Open and Closed Syllable Words (Teaching Ideas + Free Printable)


Are you excited about teaching your elementary students about syllable types? You should be! A syllable is a word part with a vowel in it. Teaching kids about the six types of syllables gives them insider strategies to read and spell words. Start early with teaching kids about closed syllable words and open syllable words in kindergarten and first grade to make using their syllable knowledge a habit. As kids progress, tackling long words one syllable at a time makes reading and writing easier.

Learn more about open and closed syllables below. Then fill out the form to grab our free printable word list and cards, and try some of the activities below.

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What is a closed syllable?

A closed syllable has a short vowel sound spelled by one vowel letter. It ends with (is “closed by”) a single consonant, a consonant blend, or a consonant digraph. The words “hit,” “ramp,” and “mash” are closed syllable words. The words “picnic” and “basket” each have two closed syllables.

CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words are closed syllable words. These are usually the first words children learn to decode using their early knowledge of consonants and short vowel sounds. So, closed syllables are usually the first syllable type we teach students. Once kids can read CVC closed syllable words, it’s exciting for them to move on to reading other one-syllable closed syllable words that have more letters, like “frog,” “camp,” or “grass.” Plus, they can also read words that have multiple closed syllables, like “picnic” and “basket.”

Note: Once students are very comfortable reading closed syllable words, you can let them know about a handful of exceptions. Syllables with -ild, -ind, -old, -olt, and -ost are technically closed, but the vowels make long sounds, as in “wild,” “kind,” “fold,” “bolt,” and “most.”

What is an open syllable?

An open syllable ends in a long vowel sound spelled by single vowel letter. “Hi” and “me” are open syllable words. “Zero” has two open syllables. You can dramatically sing the long vowel sounds in open syllable words to help kids notice how they differ from closed syllables; the end of an open syllable is “open” for the vowel to make its long sound.

Talk about open syllable words vs. closed syllable words once students get comfortable reading short vowel sounds in CVC words. When students seem ready to consider how vowels can also make their long sounds in words, go for it!

Note: Once students are comfortable reading open syllable words, you’ll want to teach the exception for words ending in “a.” Words like “sofa,” “yoga,” “data,” and “zebra” technically end in open syllables but the “a” makes the schwa (“uh”) sound.

Closed syllable word and open syllable word lists

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Check out our handy list of sample words below. Be sure to download the printable version to keep on your desk, plus our word cards make prepping activities quick and easy!

Examples of Closed Syllable Words

One syllable: at, in, on, up, cat, mat, pat, sad, leg, web, wet, bed, hid, hit, pig, six, job, got, mom, rot, sun, bus, gum, mud, mash, path, when, dish, with, moth, such, much, frog, grass, camp, prank, shrink, crack, fetch, punch

Two syllables, both closed: hotdog, picnic, sunset, tennis, upset, magnet, disgust, sunblock, radish, robin, napkin, dentist, cactus, seven, pencil, helmet, mitten, plastic, pumpkin, rabbit, insect, subject, subtract, trumpet

Tip: For many more closed syllable words, check out our CVC word list. All CVC and CCVC words are closed syllable words!

Examples of Open Syllable Words

One syllable: hi, me, be, he, she, we, no, go, so, yo, flu

One syllable with y acting as a vowel: by, my, shy, cry, fly, dry, sky, why

Two syllables, both open: zero, hero, solo, polo, Wi-Fi, yo-yo, dodo, tutu, baby, navy, pony, tidy

One open syllable + one closed syllable: virus, rodent, focus, music, pilot, bonus, begin, evil, human, bacon, robot, open, item, siren, refill, unit, pilot, even, silent, minus, hotel, frozen, relax, pretend

Ideas for teaching closed syllable words and open syllable words

Printable word cards featuring open and closed syllable words.
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Use our downloadable word list and cards to make prepping these activities a snap. Remember, anytime you’re working with word lists to teach phonics, first check that kids know the meaning of all the words you use in your activities.

Open and close the door

Classroom door with letter sticky notes arranged to teach open and closed syllable types
Campbell Creates Readers/Teaching Syllable Types via campbellcreatesreaders.com

This genius idea is all over the Internet for good reason. It makes open and closed syllables so concrete for kids. Line up some sticky notes on your door frame (or cut printable word cards and tape them to your door) to make examples of one-syllable open syllable words (with the door open) and closed syllable words (with the door closed). This also works with a folded paper “door” as a table-top activity.

Open and closed hands

Flash open and closed syllable word cards for kids to read. Have them make hand motions to show which words are open syllable words and which words are closed syllable words. Try out open vs. closed motions with other body parts, too, like feet, legs, or arms!

Fix closed syllable words

Cut the final consonant(s) off a small set of closed syllable word cards. Have kids read the remaining open syllables, which could be real or nonsense words. Then have them match the consonants to the end of each word to create real words with one closed syllable. (Examples: be to bed, mo to mom.)

Open/closed syllable change

Use a spoon or other tool to cover the final consonant(s) of closed syllable words. Read the new open syllable words. (They could be real words or nonsense words.)

Sort by syllable type

Sort one-syllable word cards into piles for open and closed syllables. When kids are ready, mix it up by including two-syllable words and sorting into appropriate categories (two closed syllables, two open syllables, one open and one closed).

Open and closed syllable headbands

Clip word cards to headbands based on the type of words you’re studying. Haves students try to read each other’s headbands or guess their own headband based on clues about what type of syllable(s) it has, the sounds, and the meaning.

Multisyllabic Guess-My-Word

Display some of the two-syllable word cards. Have students mark the syllables and discuss which are open and which are closed. Play “I’m thinking of a word …” with the remaining cards and give clues related to both syllables and meaning. (For example, “I’m thinking about a word that includes the open syllable ‘hu’ and can be found in this room” for “human.”)

Get ready to teach your class all about closed syllable words and open syllable words! Don’t forget to grab your closed and open syllable word printables at the link below.

Printable word list and word cards featuring open and closed syllable words.
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