A syllable is a word or a part of a word that represents one push of breath. Breaking words into syllables is an effective strategy for reading multi-syllabic words that may be difficult to sound out otherwise.
Most words can be categorized into one of six syllable types. Some of the examples below (for example, con and ib) are not real words. This is because when you break words apart, not all of the smaller parts will be real words (Atlantic = at - lan - tic). The biggest reason to divide words into syllables is to enable students to determine what sound the vowel will make.
1) CLOSED SYLLABLES: Examples: con, lip, ib, flash
2) OPEN SYLLABLES: Examples: me, I, pre, re
3) VOWEL-CONSONANT-E SYLLABLES: Examples: lake, mice, size, type
4) DOUBLE VOWELS: Examples: weed, sail, boil, outline
5) R-CONTROLLED SYLLABLES (Bossy "r") Examples: bird, her, car, horn, burn
*There are exceptions to each of the syllable types, but most words can be broken down into different combinations of these syllables.