Happy #phonologicalfriday everyone!


This is the third post contributed to #phonologicalfriday by Dr. Tom Nicholson in a 7 part series on syllable types.  Last week he provided us with a lesson on closed syllables and this week he will provide us with a lesson for teaching open syllables.


Did you know that open and closed syllables account for almost 75% of the syllables in the English language (Stanback, 1992)?


Open syllables are syllables that end with a vowel, and this vowel typically makes its long vowel sound. Long vowel sounds are sometimes referred to as tense vowel sounds and have a longer duration than short vowel sound.


Linguistically speaking, open syllables end with a free vowel, this means that the vowel can occur at the end of a syllable.  These syllables do not have to begin with a consonant, they may just contain the vowel.

* Please note, in this context the letters ‘v’ and ‘c’ represent a single letter an not a phoneme


Teacher: Today we are learning how to read longer words. Words can have one or more syllables. Short words have one syllable but longer words have two or more syllables. Like the word /robot/ there are two syllables – teacher claps hands to show the students…”ro…(clap)….bot..(clap)”. Yes, there are two syllables.  Listening carefully….how many syllables can you hear in “robot”? We can clap our hands and find out.  (ro…(clap)…bot…(clap))—- two syllables (good work!)  Every syllable has a vowel sound.  I am going to write /robot/ on the whiteboard and show you how to do syllable breaking. How many vowels are there?

Student: Two vowels



Teacher: Now to break the word into syllables, if there is only one consonant after the vowel, we can put the break just after the vowel. In the open syllable, the vowel makes a long sound, like its name.




Teacher: Probably a third of all words have open syllable patterns so it is helpful to know about this pattern. It helps with words like SPI/DER and SMO/KY but this rule does not always work, for example, CAM/EL and SEV/EN. This is why we have to be flexible with the rule. First, try to read the word as if it has an open syllable. If this does not work, then try to read it as if it has a closed syllable. 

Middle of the lesson

Teacher: Let us have a look at this word here.  See if you can divide the word into syllables.




Teacher: Do you remember what do you need to do first?

Student: Tick all the vowels.

Teacher: Excellent. two vowel sounds = two syllables



Teacher: Then, what shall we do next?

Student:  um…..draw a line?

Teacher: Where?  between which two letters?

Student: b and l

Teacher: Great!




Teacher: Now, we break this word into two small chunks.  Can you say the first part?  “pi-“then “lot”, can you put them together and say it like a word?

Student: pi-lot.

Teacher: Well done!


Here are some other open syllable words that you can give for homework:

o/pen, a/pron, i/dol, ba/by, i/ris, ba/sic ,

Close of the lesson

Teacher: What is an “open” syllable?

Student: It is a V/CV or V/CVC or CV/CVC pattern. The first vowel has a long sound and stands alone, like O/PEN, or a CV/CVC where the first vowel has the long sound, like PI/LOT.

Teacher: Good work.

Dr. Tom Nicholson is a freelance writer, formerly a professor of education at Massey University in New Zealand and a member of the Reading Hall of Fame. One day, in the future, he plans to have his own website, write a children’s book on phonics and how it can help you to read, and learn how to sketch with proper perspective.

You can contact Dr. Nicholson at: t.nicholson@massey.ac.nz


Henry, M. (2010). Unlocking Literacy: Effective decoding & spelling instruction (2nded.). Baltimore, Maryland: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.

Stanback, M. L. (1992). Syllable and rune otters for teaching reading: Analysis of a frequency-based vocabulary of 17,602 words. Annals of Dyslexia, 42, 196-221.

Be sure to check out more graphics for these morphemes on our Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and Twitter pages.

If there is anything we can do or post to help you learn more about the importance of morphological awareness (or any other topic for that matter) please send an email to blog@garfortheducation.com

Subscribe to Garforth Education’s Blog if you would like to be notified when a new post is up.