This activity guides students to create visual representations of the ways in which words are connected through their syllabic structure. Students create a web with a key word in the center, with that word’s component syllables branching out from the center word. Then, students find new words that contain each of the syllables, and they connect these to each of the syllable branches, producing a web. This activity helps to develop students’ syllable awareness and skill with syllabic analysis, which helps them to decode and spell words more quickly and accurately. By improving their recognition of syllables across words, students develop the ability to identify new words more efficiently.
Select one or more key words. Key words should contain multiple syllables, and should be fairly easy to divide using the standard rules of syllable division. It can be especially effective to select words that appear in a class text, or that relate to the class content. Make sure you know the syllables in the words ahead of time.
Prepare a model syllable map using a different word from the one the students will use. Write the key word in a bubble in the center. Around this center bubble, write each of its component syllables in its own bubble, and connect these bubbles to the center bubble with lines (spokes). Next, find one or more other words containing each of the component syllables, write these in their own bubbles around each of the syllables, and connect them to the syllables with lines. If you want, you can continue adding another layer of syllables and then words; the process can continue for as long as you want.
Prepare a reference sheet summarizing the six syllable types and the rules of syllable division. Students should already be familiar with this information before beginning this activity.
Gather large blank pieces of paper (like chart paper) and markers, or prepare to use a tablet app that allows students to create concept maps freely.
- The teacher reviews what a syllable is, the six syllable types, and the rules of syllable division. Teacher refers students to reference sheets. Class discusses the value of knowing syllable types and of syllabification.A syllable is a word or part of a word with one vowel sound.Longer words cannot effectively be decoded sound-by-sound, and so must be decoded syllable-by-syllable. Students need to be able to divide words into syllables accurately in order to do so. Syllable type determines the sound a vowel will make in a syllable, and the accent pattern of a word. Students need to know syllable types in order to know how to pronounce a word accurately.
- Teacher displays model syllable map, and explains the task. Class discusses how and why this task might be valuable.
You will want to make sure the model map uses a different word from the word(s) that students will be mapping.
- Students prepare to work alone or in groups, using either chart paper/markers or tablet app. Teacher gives each group one or more key words.
You can easily differentiate the difficulty of this activity by giving students words of differing levels of complexity. You can also help struggling students by dividing the original word into syllables for them.
- Students write the key word in a bubble in the center of the page. They divide the word into syllables.
You may want students to refer to the syllable type and syllable division reference sheets. Students should not use a dictionary at this point, since a dictionary will divide the word into syllables for them.
- Students write each of the component syllables in its own bubble around the original word, and connect these bubbles to the original word with lines.
Circulate as students are working, asking them to share their thinking. Ask them how to pronounce each syllable, and how they know.
- Students find two to five other words that contain each of the component syllables. They write each of these words around each of the syllables and connect each word to the appropriate syllables with a line.
Students may be able to brainstorm words on their own, but most will find it helpful to search with a dictionary or a search engine. As you circulate among the students ask them about their thinking and what they are noticing.
- Optional: Students can continue with this process for additional layers, making increasingly complex maps with levels of syllables and words. The next step would be to identify the component syllables in each of the new words, and map those.
This can also be an effective whole-class activity using a giant sheet of paper or an app, making a huge syllable map and delegating different students or groups or students to research particular syllables and words as the work continues.
- Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.
Students respond to questions including:
- How can knowing about syllables help you to spell or read a word?
- What strategies can you use to read a very long word that you have never seen before?
- What strategies can you use to spell a very long word that you have never seen before?