Counting syllables games

Alex Case
Competitive activities to present and practise one-syllable words, two-syllable words, etc.

Being able to count and say the right number of syllables is vital for almost every other pronunciation point, from short and long vowel sounds to shifting stress. However, it can quickly get boring without the kind of entertaining presentation and practice activities given in this article.

Counting syllables simplest responses

Students listen to words of different lengths, try to identify how many syllables they hear, and indicate what they heard by holding up one of two cards, one of their two hands, etc. Variations include:

  • distinguishing between two different numbers of syllables (e.g. “Two syllables” or “Three syllables”)
  • distinguishing between two more general categories (e.g. “One syllable” and “More than one syllable”)
  • comparing the last two things that were said (e.g. “The same number of syllables” and “Different numbers of syllables”, or “A is longer” and “B is longer”)

Number of syllables matching games

Syllables pairs

Make a pack of at least 30 cards with words with words with a mix of different lengths, e.g. twenty cards with one-syllable words, ten two-syllable words cards and six three syllable words cards. Students spread the cards face down across the table, then take turns trying to find two cards with the same number of syllables. This is more fun with the cards face down, but might be better face up if it will be difficult for those students.

Syllables snap

This can be played with the same cards as pelmanism, but is much livelier. Students deal out all the cards but can’t look at them. They take turns putting one card from their pack face up on the table, then race to shout out “Snap!” whenever they are sure that the last two cards have the same number of syllables. The first person to shout out gets all the cards that have been turned over and left on the table if they really match, but if they say “Snap” when there is no match, they have to give cards to the other player(s).

Snap and pelmanism can also be played with pictures of the things instead of written words, in which case any word which could match the picture is okay.

Numbers of syllables mazes

Make a list of ten to fifteen words with the same number of syllables that you want to practise, e.g. twelve three-syllable words from recent units of the textbook. Put them in some of the cells of a table so that they make a crooked line from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. Then fill all the other squares with words with more or fewer syllables. Students try to get from the top left corner of the table to the end by only following words with the same number of syllables.

Syllable hints games

Students are told the number of syllables of the word they are supposed to guess, in situations such as:

  • hearing the number of syllables and other hints (“It has three syllables. It’s an animal. It has a long nose”, etc)
  • guessing from the number of syllables and its context in a text such as a song (“And I will oo love you”, etc)
  • hearing the syllables as a hint in the spelling game Hangman (“o o o” as the first hint for “amazing”, then guessing the spelling letter by letter)
  • hearing the syllables as a hint about what the next word is in a sentence (“o” for “I”, “o” to make it “I am”, “o o o” for “I am interested”, etc)

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Written by Alex Case for
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers

One comment

  • Alexander Maaboah says:

    Wow! That is great.

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