What are Closed Syllables & How to Teach Them

A solid understanding of closed syllables will unlock the magic of reading longer words for students, so it’s so important to teach them right! Now you might be wondering, “What are closed syllables?” Well, we’re here to explain all about what closed syllables are and how to teach them, plus give you 3 free printable worksheets!

Graphic with an owl pointing to a chalkboard that reads, "What are closed syllables and how to teach them" beside three of the printable worksheets.

✍️ Closed Syllables Definition

Closed syllables are syllables that contain one vowel, and that vowel is ‘closed in’ by a consonant, causing the vowel to say its short sound. That’s why they are called “closed” syllables.

  • Most CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant) are examples of closed syllables – e.g. cat.
  • Closed syllables can also begin with a vowel and end with a consonant – e.g. it.
  • Digraphs can also be used to ‘close’ in a vowel and make it say its short sound – e.g. ash.

Examples:

  • hat
  • pen
  • up
  • jam
  • lip
  • in
  • fish

See how all of these words have a consonant closing in the vowel, making the vowel say its short sound? That means it’s a closed syllable!

🧑‍🏫 Why teach syllables?

Teaching syllables types to children provides them with the ability to accurately decode and spell words. It gives children a valuable tool in their toolbox as they apply rules to unknown words, which is especially helpful as words become longer and include multiple syllables.

Because how are kids expected to read and spell these longer, unknown words? Knowing the six syllable types is a key strategy. All children need this valuable ‘tool’ so that they can chunk words into smaller, more manageable parts.

They can then put those syllables back together to read unknown words. Of the six syllable types, closed syllables are the first syllable type to teach to children.

Just wait until you see the look on their faces when they begin to realize the value of knowing syllable types as they unlock this tool in their tool box and can now read bigger, longer words! Nothing is more exciting than seeing those lightbulbs go off!

How to Teach Closed Syllables

1. Background Vocabulary

First, children need to know these words and their meanings: vowel, consonant, short vowel, long vowel, and syllable.

If you’re still teaching letters and sounds to your pre-k and kindergarten students, introduce these academic terms.

If your children already know their letters and sounds, then quickly teach and review these terms and their meanings and provide examples, using anchor charts as well. They should catch on quickly!

2. Definition

Next, teach what a closed syllable is: A vowel closed in by the consonant, making the vowel say its short sound. Teach and model using closed syllable words.

Remember to point out that every syllable must have a vowel. Use our list of CVC words for teaching closed syllables.

Using Real and Nonsense Words

When teaching closed syllables, be sure to use real and nonsense words. Children will need to be familiar with nonsense closed syllables, because they will see many of them in multisyllable words.

Think about the word ‘volcanic.’ This is a word that adults would easily recognize and read automatically, but children will need a strategy for decoding or spelling this word. The word ‘volcanic‘ is made up of three closed syllables:

vol – can – ic

This word is made up of three closed syllables, two of which are nonsense syllables. Knowing the rule (that a consonant closes in a vowel and makes it say it’s short sound) enables children to break the word apart into syllables, reading each syllable type correctly.

Graphic showing three of the closed syllables worksheets beside pencils and a pair of scissors.

3. Practice

Then, use our free Syllable vs. Not a Syllable Sorting worksheet (download the pdf for free below!) This activity will help students locate vowels within words, and then practice reading both real words and nonsense words as they apply the rule of closed syllables.

Be sure the child is saying the short sound of the vowel for the closed syllable words. This will tell you whether or not he or she understands the concept of closed syllables or whether additional teaching and modeling is needed.

Now, have your children use this new knowledge to read longer, multi-syllable words (like the ones in our Divide the Syllables and Closed Syllables matching worksheets that you can download below!). They help children see that most words are made up of smaller word parts, called syllables!

Once they have demonstrated understanding of closed syllables, you can move onto the next syllable type – open syllables.

You’ll want to teach Open Syllables quickly after teaching closed syllables, so that children can learn to flex between open/closed and short/long vowels.

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Three worksheets on a green background with the text, "Free Printables Closed Syllable Worksheets."

📝 Download the Closed Syllable Worksheets!

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