As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, a syllable is a "vocal sound or set of sounds uttered with a single effort of articulation and
forming a word or an element of a word." Often considered the building blocks of words, syllables are units of speech that contain at least one vowel sound plus any consonant sounds. For example, in English, the article "a" is a one-syllable word that contains one vowel sound while the noun "syllable" contains three syllables.
Using a fun activity in the preschool classroom introduces preschool students to the concept of the syllable.
Syllable Name Game
The "Syllable Name Game" activity is a fun preschool syllable activity for circle time or music class. Begin by teaching the preschoolers the song "The Name Game":
Espen* Espen bo Bespen
Banana fanna fo Fespen
Me my mo Mespen
Take turns inserting the names of different students, their friends and family members, pets, book characters, famous people, and anyone else the children can come up with. After the preschoolers have mastered the lyrics, the teacher can turn this song into a syllable activity. For example, ask the students to come up with names on only a certain number of syllables. Or, after each verse of the song, ask the children to identify how many syllables the name had.
*Substitute any name here. For example: Heather Heather bo Beather.
Syllable Sorting Activity
The "Syllable Sorting" activity helps preschoolers practice identifying the number of syllables in different words.
Materials: word flashcards, baskets
Preparation: The word flashcards should have both images and written text of preschool vocabulary words. To make flashcards, simply paste a picture on an index card and write the word below the image. Label the baskets with numbers beginning with one.
- Arrange the numbered baskets in front of the class and read the label on each basket aloud to the students.
- Hold up the first flashcard and read the word out loud. The preschoolers should then identify the number of syllables in the word. For example, the teacher might pick the "cat" card and say, "Cat. How many syllables are in the word 'cat'?" The students would then answer, "Cat has one syllable."
- Continue through the cards until all words have been sorted by syllable.
Beaded Syllable Name Necklaces
Beaded syllable name necklaces are a fun craft that teach preschoolers about the number of syllables in their own names.
Materials: coloring string, letter beads, other beads
Preparation: Prepare the letter beads for each student by using groups of colored beads for each syllable. For example, the name James contains one syllable so all five letters would be of the same color. The name Oliver, however, contains three syllable so O would be one color, L-I would be a second color, and V-E-R would be a third color.
- Give each child a piece of string, their name beads, and some other beads.
- Help each preschooler string their name beads onto the string.
- Allow the students to add additional beads to decorate their syllable necklaces.
- Help the children tie their necklaces.
- Carefully supervise the preschoolers while working with the beads to avoid choking.
These beaded syllable name necklaces can be used to facilitate other syllable activities.
Syllables, which are units of speech that contain at least one vowel sound plus any consonant sounds, are the phonological building blocks of words in the English language. Using a syllable activity in the preschool classroom is a simple yet fun way to introduce young children to this basic unit of language.