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Understanding syllables is an important skill in decoding words in reading and in writing. These mini lessons for third grade with syllable activities will help students understand what syllables are and how to identify them in words. Extension activities will provide a chance to apply the lesson skills in a fun, new way.
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Touching the Syllables
Use this mini lesson to teach students to hear the divisions in words.
Objective: Students will recognize that words have different sound parts.
Students will understand that the sound divisions of words are called “syllables."
Learning Plan: Have students place their hands under their chins.
Pronounce a two-syllable word. Ask students to repeat it after you, counting how many times their chin touches their hand. (For some students, you may need to have them look into a mirror at the same time, counting how many times they see their chin and hand connect.)
Explain that the parts of the words they are hearing/feeling are called “syllables," and that every word has at least one.
Assessment: Ask each student to repeat a word and count the syllables. To administer the assessment to a larger group, have them record the number of syllables on a sheet of paper.
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Seeing the Syllables
Objectives: Students will identify the rhythm of the syllables of words.
- Students will recognize that each syllable has one, and only one, vowel sound.
Learning Plan: Pronounce a word and ask students to repeat it. As they say the word, they clap to match the number of syllables.
- Write the words on the board, dividing them into syllables.
- Ask students what the syllables have in common. Elicit that they all have one vowel sound.
Assessment: Provide students with a list of words and have them write the number of vowels, the number of vowel sounds, and the number of syllables.
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This mini lesson teaches students to apply the phonics syllable rules to dividing words when writing.
Objective: Students will recognize simple word division rules.
Learning Plan: Provide students with a list of one-syllable words.
- Ask what rule would apply to all of the words in the list. (“One vowel sound = one syllable.")
- Repeat with lists for each of the following rules:
- Divide between two vowels if they have different sounds, but not if they make only one sound together.
- Divide between two consonants unless they form a digraph.
- If a consonant is between two vowels, divide the word before the consonant if the first vowel has the long sound, and after the consonant if the first vowel is short and accented.
- Remind students that words should only be divided between syllables when it is necessary to split them over two lines.
Assessment: Students should create a set of mini-posters or cartoons to illustrate the four rules. Each poster should include the rule itself, an illustration, and at least three examples of divided words for each rule.
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Haiku: Haiku is a great tool for practicing syllables. A poem from Japanese culture, haiku uses a strict syllable count to communicate intense imagery, usually about nature themes. The form has three lines, of five, seven and five syllables, respectively.
Begin by reading examples of poems from Red Dragonfly on My Shoulder, sharing the pictures with students. (The illustrations are made from common objects, such as safety pins, hairpins, leaves and cookies.)
After students create their own haiku poems, provide them with a collection of objects from which to design illustrations to support the poems.
Limerick: Take the practice to the next level by combining syllables with rhyme schemes.
Provide students with examples of traditional limericks. Point out the characteristics of limerick poems:
- They have five lines.
- Lines 1, 2 and 5 have seven to ten syllables and rhyme with each other.
- Lines 3 and 4 have five to seven syllables and rhyme.
- They are usually humorous.
These mini lessons for third grade with syllable activities will reinforce important reading skills for your students. If you have other suggestions for mini lessons, be sure to leave them in the comments section below.
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For games and word lists, visit:
This site has fairly extensive word lists for use in teaching syllables:
Information about haiku and limerick forms is available at these sites: