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Open & Closed Syllables Words: FREE Activity

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Learn about open and closed syllables so that your kids can identify the differences in vowel sounds when reading quickly and easily. Plus, get a free printable multisensory activity to make this concept come to life in a fun, engaging, and multisensory way!

Graphic with words 'open and closed syllable words' with an open door picture.

What are Open and Closed Syllables?

🚪 Closed Syllable Definition – A closed syllable is a syllable with one vowel with one or more consonants following the vowel. The vowel sound will be short. Examples of closed syllables are VC words, CVC words, or words with blends or digraphs that follow the vowel.

Closed Syllable Examples: in, cat, whisk, and help. Notice the vowel sounds are short because they are closed in by consonants.

🚪 Open Syllable Definition: An open syllable is a syllable that ends in a vowel. No consonant is closing it in. The vowel will be long and say its name.

Open Syllable Examples: no, by, she, we, and sly. Notice you hear the long vowel sound at the end of the words.

Pie chart showing syllable types by occurrence.

Why Syllables Are Important

According to Stanback (1992), open and closed syllables together account for about 73% of syllables by occurrence in the English Language!

That’s why it is SO important to teach these syllable types to students. Knowing these syllable types will tell readers which sounds the vowel makes in a syllable, leading to accuracy when reading words.

Open & Closed Syllable Example

Graphic showing the word no (open syllable) vs not (closed syllable) with open/closed doors.

The idea of a door being open or closed is a powerful image to convey the difference between open vs. closed syllables.

Seen above, ‘no’ is an open syllable inside of a door that is wide open. The long vowel sound can go on forever (or until you run out of breath) since the door is open. You hear the vowel saying its long sound.

However, as soon as a consonant followed the vowel, the vowel gets closed in and the vowel sound changes to its short sound. No becomes not.

Graphic showing the printed open and closed syllable door puzzle in a classroom with instructions.

FREE Multisensory Door Activity

The printable activity is awesome to teach kids the difference between open and closed syllables.

It’s perfect for first grade students, or any students you’re introducing to open vs. closed syllables.

You will be using an actual door, so students will visually see the door close and open and hear the difference in the words as they flex between reading open and closed syllables that include different vowel sounds.

What’s great is that this activity requires very little prep. All you’ll need is a printer, some tape, scissors, and any old door! Here’s how to use the activity:

Before Using:

  1. Print and cut the syllable cards.
  2. Hang the open syllable words on the edge of a door.
  3. Hang the matching closed syllable card on the door frame, making sure the open/closed syllable cards will match up when the door closes.

During Use:

  1. Begin with the door propped open.
  2. Students will read the open syllable words, noticing how the vowel sound is long and can travel on through the door!
  3. Have the student close the door and then read the words, noticing how the vowel sound changes and is now short.

After Using:

Many syllables in real words are nonsense (e.g. mu/sic = two nonsense syllables put together). This means that children must be able to read nonsense syllables.

👉 An easy way to practice reading nonsense words is to switch up the closed syllable cards. This will create nonsense words!

Use this to assess whether students can read the syllables correctly, using the right vowel sound. (Example: hi–hin).

Use this informal assessment to see if your students are grasping open vs closed syllables, or whether they need more practice.

Open & Closed Syllable Words

Included in the free printable activity are 32 open and closed syllable words and examples.


For a more extensive list of 80+ closed syllable words organized by short vowels, visit this post on closed syllable words.

For a more extensive list of 64+ Open syllables words organized by syllable, visit this post on open syllables.

More Syllables Resources

Looking for more resources on syllable types? Check out our TPT shop and grab our Syllable Types Bundle with Anchor Charts, Practice Worksheets, and More as displayed on the bulletin board below.

Photo of a bulletin board displaying syllable types bundle.
Get almost everything seen here (and more!) in our Syllables Types Bundle!
A Pinterest graphic with words 'open and closed syllable words' with an open door.

Download & Print

We hope you have a ton of fun with this activity! Do you have questions, concerns or feedback? Drop a comment below or tag us on Instagram @literacylearn!

DOWNLOAD TERMS: All of our resources and printables are designed for personal use only in homes and classrooms. Each teacher must download his or her own copy. To share with others, please use the social share links provided or distribute the link to the blog post so others can download their own copies. Please do not save our files to a shared drive, reproduce our resources on the web, or make photocopies for anyone besides your own students. Your support in this allows us to keep making free resources for everyone! Please see our Creative Credits page for information about the licensed clipart we use. If you have any questions or concerns regarding our terms, please email us. Thank you!

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