• Katelyn Robey

Syllabication Lesson with 3-Syllable Words

Updated: Jun 9

Even with older or more advanced students, playing with words and sounds is an important part of reading and writing. Students need to be able to manipulate sounds and syllables in order to most successfully read and write with those syllables. This lesson begins as a phonemic awareness activity, playing with syllables in words, but then moves into a more phonics-focused lesson as students read isolated syllables. As an added bonus, this lesson can pretty easily be extended into independent or partner work in centers, into additional whole-group lessons, or into intervention or small group work.


Any class or groups of students working on syllabication. Students with a decent handle on basic sounds and blending can and should begin to notice words in chunks (I prefer syllables, more specifically) in order to begin decoding or reading words with more than one syllable.


I do this lesson in 4th grade classrooms as a quick, 10-minute, activity with set-up and clean-up included in that time. The meat of this lesson took 5 to 7 minutes.

The planning piece of this lesson took slightly longer, as I needed to type out syllable cards. But don’t you worry, I included those time-consuming pieces in a FREE printable in my TPT store. That being said, this should take about 1 minute or less to plan!

If you choose to make this a regularly used activity with new words each time, then you’ll have to either take some time to gather and create words and break them into their syllables, or you can subscribe to either (or both) this blog and my TPT store for the updated versions that I use.


Syllable Stoplights – A free resource to help students work with syllables

Students will need either syllable stoplights (this is what my students use) or any manipulative that can represent syllables. Counters from math would work wonders, paperclips or post-its would be cheap and easy, or even just paper scraps to keep things extra simple.

Syllabication Lesson Cards and Word List

Teachers will need the list of three-syllable words and syllable cards. Both of these are available in my TPT store for FREE.


  1. The first step — students to break the list of words into syllables.

  2. Students should line up their syllable stoplights (or manipulative of your choice) in front of them.

  3. Once the students are set up and ready to go, the teacher simply reads one word at a time, being sure to pronounce each word clearly but not overly slowly if that makes sense. Sort of as if this were a spelling test.

  4. The students will then break the word into its syllables. For each syllable, starting with the syllable stoplight/manipulative on the left (to mimic reading), students will push a stoplight/manipulative forward and say the syllable out loud. Then they’ll move onto the next syllable, pushing the stoplight forward as they recite the next syllable.

  5. Once students have broken up the word into syllables, they’ll line their stoplights back up and listen for the next word. This process takes about 5 seconds per word even though it seems a bit complicated.

  6. The second step — students read the syllable cards.

  7. Tell them that the syllables in the deck are the same syllables they just used with their syllable stoplights. This will give them a bit of a confidence boost to know that they’ve already heard and said each syllable.

  8. Use the cards like flashcards, and have students read each syllable aloud as you hold each card up. There will be a few cards that may require some discussion:

  9. a few cards have a soft g or c. Discuss why (the e, i, or y after them change their sound).

  10. the cards with y as a vowel are ending syllables, and since they are at the end of multisyllabic words, the y says /ee/.

  11. the ‘to’ card can be pronounce both like the word to and also as an open syllable, pronounced like toe. It appears both ways in the words used in this lesson: tomorrow and customer.

  12. an open ‘i’ in the middle of a multisyllabic word can sometimes say /ee/ instead of its long sound. Practice both ways with the ‘pi’ card.

And that’s it! Lesson done, unless you’d like to extend it of course!

(For a super quick video example of each part, click here).


  1. Allow students to work with partner or independently, reading the syllable cards and putting them together to form words. Spread out onto the floor, this could get students moving around, too! Doubly great!

  2. Use for intervention. Choose a few of the syllables to focus on with students. Practice blending sounds to read each syllable, then put syllables together to create words. You could even have syllables of two words out for students to read, and let them try to put syllables to create words. Tell students the words to build if needed.

  3. Do the same steps as with intervention with your whole class. Post syllables on the board for students to read, and challenge them to create words.


Some of the words can be shortened to two syllables if the affixes are removed as a modification for students, if necessary. Those words are:

  1. understand –> under

  2. happening –> happen

  3. lemonade –> lemon

  4. ladybug –> lady

  5. respectful –> respect

  6. musical –> music

  7. quietly –> quiet

  8. forgetful –> forget

  9. subtraction –> subtract

  10. finishing–> finish

  11. hamburger –> burger

  12. remember –> member

#phonics #syllableawareness #multisyllabicwords #segmentingsyllables #readingstrategy #syllabication #threesyllablewords #reading #phonemicawareness #lesson #segmenting #syllables #readinglesson


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