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What is a Closed Syllable Exception?

Before you can teach about a closed syllable exception, you first must understand what a closed syllable is. To learn about the closed syllable click here.

A closed syllable exception is a syllable that contains one vowel, followed by one or more consonants. However, rather than a short vowel sound, the closed syllable exception has a long vowel sound.

What should I know about closed syllable exceptions?

There are six syllable types. For each syllable type, there is an exception to the rule. There are only five spelling patterns related to the closed syllable exceptions: ild, ind, old, olt, and ost.

What is the most effective way to teach the closed syllable exception?

The most effective way to teach the closed syllable exception is through explicit, systematic, and multisensory instruction. Since there are only five spelling variations of the exceptions, the letter sequences are taught as units. This helps to reinforce the reading and spelling of words containing this pattern. We begin with showing the students the sound cards with the picture clue. The picture clue helps students recall the sound by visualizing and verbalizing the picture.

These sound cards provide a picture clue so students can remember the sounds of the closed syllable exceptions.
These letter cards are available in our TPT store!

The following quick drill helps warm up students’ reading muscles:

  1. Show the sound card containing the closed syllable letter sequence.
  2. My turn your turn. Teacher says ‘i…l…d, wild, /ild/. Students repeat the phrase.
  3. Repeat the procedure for each of the exception letter sequences.

How do I teach my students to read (decode) words with the closed syllable exception?

Tapping is a multisensory procedure that will help students read phonetically regular words.

  1. Write a word containing a closed syllable on the board. (i.e. child)
  2. Demonstrate how to tap the word by touching the pointer finger to the thumb and say /ch/. One finger, one sound. Then hold the middle finger, ring finger, and pinky finger together. Tap the three fingers simultaneously to the thumb and say /ild/. Three fingers three sounds. Slide the fingers across the thumb, blend the sounds together and say /child/.
  3. The students repeat the procedure with the word child.
  4. Practice this tapping procedure with several more sample words.

How can I teach my students to read closed syllable exceptions in connected text?

Whenever you teach a phonetic element, it is critically important to provide controlled (decodable) texts that contain that same element. Decodable texts target the phonetic feature and help reinforce the students’ understanding that words contain patterns that can be decoded. This helps build neuronal pathways and helps students meet with reading success. For more information on building neuronal pathways in the brains of readers click here.

How can I support my students who need more intensive practice?

For these students, we like to include the multisensory step of marking the closed syllable exception. Provide the students with a decodable text on which they can write. Prior to reading the text, students scan for closed syllable exceptions. Students draw a box around each exception. Additionally, students can mark underneath the word writing a c and crossing out the c to denote a closed syllable exception. Last, students can mark the vowel with a macron to show that the vowel makes the long sound. This serves as a visual reminder of the rule and that the word can decoded by tapping the sounds. The sounds of the closed syllable exception are tapped as one unit. After marking up the text, students reread it, tapping as necessary.

It is important to provide decodable texts that students can write in.  Students can mark the closed syllable exception words as a visual reminder of how to decode them when reading.
This is an example of how students can preview the text and mark the closed syllable exception words.

How can I teach my students to spell closed syllable exception words with accuracy?

Spell with your ears first

In several posts about glued sounds and spelling words with suffix -s, -es we discussed using a sound to letter matching grid. This is also referred to as phoneme-grapheme mapping. This spelling grid helps students hear the sounds in the word before writing the sounds. Below is a sample grid that focuses only on the closed syllable exception. Remember that the exceptions are taught as a unit so the spelling patterns share a box.

This sound to letter matching grid (aka phoneme grapheme mapping) helps students focus on the sounds in the closed syllable exceptions and spell with accuracy.

Help! I don’t have any resources to teach this phonetic element.

Don’t worry, we have both reading and spelling activities in our TPT store. All our products align with the science of reading and include detailed lesson plans.


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