The All-Important Reading Lesson

A thorough lesson on the Six Types of Syllables should be taught to new readers; to poor readers; to damaged readers; to anyone wanting to speed up and improve reading and spelling skills. With deeper Code knowledge, and improved automaticity, readers of any age will decode and interpret Print with greater finesse and fluidity. When the brain is trained to automatically handle the decoding side of reading, the reader can then focus completely on drawing meaning from the print; on comprehension. Few understand the importance of the syllables for precise speech and accurate use of English in all of its expressive and receptive forms and levels. In fact, the ability to instantly see, identify, and use the Six Syllable Types is so important that, if I was given but one opportunity to teach one reading lesson, that lesson would be “How to Use Syllables to Improve Reading and Spelling Skills.” I purposely use the structure “if I was” because some months ago, I was given the opportunity to teach that lesson. A young man, who had always struggled with reading, was here working on my computer. I suggested that we trade skills: a reading lesson for his computer assistance. During a 90 minute lesson, I taught him to spot and use the Six Types of Syllables. I have not seen him since, but he did phone to report that the one lesson has made all of the difference; that he is now reading everything he has long wished to read; and that he is reading smoothly with rapid decoding and effective comprehension.


Reading Comprehension depends on…and is limited by…the brain’s Ability, Agility, and Fluidity as it rejects or make connections among and between: automatic Code processing; streaming thought processes; vocabulary and concept banks; language and communication skills; storage of aural and oral information; and the reader’s knowledge and experience base. By teaching both Phonics and the Six Syllable Types to automaticity, the brain takes over the responsibility for rapid Code processing thereby vastly improving the ability of the reader to develop brain processes that are agile and fluid while interweaving thought; while checking and rechecking knowledge, experience, and language against a developing mental image.


This is the Lesson Plan that I use for teens and young adults. New readers will not need all of the information at the same time. Older readers can handle more. Do not overwhelm the student, but most importantly, absolutely do not under-whelm or under-educate them, either. Make use of mirrors, writing supplies, palms-on-throat, fingers-in-mouth, just whatever it needed to teach anyone that Print begins in the Mouth!


(Have fun with this!! Students love to learn “how it all works”!)

Step A – Check/Correct Student Knowledge/Gaps

With a mirror as your tool, teach the difference between Vowels and Consonants. When forming Vowels, the airflow through the throat is never restricted. The parts of the mouth and face change shape in order to produce a variety of vowels BUT…the air passing through the throat and mouth remains UN-restricted. (Note: Vowels make singing possible. Try to sing the sound /d/…”duh”. How about belting out /k/? Great singers have the ability to produce great vowels!) Holding the palm of one hand against the throat, while observing the face in the mirror, Practice: aa-aa-aa (as in sat), A-A-A (as in navy), ah-ah-ah (as in fa3ther); e-e-e (as in set), ee-ee-ee (as in me); *i-i-i (as in sit) I-I-I (as in silent); ee-ee-ee (as in poli3ce) *i-i-i (as in gym), I-I-I (as in my), ee-ee-ee (as in baby3), o-o-o (as in hot), O-O-O (as in open), oo-oo-oo (as in do3) u-u-u (as in but), U-U-U (as in music), u3-u3-u3 (as in put) NOTE: The Primary Vowels are: a, e, i/y, o, u. A, E, I/Y, O, U. A, EE, Eye/Y, OH, U! When Forming Consonants, parts of the mouth must stop, block, pressurize, explode, hiss, and/or send air through the nasal passages; must in some way restrict, squeeze, release, and/or shape the air prior to it leaving the mouth. Still using mirrors…but this time directing focus to the interior of the mouth…with palm on throat, have students practice Unvoiced and Voiced Consonants; Liquid Consonants; Nasal Consonants; and Huffed Consonants. Students should be every-moment aware of how the airstream is being stopped then released. Voiced Consonants can be felt; Unvoiced Consonants cannot! Teach students to turn on then turn off voice. Unvoiced vs. Voiced Consonant Pairs: The only difference between these consonant pairs is the addition, or the subtraction, of VOICE! Practice: t-t-t vs. d-d-d k-k-k vs. g-g-g ch-ch-ch vs. j-j-j p-p-p vs. b-b-b f-f-f vs. v-v-v s-s-s vs. z-z-z th-th-th (as in thin) vs. TH-TH-TH (as in then) wh-wh-wh vs. w-w-w sh-sh-sh vs. zh-zh-zh (Note: zh is never used in spelling. Usually the /zh/ sound is spelled “si“. Vision, division, television, precision, decision.) Note: C makes its S sound when followed by: E, I, or Y Note: G often (but not always) makes its J sound when followed by: E, I, or Y. Liquid Consonants: L and R. These two are odd: not fully consonants; not actually vowels. They just “pour” on and on like the movement of flowing water. lllllllllllllllllllll (not lah) rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (not errr) Nasal Consonants: m, n, and ng. These sounds are created by sending the air stream to the nasal passages. Please note that the sound /ng/ never includes a /g/ sound! “ng” is the spelling for the nasal sound /ng/: sing, sang, sung. It should never be pronounced “/n/+/G/”!…sin-G, ran-G, lon-G…like too many reporters, TV personalities, and others people who should know better now do. “Huffed” Consonants: h and wh. The Voiceless Consonant sound /h/ is created by huffing out air: Happy Holiday. The Voiceless Consonant sound “wh” is actually pronounced backward: /hw/. Huff in the /h/ then blow out the /w/. Never say “wh” with Voice! With voice, it becomes /w/: wen (not when) wy (not why) wear (not where). Please help save the “wh”.

Step B – THE LESSON: Six Syllable Types

1. – Open Syllables. Definition: Open Syllables are syllables that end with a vowel. Since the mouth and airway must be open to say a long vowel, such syllables are referred to as Open Syllables. Rule: In an Open Syllable, the Vowel usually says its own name/long sound. However, be alert to the Latin and French effects on the “I/Y” spellings vs. pronunciations. If a word does not sound correct using Long I, then try the Short i. Next try the Long ee. Practice: ba be bi by bo bu / ma me mi my mo mu / fa fe fi fy fo fu / la le li ly lo lu / tra tre tri try tro tru 2. – Closed Syllables. Definition: Closed Syllables end with a Consonant. This requires that the airstream close or stop to create a consonant sound. Usually the vowel before the closure will be “clipped off,” resulting in the production of a short vowel. Practice: bag beg big bog bug tan ten tin ton bob cob fob job lob mob brand rust frost crust wrist blond lost trust cast pals talk Practice combinations of Open and Closed Syllables: ba con ba gel glo ry i dol sha dy bag gy ju ry mo ment fi nal ru ral va cant po et pre cept qui et tu tor fru gal di et di al chill y gyp sy mud dy sand y sul try fan cy pup py pan try shep herd ad vent an gel bal lad car rot chil dren trum pet fam i ly tri fo cal va ca tion cru el re gal vi tal pal a tial gi ant re do 3. -E-Controlled Syllables: Definition: E-Controlled Syllables are those in which a Silent Final E forces the Vowel before it to say its own name. First teach these in pairs so students can immediately see /feel what the Silent Final E can quickly accomplish. Practice: rob/robe hid/hide wad/wade cod/code fad/fade cub/cube tub/tube Tim/time tap/tape win/wine fin/fine sit/site cloth/clothe bab/babe wok/woke mil/mile dol/dole gal/gale ac cu mu late al le vi ate lat i tude de pop u late cre ate sur prise 4. – R-Controlled Syllables: Definition: R-Controlled Syllables are those in which an R changes the expected sound of the vowel. Teach the sentence: Her nurse first works early. Here the main spellings for /er/ are in statistical order for their appearance in English. Practice: Her nurse first works ear ly. / doc tor dol lar fern hurt third worm learn / al li ga tor col lar din ner church bird word heard / an ces tor vin e gar berth pur pose birth world search / in ves tor burg lar ner vous fur fir worth re hears al / glad i a tor gro cer y dis turb con firm wor ry Earth / per pen di cu lar 5. – Consonant +le Syllables: Definition: Consonant +le Syllables provide a Silent E for a syllable that otherwise would have no vowel. Rule: Every English syllable must have a vowel! Practice: can dle cra dle ta ble lit tle ti tle bat tles rat tle han dle re spon si ble ap pli ca ble el i gi ble trea cle bi cy cle rat tle 6. – Vowel Pair-plus Syllables: Vowel Pair-plus Syllables are those in which it requires two or more letters to spell the vowel. Practice: see seen keen spleen ca reer ca reen ay/ai: day tray play dis play / pain stain quaint saint oy/oi: toy boy oy ster Tol stoy / boil soil oint ment foil aw/au: awl brawl aw ful un law ful / fault caulk auk Paul oa/oe: boat coat soar oat meal / toe Joe foe doe sloe ough: though through2 rough3 cough4 though5t bough6 igh: sigh night sight high light thigh sight fright ow: cow how sow owl scowl / flow bow throw sow2 show oo: boot loose smooth / foo2t coo2k soo2t y / floo3r ou: round sound pro found / fou2r / you3 / cou4n try ea: eat / brea2d / brea3k ew/ui: new few grew ewe / fruit suit ie: field / pie2 ei: con ceit / vei2l / for fei3t ey: they / key2 eigh: eight freight / heigh2 augh: daugh ter caught taught


Write the word “antidisestablishmentarianism” on board or paper then lead the students in dividing the word into syllables.


Have the students count the vowels (11). (Remind students that Vowel Pairs-Plus count as only one (1) vowel.) Have students count the number of syllables (11). Rule: Each syllable must have a vowel; each vowel must have a syllable. A count informs the reader of how many syllables must be decoded then pronounced. Using the pointer finger of the left hand, cover all syllables of the word except the final one. Now teach students to “Decode Backward; Read Forward” as you slide your finger left, exposing one syllable at a time. Decode Backwards: “ism”; “an ism”; “i(ee) an ism”; “tar (ee) an ism”; “men tar i(ee) an ism”; “lish men tar i(ee) an ism”; “tab lish men tar i(ee) an ism”; “es tab lish men tar i(ee) an ism”; “dis es tab lish men tar i(ee) an ism”; “ti dis es tab lish men tar i(ee) an ism”; and finally: “an ti dis es tab lish men tar i(ee) an ism”! Point out that the root word is “establish”. Read Forwards: Have students smoothly read the entire word from beginning to end. Practice: Divide, Count Vowels, Decode Backward; Read Forward:


(Hint: u2018cious is a syllable suffix that is pronounced “shus”. CI represents /sh/.)

For further practice, use the dictionary to choose various sized words. Noah Webster, creator of the “Blue-Backed Speller,” designed his program so that beginning readers could soon pronounce any word they saw, whether they understood the meaning or not. That should be the goal of all reading instruction: Ability, Agility, and Fluidity.