There are six different syllable types that students must learn in order to master spelling.   Why is this important?  Well for starters, we use syllables for mastering spelling.  We first break down spelling words in our heads, and then write these words out syllable by syllable.  When we come across words we are unfamiliar with, we also end up breaking down the word syllable by syllable.  For many of us this comes naturally, but for a lot of kids out there it doesn’t.  These kids need to be given explicit spelling instruction.  Kids need to learn syllables to become strong in their decoding and encoding skills especially when they get to multisyllabic words.  As kids get older they will encounter so many unfamiliar words and will need the strategies necessary to attack these words.  When you teach syllables, you are building a strong reading and spelling foundation.  Through my years of Orton-Gillingham teaching experience, I have come to learn that teaching Orton-Gillingham Open Syllables are probably the easiest of all the syllables to learn.  So lets start there.

One of the many reasons that I love the Orton-Gillingham approach is that instruction includes the teaching of all basic syllables and syllable division rules.  Types of syllables include closed, vowel-consonant, magic e, open, consonant, -le, r-controlled and diphthongs.  I’m going to explain to you in this blog post, how I teach the Open Syllables in Orton-Gillingham.  



Before I begin teaching any syllables, I make sure the students have memorized:

-every syllable has to have a vowel-


(I make this a snappy little chant that the kids chant with me.  I review this often so that the kids have it memorized.)

Next, I grab my letter tiles.  The best way to teach these open syllables to a student is by using letter tiles.  Students need multisensory instruction in order for a skill to “stick.” The tiles provide the student with a visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile manipulative.








Then using the letter tiles, I build the syllable got.  I say to the student, “the syllable /got/ is a closed syllable.  It is closed because there is just one vowel” (I point to the vowel o) “and that vowel is closed in by the consonant t. “ (I move the letter t back and forth so students can visualize the t closing the o).





Next I say, what vowel sound do you hear in the syllable got?  Yes, you hear an /ŏ/.  Watch me as I take away the letter t.”  Move the letter t away from the syllable got.  “This new word is go.  The vowel o makes the long o sound.  In an open syllable the vowel can take a long walk – and make its long sound, because there is no consonant to close the vowel.  Can you please take the o tile and show me how it takes a long walk?”


The kids love moving the tile o around and pretending that it is taking a long walk.  

It’s a lot of fun but also gives the kids a lasting memory of the open syllable vowel making a long sound.  I repeat this process with a few more words.  I let the kids point to the vowels, separate the syllables, make the tiles open and close the vowels and let the kids make their tiles take a long walk.


Some words I use for more practice in open syllables are:

  • fro/zen
  • be/gin
  • ba/con
  • pa/per
  • be/gin
  • re/lax
  • ti/ger
  • mi/nus


Teaching Orton-Gillingham open syllables is just one step closer in getting those kiddos to read and spell well.  Good Luck and let me know how your lessons went please.





Karina Richland, M.A., is the Executive Director of PRIDE Learning Centers, LLC, an educational company that works with children in special education and focuses on reading, writing and comprehension help. She is also the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers and homeschoolers of struggling readers.  You can reach her at

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