Speedy Syllables

Scripture: Judges 4-5

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will review the story of Deborah.
  • Students will learn that words are made out of syllables based on their vowel sounds.
  • Students will play an action game to help them practice counting the syllables in words.  

Guiding Questions:

How can we count the syllables in a word?

Materials: start line and finish line markers (duct tape, signs, or cones), note cards with words of various lengths written on them (one word per card), basket/bowl/bag to place cards in for each team, drum (if possible)

Procedure: Review the story of Deborah focusing on how God used her to lead Israel and defeat Sisera. Emphasize that it was unusual for a woman to lead and her faith in God meant that she gained the honor instead of Barak because he needed her help. Discuss how she expressed her joy through writing a song. Explain that when songs are written, a writer/composer must consider the length of the word so that it matches the notes and rhythm.

Each vowel sound in a word makes a syllable. Longer words usually have more syllables. Tell students that they are going to learn how to count syllables. They can clap the vowel sounds in the word to “chunk” it into sections. Let them practice clapping words of varying length such as “fun-ny,” “brave,” “right-eous-ness”. Let students come up with their own words to try. A teacher can use a drum to count the syllables to help students begin to make connections between how syllables can affect rhythm.

Once students have practiced the clapping syllables skill, they can play the syllable race activity. Set students up into teams with about 5 students in each team. Line them up like you would for a relay race. The first student in line is the team’s “Deborah” who will be the step-taker. The next person in line is the reader. The reader pulls a word card from the basket and reads it out loud. Then the “Deborah” takes a matching step for each syllable as they say the syllables aloud. Their team can help their “Deborah” clap it out first if that helps them. Students take a step for each syllable as they count it. Example: The student would take 3 steps for the word “bravery”: brav-er-y.” For students who cannot read, have an adult with each team to read the word that the student pulls. Then the next student in line pulls a card and so on until “Deborah” makes it to the finish line. Each student should only pull one card before the student behind them takes a step. The team to get their “Deborah” across the finish line first wins. Then a new “Deborah” is chosen.

Make a modern world connection by pointing out to students that chants/cheers at ball games and other competitive sports are often accompanied by clapping that match the syllables.

Additional Questions:

  • What word can you think of that has the longest number of syllables?

Supplemental Activities:

  • Have students come up with their own chant to cheer on their team and clap it out.
  • Students can create their own syllables game in which they decide what action the group does for each syllable in a word. If the supplies are available, incorporate percussion instruments such as drums and tambourines or even keyboards. Ask and discuss which instruments are easier to use to count syllables.

Written by: Savannah Negas

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