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Fun Ways to Count Syllables

If your child has trouble counting syllables, or if you are teaching this concept for the first time, this post is for you! Read on to discover four fun ways to count syllablesand while you’re at it, be sure to check out all the extra practice activities and download a free printable “Count the Syllables” game.

But first, a quick definition …

What Are Syllables?

A syllable is a “word chunk” that contains a single vowel sound. A word may have one, two, or even more syllables. For example:

  • bat has one vowel sound and therefore one syllable
  • sticky has two vowel sounds and therefore two syllables
  • south has one vowel sound—/ow/—and therefore one syllable
Monkey pointing out the three word chunk syllables in the word 'fantastic'

Four Easy Ways to Count Syllables

Most of us learned to count syllables with the first method below, the Clap Method. But for a little extra variety and a lot of extra fun, I’ve included three other effective methods. If your child just doesn’t “get it” with one of the methods, take a short break and then try a different one!

  1. The Clap Method. The Clap Method is the most common way to teach syllable counting, and it works well for most students. Say the word and clap the syllables, like this:

  2. The Hum Method. With the Hum Method, you hum the word instead of saying the word. Count the number of hums.

  3. The Talk-Like-a-Robot Method. When you use the Talk-Like-a-Robot Method, you pretend you’re a robot and say the word in a robotic tone, with a pause between each word chunk.

  4. The Jump Method. Get active! For each syllable, jump in place. Croc-o-dile would be three hops. Hap-py would be two hops.

Count Syllables with this Adorable Game!

Your child can use any of the four methods above (Clap, Hum, Talk-Like-a-Robot, or Jump) to practice counting syllables with this free printable game.

Download this fun syllable counting activity

Count Syllables with SIX Fun Activities

Counting syllables is an important phonemic awareness activity, and that’s why we teach it several different ways in the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs. Children who have acquired this skill generally learn to read and spell much more easily. But don’t despair if your child doesn’t pick up this skill right away! It’s a rather abstract concept that can take time and repetition to sink in.

Here are some additional activities that can help your child identify syllables.

  • Sing simple songs with a STRONG BEAT that your child knows.A red and blue drum

    For example, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Clap out each beat in the song like this: “Mar – y – had – a – lit – tle – lamb – its – fleece – was – white – as – snow.” Or you could try beating out the rhythm on a homemade drum (box and spoon, or oatmeal container and chopsticks). Call it music class, and work on it a little each day. Be sure to pick songs in which each syllable is sung on only one beat.

  • Play a robot game with your child.

    Your child gives you a word, and you say it in your best robotic voice, separating the syllables. Then switch roles—you give your child a word to try. Have a contest to see who can sound the most like a robot!

  • FootballClap the syllables in compound words.

    Clap once for foot, once for ball, and then put it together and clap twice for football. Other compound words that work well include cobweb, backpack, rainbow, toothbrush, cupcake, popcorn, and airplane. You can get some extra mileage out of this activity by using it as you teach and practice compound words, too!

  • Turn mealtime into practice time.

    At mealtime, use the food on your plate as inspiration for a syllable counting game. One at a time, each family member announces what he is eating. As you say what you’re eating, playfully break up the words into chunks. “I’m eating a pic-kle!” “Would you like some spa-ghet-ti?” “Please pass the sal-ad.

  • Cartoon zebraPlay “going to the zoo.”

    Take turns calling out animal names and, if possible, the sounds they make. Then everyone can jump, beat, or clap to the syllables. Here are a few examples: “I went to the zoo, and I saw a kan-ga-roo.” “I went to the zoo, and I saw a ze-bra!” “I went to the zoo, and I saw a tur-key, and the tur-key said, gob-ble-gob-ble!”

  • Clap the syllables in the names of friends and family members.

    This is also a wonderful way for your child to work on remembering all his relatives’ names!

Keep It Fun!

Above all, keep your syllable counting practice light and playful, and if your child doesn’t understand right away, try again in a week or so with a different method or activity. Need a reminder? Download the handy chart below and hang it right on your fridge!

4 Ways to Count Syllables downloadable chart

Does your child know how to count syllables? Which of these activities have you tried?

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cheryl

says:

I’d never heard of the talk-like-a-robot method. Looking forward to trying that out with my boys. Such a fun way to count syllables!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Cheryl,
I hope your boys have as much fun with talking like a robot as my boys have had! 😊

shawna

says:

Looking forward to trying this with my 6 yr old

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I hope your child has a lot of fun and learning with this, Shawna!

snehal kharva

says:

very useful…thank you

Rashanda K

says:

I’ve heard of the clap method, but I love the other options suggested here! Thanks for the ideas!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Rashanda! Glad to hear you like them.

Kelly

says:

I love the hum idea and think it will help syllables click for my musical child!

Jena Steele

says:

Love the robot idea! How fun!!

Julie Johnston

says:

Love these fun ideas!

Julie

says:

These are great ideas!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thanks, Julie!

Mama Jones

says:

I have always taught my students to hold their hand under their chin. Each time their chin touches their hand, it is a syllable.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great tip, thank you!

Alexandra

says:

These are great ideas. Thank you. I usually have them count with fingers or manipulative. They sometimes loose tracks of how many when clapping. And then there’s always one who always tries to clap the loudest instead of counting

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Alexander,
I can easily see a child just wanting to clap louder and louder instead of trying to keep track of syllables. I had one or two that were like that.

Using a manipulative like a token for each syllable is a great idea, thank youj.

Kim

says:

O my goodness. I never would have thought of so many different ways to count syllables. All of these are active and engaging.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Kim!

Carly Nelson

says:

I love all the extra support this program provides. My girl is flying through the phonics portion but struggles with syllables. I love that I can add extra of what she needs without slowing down our over all progress.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this is helpful for you, Carly. And if you ever any help for something we don’t have a blog post about, or you need more help than a blog post provides, please just let us know We are here to help!

Emanuela

says:

I have never thought that counting syllables can be so funny! Thank you for the great ideas!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re so welcome, Emanuela! I hope you have lots and lots of fun with this.

Sarah

says:

Thank you so much for the game. My soon to be second grader struggled with this and is getting better. She loved the game.

nikki rod

says:

Thank you!! This has been harder than I thought it would be… nice to have some new tricks up sleeve.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nikki,
An additional tip that helped my youngest child was placing her hand under her chin and counting how many times it went down. This was really helpful for words like mile that kind of sound like two syllables (my-ul) but aren’t. The chin only goes down once when you say mile.

If your child continues to have difficulties, let me know. This is can tricky to understand and master and I may be able to help you further.

Christina

says:

Super helpful! Thanks for the tips!

Judith Martinez

says:

I have always used the clap method but I like the hum method!

Jennefer

says:

We are so grateful for all the games and resources you provide!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Awww, thank you, Jennefer!

Marina

says:

Our favorite program for reading!

Aimee O’Sullivan

says:

Great suggestions!

Alicia

says:

Love it! Thank you!

Kirsten

says:

The clapping method never worked with my 1st grader, so I’m excited to try these other methods! There’s a few I’ve never heard of before! Another one we’ve tried is putting our hand under our chin and counting the number of times our chin touches our hand. :)

Natasha

says:

Looks great! Will use this with my two boys.

Spirit

says:

I learned the clap method when I was in school. I think my kids would like the jump method!

Jessica Baker

says:

Can’t wait to try this with my five year old. Thanks for the advice!

Rachel

says:

I am a homeschool mom from South Africa, I absolutely love AAR, I will never ever use any other English ciriculum ever again… and I brag about it to all new homeschool moms…
Best program ever!!!!
We are finished with Level 2.
😊

Cierra

says:

I haven’t tried this curriculum yet, but my sister-in-law showed me a few things that she is using for her youngest. I can’t wait to try this out with my youngest and start her love for reading early!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

We have a LOT of blog posts with free printables for preschoolers and those just starting to learn, Cierra. Check them out!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Linda,
We do aim to provide very high-quality articles and blog posts and multiple people spend many hours on each one. Still, on the rare occasion, errors do still get through and we appreciate when they are pointed out to us so we can quickly correct them. Thank you.

However, in this case dividing Yankee as yank-ee was intentional on our part, not an error. We did this because NK is a phonogram, a single sound unit that says the /ngk/ sound such as in the words as bank, pink, and sunk.

All About Reading and All About Spelling use color-coded letter tiles to show sound/phonogram correspondence and NK is on a single tile indicating its single sound. After learning to count syllables orally, as this article describes, students will learn to divide words into syllables using the letter tiles. For consistency, the division shown here reflects the future division students will learn.

There is sometimes a difference between syllable division based on pronunciation and syllable division helpful for reading and spelling. Yes, when we pronounce Yankee in normal speech, the /k/ sound can shift to the second syllable. However, when a child is attempting to read Yankee, dividing the NK phonogram changes the pronunciation for sounding the word out. Instead of the more nasal sound of /ngk/ that the NK phonogram has, it becomes /n/ then /k/. Not for all North American English speakers but for some, this shifts the sound of the A. In many regions of North America, A followed by NK says a long A sound. For those regions, Yankee has a long A sound. When you separate N and K into two different syllables, the A would then be short, completely changing the pronunciation of the word. For other regions, the pronunciation change of separating the NK phonogram would be much more subtle, but it could still lead some students to have difficulties.

Here is another example of a difference between syllable division based on pronunciation and syllable division helpful for reading and spelling. In All About Reading and All About Spelling, we would divide the word “mended” into a root word and a suffix: mend-ed. But according to pronunciation, it would be divided men-ded. It can be difficult to come to a full stop after a consonant blend between two syllables; it is difficult to say “mend-ed” at a normal speaking pace. In the natural rhythm of our speech, it’s much easier to divide the word in the middle of a consonant blend and say men-ded. However, for reading and spelling, dividing between the root word and suffix allows students to understand and read or spell the word more easily. This is especially true for spelling and the rules relating to spelling changes when suffixes are added. Some dictionaries will even show both syllable divisions.

I hope this helps clear up our intention in showing Yankee divided as we have done. Of course, with oral syllable division like this, it doesn’t matter much. However, we wanted to be consistent with how this word will be approached later on.

Again, thank you for taking your time to let us know about a possible error. We do appreciate it.

Mohammed mousa

says:

Great

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