect on their own learning. Point out that they are doing this each time they consider how what they did today helps them to become more proficient readers.
  • Invite students to reflect and share with a partner (or whole group). Ask:

"Why will it be helpful for us to be syllable sleuths in learning to be better readers?" (We can read smaller word parts and then put them together.) "Right! When we divide a word into syllables, we can read the smaller parts of the word that we know. Then we can put those syllables together to read the new word!"

  • For students who need additional support organizing their ideas: Provide sentence frames. Examples:
    • "When I made the sounds for the word _____, I _____."
    • "When I heard the vowel sounds, I _____."
    • "When I divided the syllables, I _____."

Differentiated Small Groups: Work with Teacher

Suggested Plan: Teacher works with the Pre-Alphabetic and Partial Alphabetic groups. Teacher might meet briefly with the Full and Consolidated groups to provide a weekly Word List and exit ticket, or possibly set up a management system allowing these students to find the list and exit ticket and begin work independently.

Note: Groups not working with the teacher at a given time should be engaged in purposeful independent rotation work. Refer to the Independent and Small Group Work Guidance document (see K-2 Skills Resource Manual)

Pre-Alphabetic:

  • Aim small group instruction at building students' knowledge and skills of letter identification and phonological awareness.
  • Use the Assessment Conversion chart to determine appropriate Kindergarten lessons and Activity Bank ideas to use in daily small group instruction.

Partial Alphabetic:

  • Consider continuing the Opening A instruction with one-syllable words (CV and CVC) via the Vowel Houses. This can also be extended to a Chaining lesson, where students decode and then encode the following: "go," "got," "no," "not," "me," "men," "we," "web," "so," "sob," "hi," "hit," etc.
  • Consider using the Assessment Conversion chart to determine if there is a previous cycle(s) that needs revisiting. If so, consider using lessons from that cycle to develop mastery before moving on to open-syllable words.
  • Related Activity Bank suggestions:
    • An Activity Bank activity from the Syllable Pattern category (SP)

Full and Consolidated Alphabetic:

  • Establish weekly Word Lists and exit tickets for independent work time.
  • Additional Supporting Materials:
    • Word List Guidance (for teacher reference)
    • Word List (one per student or per pair)
    • Word Card Template (one per student or per pair)
    • Sorting Words Template (one per student or per pair)

Get updates about our new K-5 curriculum as new materials and tools debut.

Sign Up