Les syllabes - pourquoi sont-elles importantes?

Do you practice dividing words into syllables and putting them back together with your students? How about figuring out how many syllables are in a variety of words, and counting them? If you haven't practiced this with your students before, you definitely should start!!

Being able to divide a word into syllables is a VERY important pre-reading skill! As I'm sure you know, as students learn to decode new words while reading, it is much more efficient for them to read words in chunks, rather than stretching out each letter - especially when reading longer words. If you wanted to read "lavabo", for example, it is much easier to read it as "la-va-bo" than to read it as "llll-aaa-vvv-aaa-bbb-ooo" and then try to remember all of the letters you just said! It is so important for our students to practice “chunking” words like this, and to practice putting the chunks back together again, so that they are used to doing this when they begin to read. A great way to introduce this skill is to practice it orally. Reading words as syllables is no use if students can’t understand what word they have just read, so they need to be able to hold each syllable in their mind and then string them back together. Practicing dividing words into chunks and putting them back together in a relaxed, fun environment (like while playing a game), can help students transfer these skills to print when they are ready to learn to read. 

Syllables (along with rhymes) are one of my favourite things to practice orally at the beginning of the year. They show students that we can be silly and have fun with words! They really force them to LISTEN to what they are saying and think about the sounds that make up words. Students also usually find success with this rather quickly - more easily than when they segment words into sounds. This makes sense, because syllables made up of multiple phonemes are easier to hear than individual sounds. For example, it is much easier for a five year old to identify the two syllables in the word "chaton" - "cha-ton", than all of the four phonemes - "ch-a-t-on". However, beginning to identify bigger parts of words (syllables) will be great practice for later on in the year, when you do want them to practice listening for and identifying individual phonemes. 

No matter what games or activities you get your students to do to practice dividing words into syllables, you are sure to be getting them to say many different words out loud. In the primary years, it is likely that you are using picture clues to let them know which words to say. This is such great vocabulary reinforcement! The more times you can get your students saying new words and understanding what they mean, the more likely they are to assimilate these new words into their vocabulary. For students to learn to speak French, they must be given as many opportunities as possible to actually SPEAK in French!
*Tip - if your students start K with ZERO French, a fun way to begin practicing syllables is to use their names and the names of their classmates! Just print out photos of the students in your class, hold them up, and get your students to count the syllables in their classmates' names. This will get them used to the concept before you add in a bunch of words they are unfamiliar with.

I love using syllable games as a guided reading warm up activity, before we get into the real "meat and potatoes" of our lesson! I do play syllable games whole group as well, generally when we have a few minutes to kill or need a game break in between activities. But, small group practice is my favourite! While not the most challenging concept we will learn in maternelle, I find that correct chunking does take practice, especially at first, and I want to make sure my munckins are dividing each word in the correct places, and not practicing bad habits. My students always ask for a game during guided reading, and I am always happy to oblige when I can provide them with a game that has them learning without even realizing it!

Games are fun! As you probably know if you have read this blog post, I am a huuuuuge fan of games in the classroom, especially at the primary level. Games are engaging, and help students retain information with much less effort on their part. In getting my guided reading materials organized for back to school, I realized that I hadn't yet posted any of my syllables games to TPT. The games that I use are super simple, but my students enjoy them and always ask for more. If you have been looking for a way to incorporate syllable practice with your small groups, this game is my go-to :

This resource includes 12 different game boards, so that you can practice all year long. Some are themed seasonally or for certain holidays, but some you can use at any time of year. The game is so simple and pretty low prep. All you need are the desired game board, the 15 corresponding word cards, and snap cubes. I laminate my cards and cut them with my paper cutter after - each game board only has one sheet of cards, so it's pretty quick! You can give each student a different colour of cubes, but as this isn’t a competitive game, it is not necessary. Students will draw one card at a time and name the image. I have written the word on the card, but would never expect my students to READ it yet - if the object on the card is one they are unfamiliar with, I (or another group member) will tell them the word. The underlined word(s) is what I want them to count (not the article). They MUST say the word out loud before counting. After saying the word out loud, they break it into chunks (orally) and count how many syllables. 

*I teach my students to keep track on their fingers while clapping as they say each part. So if a student got “papillon”, they would say “pa-pill-on” while raising their index, middle, and ring fingers with each chunk and tapping them against the opposite palm in a clapping motion.*

Once they know how many syllables are in the word, they make a tower with that number of snap cubes and cover the picture on the game board. I use this as a cooperative game, and we all work together to fill the board as quickly as possible, but you could also get your students to play competitively with different coloured cubes.

As I said above, I prefer to use this game as a warm-up activity during guided reading. However, I have also included an “I Can” card that you can print and use if your students are already pros and you would like to use this game as an independent centre.

I also use this game board with the same cards as the above game. I like to save time, so I don't bother to print two sets - I just grab a baggie or two of cards from Super Syllabes and we use them for this game, too. You could use ANY flash cards in the world that have pictures on them for this - I am sure you have some in your classroom already!

This game board can be found in the "Conscience phonologique" section of my FREE French Resource Library. Want exclusive access? Fill out your info below, click the button to sign up, and I will email you the password!

Each student needs a "pion" (or a snap cube), and that's it! They draw a card, say the word, and move their game piece that number of syllables. First to the end wins, and I am sure you can guess what happens if you land on a box with an arrow! The freebie includes the game board only, but again, you can use any flash cards in the world that have pictures on them to go with it!

If you want to grab the game "Super Syllabes" that is pictured above, click HERE to see it in my store.  

PS - Are you a member of my FREE French Resource Library yet?? If not, just enter your name & email below and hit the button. I'll send you the exclusive password and instructions for getting your hands on every freebie I have ever made - and will ever make!


  1. I am using your syllable gameboard in my literacy centers and my students love it. Thankyou so much for the free download.

    1. Yay!! I am so glad they love it :) Thanks for letting me know!