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Syllabication Activities for Preschoolers

by Martha Mendenhall, studioD

Giving your preschooler a boost towards reading readiness involves more than a nightly bedtime story. Reading aloud to your child is certainly important. It encourages him to love books and begin to connect the words he hears with those he sees printed on the page. But, you can also help your preschooler get ready to read by engaging him in simple, age-appropriate activities that focus on the words themselves -- activities that break the words into bite-sized sounds and syllables.

Show Me a Syllable

Settle yourselves in front of the bathroom mirror to introduce your preschooler to syllables. Speak a series of one-, two- and multi-syllable words into the mirror while your preschooler watches. Say each word slowly, slightly exaggerating the break between syllables. Use familiar words such as months of the year, days of the week or favorite foods. Once you’ve demonstrated, have your preschooler try it for himself. Point out that he opens and closes his mouth more to say multi-syllable words than for one-syllable words, and that the vowels cause the mouth to open, while consonants cause it to close. Each opening and closing signifies one syllable.

Syllable Rhythm

One of the simplest ways to point out syllables in words is to create activities that involve clapping, marching in place or beating a drum to the rhythm of the syllables. Start with easily identifiable objects and locations in your child’s bedroom. Words such as ceiling, bedspread, window and doorknob all easily divide into two syllables. Once your child gets the hang of tapping or stomping the two-syllable rhythm, offer some one-syllable words such as rug, wall, lamp or door and multi-syllable words such as calendar, vitamin, envelope and refrigerator, as an added challenge.

Color Me Compound

Start with blank index cards and a selection of markers, crayons or pencils. Introduce a simple compound word, emphasizing the two distinct syllables. Choose a word that evokes two strong visual images such as rainbow, grandparent, airplane, daybreak, cupcake or seashell. Ask him to visualize each of the syllables as a separate picture and draw each on an index card. Encourage him to think of each syllable separately -- for example, a picture of a cup and a cake for the word cupcake. Discuss the two pictures your preschooler drew and how they "add up" to the compound word.

Rhyme Time

Allow your preschooler to access his natural ability to identify syllables by teaching him a short rhyming poem such as one of the popular verses by Mother Goose like “Hey Diddle, Diddle,” “Humpty Dumpty” or “Little Miss Muffet.” Once he knows it by heart, ask him to help you finish the rhyme. Begin the rhyme by speaking the single-syllable words and the first half of the two-syllable words, allowing your preschooler to fill in the missing second syllables. For example, you would say “Hey Did-- , Did--! The cat and the fid--, The cow jump-- ov-- the moon; The lit—dog laugh— To see such sport, And the dish ran a—with the spoon.” Your preschooler will be proud to fill in the missing second syllables.

About the Author

For more than 15 years, Martha Mendenhall has been an educator both in and out of the classroom. She taught high school, worked with children of all ages on the plays of Shakespeare and tutors students in grades one through 12. Maendenhall authored "The Shakespeare Guru's Guide to Getting Shakespeare Alive," a guide for teachers and homeschool educators.

Photo Credits

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